Hello, How May I Be Your Verbal Punching Bag Today?

As someone who works in the customer service industry, I have the pleasure of experiencing a good dose of bold rudeness on a fairly regular basis. Here are a couple examples that happened only in the last week.

(Scene 1: An extremely hectic day, due to multiple high school graduations, after about 6 cars had just left the parking lot and the phones had finally stopped ringing)

Me: How can I help you?
Sour Old Man (Slamming geraniums down on the counter): Why was there no one outside to help us?!!
Me (Not mentioning that there is never anyone just hanging around in the parking lot): Oh, I’m sorry, sir, we’ve been extremely busy today, but I’d be more than happy to help you now.
Sour Old Man (Waving finger in my face) : There are no other cars in the parking lot. So I just caught you in a LIE!!!
Me (In a not-so-nice voice now): EXCUSE ME? (At this point I walked away and made my coworker finish helping Sour Old Man and his embarrased wife. He still continued to glare at me from afar).

(Scene 2: A slow morning. Two older ladies walk in and I do my usual “How may I help you” shpiel. I help them pick out flowers and then take them to the back counter to clean and wrap them)

Harried Old Broad (Loudly, to her sister, while looking at me to make sure I can hear): Well, the attitude here has sure changed! (At this point my coworker walks by them and asks how they’re doing) Well! At least SOMEONE asked!!!
Me (Bringing the flowers out): Was there something else you needed?
Harried Old Broad: Hmph. No. (After examining the rose and pulling off an imaginary petal) You know, usually they pull the bad petals off the roses.
Me: Well, actually, I did pull the bad petals off….but thanks for the tip (HA!)
Harried Old Broad: You are not very nice!
Me: Well, you’ve been up here saying rude things to me.
Harried Old Broad (Indignantly): I was talking to my sister! (At this point, the sister quickly stepped in and reminded her that she was just stressed out because they were running late. I quickly finished up so they would just leave).

And that was only this week. It’s amazing to me how many people can be in a bad mood WHILE BUYING FLOWERS! And I don’t mean when they are buying flowers for a funeral, or calling in with a complaint about their flowers dying or a delivery getting messed up – I give those people a little leeway to be rude since they are legitimately stressed out about death or something associated with the flower shop. And that’s what I’m getting at here – an aknowledgement of what exactly is making you upset. Just because you are sour and hate your life, or are bad at planning and so are running late, it is not an excuse to be completely inhuman to the poor soul who is just trying to do their job…for you.

And I’ve seen this sort of behavior everywhere: Grocery stores, post offices, restaurants… What is it about someone being in a customer service position that makes them somehow inferior? Does this mean I could find out where a rude customer works, go to their job, be a complete dbag to them and they magically have to take it because they are on the other side of the counter? I’ll admit that I have been guilty of bitchy behavior towards customer service people, but usually its over the phone when I’m being stonewalled about a complaint or have been transferred to India for an exercise in non-communication. Which is still not OK of me – because what goes around comes around apparently!

I was driving to work listening to Canadian radio when a commercial came on advertising a not-for-profit movement called People for Good. Of course the reputably-polite Canadians would come up with the idea of people just being nice to each other for no reason other than making the world a better place! It’s a wonderful idea, and sad that it even had to be pointed out. And I know I’m not the first person to blame technology for this detached attitude, but if people really stopped hiding behind anonymity and really looked at the people they were yelling at, they might not be acting so unkind. The “golden rule” is an old one, but I’m going to see how many karma points I can personally score for future days behind the flower shop counter.

“Teach this triple truth to all:
a generous heart,
kind speech,
and a life of service and compassion
are the things which renew humanity.”

Bozo photo from Autism Wonderland


2 thoughts on “Hello, How May I Be Your Verbal Punching Bag Today?

  1. Retail is rough, rough business. I’m not trying to gloat or anything, but I really count my blessings that I’m not in that field anymore. I think technology is partially to blame. That and the loss of small-town life. Small towns don’t really have flower shops anymore, so anyone from anywhere travels to Watertown to do business with you and they have no relationship with you other than that. It’s easy to treat a stranger like dirt, I guess (not that I could).

    I also think people take so much for granted now. People feel obligated to give gifts or buy flowers for some occasions. People get bitter because of all the “greeting card” holidays and social obligations. It’s a shame that people feel that way, number one, but it’s also a shame that people feel obligated to do things now. It would be really bad for your business, but hubby and I renounced Valentine’s Day a few years ago and it really destressed and decluttered our lives. He brought me flowers yesterday for no reason at all and that made me so happy!

    People need to seriously celebrate what is important to them and not rely on big businesses to tell them how and when to be happy.

    *hugs* I hope your next work day is full of kind people!

    PS – Do you have any herbs in your shop?

  2. Yeah I think the fact that some customers don’t know me bothers them. I’m still the newbie (even though I’ve worked here now since October)…but I’ve managed to win over some of the tough ones. The ones that are rudest are usually not repeat customers – I would hope that if you went in somewhere all the time that you would be nice to the employees! 🙂

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