To the Editor,
In a world of retail interactions, management has been trained to push the mantra that “the customer is always right.” This is a little one-sided and unfair to the employee who has to be the face of customer service in dealing with the public who can be challenging at best.
I have watched waiters and cashiers put up with what I would say borders on harassment at the hands of some customers, but they do their best to smile anyway (bless them, I couldn’t deal with the dumb crap for 10 minutes, much less hours on end each day). Example: why do people come into a store with a bad attitude and a chip on their shoulder, radiating negative energy, but expecting that they get the highest level of customer service? Then they turn around and complain that the cashier was not performing politely.
Does it not occur to anyone that perhaps he/she has “withdrawn socially” a bit to avoid getting involved in a situation that has no hope of being positive? Or perhaps the person at the register has just received the equivalent of an emotional bombshell and is not feeling very chatty? This is not an open invitation to automatically interpret their mild manner as rude or ‘bitchy’ because he/she didn’t talk your ear off at the till. They are doing their job politely but quietly as they process things. Service staff are human too!
And why do people think it is amusing to say comments like “You look bored,” “You must need something to do,” or “Is there anyone working here?” Would any one of these same people dare to approach the cashier at WalMart with that opening? Why is it because we live in a small community where you happen to know the cashier by name, that this could even be considered acceptable behaviour, where anywhere else it would be just plain rude?
I challenge someone to walk up to the cashier in a Safeway and blurt that out – see if your “humour” is appreciated there. I doubt it.
How many times a day do you think the girls at the post office get complaints about the price of a stamp going up again? Face it – they just sell them. Can you imagine that you just had a five-star dining experience in downtown Vancouver but there is a technical glitch when you go to use your Visa or debit? Would you honestly even think of looking the waitress or maitre’d in the eye and saying, “Oh well, that must be free.” Come on, think before you speak. Words can harm in many ways. An unintentional flippant remark or ill attempt at humour may be just that to you, but to the service staff who have to hear similar comments for eight hours, this begins to wear you down, discourage and frustrate.
My heart goes out to these people behind the counter and till. We have customer appreciation days at many stores – perhaps there needs to be a day where customers appreciate those that wait and serve them all day, every day. Truthfully, these are the people that make your community run. You would be hard-pressed to get parts for your car, pay a bill at the bank, register your insurance or get a simple cup of coffee if there was no one behind the counter. Start simple – to get some respect, show some.