Posted in Of Psyche

Of Customer Service

Shop (Courtesy: Pixabay)

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be a tyrant. This might have something to do with my recently binge-watching The White Queen, a TV show based on the War of the Roses, and particularly sympathising with the notoriously sympathetic King Richard The Third. But, you know, I just wonder sometimes what it would be like if people had to do whatever I told them to do. And I could do to them whatever I wanted to.

I cultivate being nice, in the particular sense of being externally nice, i.e. well-mannered. Doing it internally, truthfully, is a much more complicated affair, usually reserved for close relationships. For our brief interactions, visitations, a brush of solidarity or mutually beneficial exchange, behaviour is based purely on civility. And considering such one-on-one exchanges are the foundation of what has made businesses run from time immemorial, irrespective of number-crunching and strategising, you’d think it would be ingrained in any service person’s brain that Customer is, indeed, King. And not to be treated cruelly like the afore-mentioned King Richard.

I didn’t feel like that today. Sunday morning, I had a minuscule errand to run. I am made to wait for nearly half an hour at a little shop. I am confused, for I’ve been there a few times before, and the owner/lone service person had never blatantly ignored me, especially when I’m standing right in front of him, and requesting the sole item I wanted a few times when I thought it was my turn. But, he kept serving those who came after me, and not me. Finally, a woman who turned out to be an additional service person and not a customer as I had assumed, asked me what I wanted. I was a bit angry and confused, and so I pointed out that I’d been standing there not being served when it had been my turn for a while. This is what the owner replied,

Why will I serve you? If you were a daily customer, then I would serve you if it was your turn. But, I’ve seen you in other shops. Of course, I will serve those who came after you, even if they don’t buy anything at all.

It’s one thing being irritated. I was completely stunned. All I could mumble in reply was, “If you talk like that, I wouldn’t want to come to your shop anyway.” I regret still having bought the item I wanted. I could consider the situation if I had been on friendly terms with the owner, if I had been going to his shop for years. But, that’s not the case here. This is by no means the first time I’ve had bad service, but it is the first time when I’ve been personally, verbally attacked like this. And because I cannot suggest any corrections to this person’s behaviour (considering I will never go to his shop again), I have to think of what I can do to not let someone talk to me like that in the future. Considering, I did nothing wrong.

Now, I know I suffer from The Doormat Syndrome. I unconsciously let people take me for granted, and sometimes get manipulated or taken advantage of. Those are extreme positions, but I also am quite frequently subject to things people may feel, but in polite society wouldn’t speak out, on account of trying not to be hurtful towards the other person. More than being hurt, I am bewildered by such comments, because I am amazed at how they could say something like that, without it being just some good-natured ribbing. No, it is meant. I feel I am to blame, because I open myself to it. I am a people-pleaser. I’d bring the moon to you if you asked me to, and you might be just somebody who’s recently moved into my neighbourhood, and I am not even sexually attracted to you. Yeah, I am a f***ing saint.

This is also surprising, because my demeanour is not always inviting. In fact, I’ve often been told I’m intimidating, especially because of my grumpiness and my voice. My voice is like a Disney villain’s voice, so by no means should it attract rude behaviour. I would have thought service would come easily because of it, but perhaps I overcompensate for it. Just yesterday I let someone cut me in line at a store. The man told me his stuff had already been billed, he only had to pay. I knew this was a lie, for this store would never bill you if you could not shell out the moolah then and there, but I’d had a good shopping experience so far, and didn’t want to spoil it by arguing with him. The point is, I spent the rest of today going over how I deal with people on a daily basis, people who provide me with service. And, I want to assure myself that I should get good marks on this subject, and that that man’s comments were unwarranted.

But, that’s the thing, you see. That’s why I told you a while back not to ask anyone what they think of you. Don’t even ask yourself, what you think of you. Don’t go down that road, it only brings you grief. Because, what if I am not a good customer? What if, I am not deserving of my ‘Customer is King’ title? “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” as wrote The Bard, and maybe the powers we have as customers is not as easy as we take them to be.

Have you faced bad behaviour as a customer? How do you deal with people being rude to you in such situations?



Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

9 thoughts on “Of Customer Service

  1. I used to work in retail for years and had to deal with all manner of rude customers so as a customer myself, I am often more relaxed and let things go. I have that Doorman syndrome too. Big time. The one thing I cannot and will not let someone do is go before me if I have been waiting first. Sometimes the employee is busy and may not be aware, so I don’t blame them, but the other person? Oh you better believe they will f***ing hear it from me 😄

    1. Ha ha! I’m glad you have the guts. I once got into a huge row with somebody over cutting lines, and since then, I’ve mostly let it slide. I am not the best at a fight, and I’d rather wait longer or form a group with others in the line than go at it alone.
      I always make it a point to be as polite and understanding as possible. It’s snobbish to say that’s how I was raised, but I take it very seriously. No one should suffer on my account. We should all try to make life easier for others, that’s love, isn’t it? The week before, a bank employee was very rude to me. I asked him if I had to sign a document and he sarcastically replied, “Did I tell you to? Won’t I have, if you needed to?” and a few seconds later, he mumbled it would be better if I did sign. I could have gotten angry at him, but I understood why he snapped. He had been under a lot of pressure for the half an hour or so that I had waited in queue for him, and possibly longer. I guess the lesson is, we should try to understand why someone is rude/angry before we get angry at them!
      I hope you’re well Robert. If you know any Bengali areas or communities in your area, try and drop by for the festival of Goddess Durga this week. You’re sure to get some exciting subjects for photography!

      1. Thanks Amrita. Have to keep this short for the moment but yeah, I always try to be as polite as possible. Enjoy the festival and I’m sure I don’t have to look too far in NYC for a Bengali community!

  2. I’m used to seeing customers be rude to the employees (which is always disappointing to see when it happens) – but seeing an owner treat a customer like that is new.
    It would encourage me to never shop there again, even if I wasn’t the target of the rudeness and merely a spectator.
    Sorry to hear you were on the receiving end of such disrespectful behaviour Amrita

    1. Thank you Geoff. I have seen employees being rude to customers often enough. Especially at beauty stores. This is subject for an entire post on retailing targeted especially towards women, but much of that is based on making the woman feel bad (and thus making them buy things that will magically make them look good). I’m guessing Canada sticks to its niceness code in this department too!

      Btw, I read somewhere Canadians hate being called nice. Is that true? How did the popular idea come about in the first place?

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