Where Consumerism and Terrorism Meet

I really have no patience or sympathy for people who complain about “customer service these days”. I haven’t worked a customer service job in years but in the eternal conflict between patron and employee, I almost always take the employee’s side. So when someone laments how “terrible” customer service is nowadays, I have only one question: Dude, have you seen customers lately? I know you’re suppos…ed to carry your burden with a smile on your face but I think we would all understand if the guy hired to clean the Port-a-Johns after a 3 day summer rock festival isn’t exactly whistling Dixie while he shovels boiling sewage out of a sweltering plastic box. And still I’d rather work in that environment amongst puke and beer scented urine than in the environment most customer service representatives are forced to endure. Look at it this way, a therapist is paid 300 dollars an hour to deal with narcissists and sociopaths. The guy or gal behind the counter has to weather a rapid fire assault of these insanely selfish head cases every day and he or she makes about 120 bucks a week doing it. All I’m saying is forgive her if she seems a bit detached and uninterested by the time she gets to you. She’s been waist deep in A-holes since 7am and she’s got about 21 dollars before taxes to show for it. Being uninterested is the only thing stopping her from pulling her hair out and setting herself on fire with the charcoal lighter in aisle 7.

Perfect example from this morning: I was in line behind a woman who was purchasing a large amount of beef. If I know anything, I know beef. And I know for an absolute fact that the beef she bought was not on special. Well the man at the cash register rings up her items and tells her the price. She responds with a shocked and horrified look on her face and insists that the dollar amount should be considerably lower because the ground beef is on special. He patiently explains that as an employee of this establishment he possesses a unique insight into the reality that, in fact, there is no special on beef. Of course she then demands someone be sent on an expedition to the back of the store to confirm the price of the meat in question. Keep in mind, the rest of us in line are now stuck waiting for this woman to satisfy her cheapskate urges. And how much does she stand to save even if she’s right? Maybe a dollar? Two dollars at the most? Is two dollars even worth embarrassing yourself while inconveniencing everyone around you? If I paid you two dollars to run into Walmart and throw a temper tantrum, would you do it? Maybe for fifty, but two? Some people seriously need to develop a capacity for shame so I don’t have to feel it for them.

Now to the twist ending of this saga. The call comes from the back of the store: the meat, it has been confirmed, is NOT on special. Oh but that’s not enough for this apparently impoverished woman wearing the 250 dollar North Face jacket. She proceeds to make the case that she should STILL get the beef at the price she THOUGHT it was. It’s not on special, it never was on special, everyone knows it isn’t on special but she wants it on special because she thinks it should be on special. The conversation went on for another three minutes before she finally, heroically, paid the actual price for the meat and stormed off, but not before muttering a few obscenities under her breath.

And it was only 9 in the morning at this point. That dude behind the counter has a full day of entitled brats to look forward to. When it was my turn to check out he told me he was sorry for the delay. I told him he didn’t have to apologize. I told him I’m sorry. I am sorry for every coupon clipping terrorist that comes through those automatic doors. And I mean it.

Customers like to say that the customer is always right. Well that’s just the first in a long line of things the customer is wrong about.

If you work in the customer service field and you’ve never serviced a customer with a smack upside the head, God bless you. You are a much stronger person than me. And if I end up in your line and you aren’t exactly a warm bundle of sunshine with rainbows shooting out of your ears, I understand. Believe me, I understand. You don’t need to dance a jig and bend over backwards for me. Just ring me up and I’ll be on my way. And if the price is a dollar or two higher than I expected, well, I suck at math so I probably tabulated incorrectly. But if I didn’t and, God forbid, I pay 12 or 13 more dimes than I needed to, so be it. I’m sure I’ll still have enough to keep the heat on and pay the rent.

Either way, you won’t get any crap from me. I’m not here to impose my will on every person with a name tag. The people who operate that way are simply awful and hideous human beings. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

Godspeed, CSR’s.

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3 Responses to Where Consumerism and Terrorism Meet

  1. Customer Service Rant says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a week now. The first one about Les Miserable, ha. I’m female and thought it was hilarious, in fact, I’ve seen all the plays as well, Fidler on the Roof, Mary Poppins and so on, but will not stand in line for Les Mes either.

    In regards to this post, I’ve been in customer service, well, all my life (in one way or another). The chapter I’m in now is staffing. I’m in sales for a service that’s beyond my control, people. At times I wish I sold something tangible, perhaps brake pads or window cleaner. The good thing is, although its quite difficult at times to explain why 2 people out of 10 people showed up for work, it pays very well. One thing I’ve wondered is, recently, I’ve noticed people understand and know its not my fault. I’ve done all the right things even put extra people on the job just in case and when I still fall short, they understand. Maybe it’s my reputation in the industry or perhaps my clients know I do everything I can to “get er done”.

    Trust me there are those clients who will curse me out, over the phone of course, because they were 1 person short. Oh we’ll, those people I refuse to do business with. I don’t have to put up with it. Yes you’re right God bless the people who can’t walk away or can’t hang up because their jobs depend on it. People have changed over the last 10-20 years. It’s as if they are owed more and more and more. Good customer service means solving problems, if people would not take out 3 weeks of their problems on the cashier at Wal-Mart it would be nice.

  2. Cylar says:

    “Customers like to say that the customer is always right. Well that’s just the first in a long line of things the customer is wrong about.”

    Oh yes, yes, yes indeed.

    I worked at Radio Shack for a couple of years. It’s not just any sales job, it’s one dedicated to explaining complex electronics to people who can barely tie their shoes. This line – if I ever track down the guy who first coined it, you don’t want to hear about what I’m going to do to him – was the source of more frustration at my job than the 9-days-straight shifts, my annoying co-workers and boss, the long drive to work, the crappy pay, or the poor sales support from corporate.

    Customers would say this to me after I just finished explaining to them that there were policies in place preventing them from returning items past a certain date, changing prices, or any number of other horse-crap grievances against me and my store. If I made a mistake -and I’m human, I made some on the job – I could “own” it, apologize to the customer and move on. What was worse was when customers thought they were being smart and savvy by deploying this supposedly conversation-ending chestnut on me after I’d explained that I would lose my freaking job if I gave them what they wanted. Free DVD player? Full refund after you dropped your cell phone in a toilet? 12 month warranty on request at no extra charge? Of course! Why, the customer is always right, dontcha know?

    Funny thing…I NEVER heard anything approaching this phrase come out of the mouths of the higher-ups from corporate…you know, the people I not only worked for, but who were responsible for training me to sell electronics in order for them to keep their jobs? None of them ever said to me, “Whatever the guy wants, give it to him at any cost.” Interesting, no?

    I’m with you on being nice to employees who deal with the public – waitresses, fast-food clerks, cashiers, and anyone else who makes his living providing me with goods and services. They don’t need me adding to their stresses. Just yesterday I made it a point to be extra-extra nice to the guy working at Subway after I watched the previous customer be unbelievably rude to him.

    Besides that, I don’t want these people spitting in my food when I’m not looking.

  3. Jmack says:

    I agree with most everything on here. But on the flip side of this is the convo that needs to happen on the lack of awareness given by some customer service reps. I was at a store the other day buying a gift for a friend, I knew this particular store does give out gift receipts as well as some kind of gift box for the present. So when it was my turn I politely asked the cashier for a gift receipt and some kind of wrapping assistance, she looks at me and says…”um, we have a gift box?”, I smiled and said perfect! Now, I have worked a register for a clothing store before and know that you usually have to hit a button to request a gift receipt BEFORE you complete the transaction and I wasn’t sure if she heard me ask about it, so I said “I’m not sure if I mentioned it but I do need a gift receipt as well”. She just kind of looks at me and then stares down at the computer screen for a minute. Finishes the transaction and then says, “oops, I forgot the receipt”. I said ok….I was fully prepared to have to return the item and re-buy it in order to get this (I really needed it for the gift because I wasn’t sure of the size). But she just stands there looking at the screen, not telling me that she needed help from a manager or any options or anything. Just stood there, then she finally asked the cashier next to her help her w/ the receipt and they get it all fixed and print it. She puts it in the gift box, puts the item in and closes the box. She then hands me the box and doesn’t say a word, no thank you, no ok, thats it. Just hands it to me, so I asked for a bag because I had other purchases to make and needed to loop it over my arm so I didn’t forget it anywhere. She again, just stares at me and then hands me a bag saying….”we really aren’t supposed to be giving out extra bags”. AH, I know it might sound spoiled of me to want a bag to put my items in but again, having worked in retail I would NEVER have sent a customer away with out a bag to put their purchases in, even if it was gift wrapped, and I would never tell a customer asking for a bag something like that. Unless they were asking for like 20 of them or something crazy.

    So yes, I totally get that consumers need to have patience with customer service reps because their jobs are difficult but at the same time there is also a simple standard that needs to be upheld by the reps to make the customer’s experience pleasant. That is part of their jobs, not saying putting up with crazy people like in Matt’s story but just basic service concepts. Again, I have worked retail, my sister manages a Starbucks, my brother is a server at a high end restaurant, I get it. But even they have a standard they hold other customer service employees to…

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