Life in Customer Service


The life lessons just keep coming. I’m starting to wonder when you finally get to the plain where the lessons have all been learned.  Maybe that marks the end of this life as we know it.  Until then, I guess, the lessons will just keep coming.

The last few weeks have opened my eyes to some facts of life that I thought I was worldly enough to know. The conclusions of my observations are that I am nowhere near as knowledgeable about life as I once suspected.  Human nature has certainly taken me by surprise. 

Racism is alive and well in this day and age.  I was naive enough to have thought that, as progressed human beings,  we had put all that in the past.  I was incredibly incorrect but the parameters are slightly different than I would have ever thought.  I have been called a racist several times over the past month.  By me adhereing to the constraints of my new position, it causes me to make choices based on certain member status.  This criterion is not based on anything other than the amount of money spent with my employer.  When someone does not meet that financial level, they unfortunately have to wait for service.  I have found when I adhere to these corporate mandates, I, all of a sudden, become a racist.  

This took me way back at first.  How could I be called a racist?  The decisions are not made on race, yet the words flow freely from one’s mouth.  Other situations have come up and I have been called stupid as well as rude, sometimes all in the same day.  Honestly, at first, I cried.  I felt bad but than I got mad.  The words only come spewing forth once the offended party realizes that things are not going how they think they should. It may not be fair, but it’s hardly a case of racism. 

Didn’t Dr. King protest about segregation and the mistreatment of people due to the color of their skin?  Wasn’t it about gaining basic rights and treating all persons with respect and dignity?  I wholly understand that if I was choosing one race over another to progress to my register based on color, then I would be racist.  But that’s not how it works.  I have to choose my next customer based on a tier system that is open to everyone.  I am not necessarily comfortable with it either, but I do not see it as a racism concern.  Yet, I hear the words ever too frequently.  

I try my hardest to treat every person I come in contact with with the respect that every human being deserves.  Yes, things have happened in the past and still continue today, but I try never to add any more negative energy into this world.  Like most people, I am abhorred by the blatant mistreatment that has occurred to many different races of people.  Unfortunately, I do not have the power to change any of it, but I do have the power to control how I personally act toward others today.  That’s all I can do and I take the responsibility very seriously.

With that being said, shouldn’t there be an expectation of being similarly treated by my fellow man?  Instead I have been talked down to, insulted and generally brushed aside like some unfortunate means to an end.  So many more people than I ever imagined treat the workers of this world as an inconvenient necessity.  Where is the march for food service workers or retail customer service personnel?  The main misconception is that if you are in food service, retail or other careers involving working with the public, you are somehow less human than the rest.  Basic respect does not seem necessary when working with “my kind.”  Since I am so lowly, I cannot possibly have feelings…that’s what it feels like to be ignored and brushed aside.  The overall impatience with the tasks I have to perform have a tendency to overwhelm me.  I’m getting these people a table at a buffet, not getting them to a conference on world hunger.  It’s just dinner….try to be civil, at the very least.

I suggest that every person should be made to work in food service, retail or the janitorial trades once in their lives.  The experience is eye-opening to say the least.  You get to feel what it feels like to be cast aside, spoken down to and basically ignored because of a misconception of who you are and what you are made of based on the fact you wear a name tag.  If every person could experience this, maybe the world would start to see a change in how people interact. The person who is just too busy or just too important to say good morning back, would feel how it feels to be ignored. The person who is just too important to get off their phone during a transaction would feel what it’s like to try to service a customer you cannot even communicate with.  You would feel the wrath of an angry customer who feels slighted and will yell and berate you for minutes because of some minor issue.  

If you think these people do not work hard, try standing on your feet for seven hours straight, being abused by customers, and doing all sorts of behind-the-scenes work for the price of a latte an hour.  Don’t get me wrong….granted it’s not brain surgery but the work is generally long days and the work is hard.  I know what you are thinking…..it’s a choice I’ve made and that’s true.   That’s not really my point though.  My point is that if we all honestly tried, even for a few seconds, to put your feet in the shoes of someone else than there might not be so much meanness and ugliness in the world.  Let’s face it, we can’t all be CEOs of large companies, someone still has to check out your groceries, clean up the messes, type the letters, and any other varied tasks that need done.  All I ask is that from time to time try to imagine what it’s like for the person behind the counter.  It may seem like a brainless job to you but I can almost guarantee that it still takes some knowledge.

To all the people who have yelled at me that I am a racist because my employer mandates a certain protocol.  Please know I am not racist and the implication is definitely not appreciated.  Please save the terminology for situations where real infractions have occurred. Using the term because you had to wait an extra five minutes to be seated at the buffet does not seem to qualify. Also, please try to spread appreciation to all people. Feeling valued can go a long way to making a person try harder.  And for the clerk who really does not care about their job, well, that’s going to happen. Just try not to yell threats and/or throw things. You never know what a person is going through. 

Let’s all try to be kinder to one another.  It doesn’t cost anything, except a few minutes of your day.  If I let it, this job could very well harden me. I’m making a serous effort to not let that happen.  I want the world to be a better place so I will keep trying. 

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2 comments

  1. I agree, everyone should work in food service at least once in their lives. I did a 5 month stint at a McDonald’s in Mentor back when my kids were in elementary school. It was enlightening, to say the least! I wouldn’t want to do it again, but I am glad I did it, because I learned things about the human race that I was somewhat sheltered from.

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