Maybe you get poor customer service because you’re a crappy customer

A note to my friends in the customer service industry: When a customer comes up to your cash register, or asks for your help in the store, or approaches you for anything, and yet they don’t respect you enough — and they lack the common damn decency — to get off their cell phone, please feel free to ignore them until they hang up and treat you with the basic respect you deserve. I am a customer, and I give you my blessing. Not that my blessing means anything.

If I’m in line at the grocery store, and the lady in front of me decides to forgo any shred of human kindness, politeness, respect and courtesy, and instead ignores your very existence, yammering on the phone while you ring her up without even a cursory acknowledgment from Her Highness, the Customer, I will gladly wait longer while you refuse to continue the transaction until she hangs up her precious freaking phone for ten seconds. It would be well worth the delay, if only I could bear witness as you put that oblivious snob in her place.

I don’t know how you do it, CSRs. How do you get through the day without catching even a misdemeanor assault charge? You are heroes of self restraint. Every day that you don’t throw a roll of quarters at someone’s head, is a day in which you have achieved a great feat. And, listen, my fellow customers, there is no excuse. You can put down the phone for half a minute while the lady rings up your purchase or the guy takes your pizza order. You don’t even have to hang up, necessarily, just remove the device from your face and spend 32 seconds engaged in the physical environment in which you are now present. Hey, maybe even offer a form of acknowledgment to the person who is serving you. There’s no reason why you can’t do that. If the phone call is an emergency then WHY ARE YOU IN PIZZA HUT RIGHT NOW?

The customer is always right — if by “always” we mean “except for the 98 percent of the time when they’re hideously and egregiously wrong on every conceivable level.” My favorite is the guy who stays on his phone when he gets to the cash register, but suddenly snaps into focus if he sees that his bag of chips just rang up for 1.29 when he thought the sign said they were on sale for .85. He never noticed, nor cared about, the presence of other human entities in his vicinity, but you try to gyp him out of 44 cents and all of the sudden he’s Mr. Observant. Yep, another upstanding pillar of the community, whose business you “appreciate.”

And I say all of this as someone who hasn’t worked in the customer service field in years. I don’t have a dog in this fight. The psychological and emotional scars are there, no doubt, but mainly I just feel like maybe we should make a minimal effort to be even slightly decent to the person behind the counter. They aren’t our slaves, for God’s sake.

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