The Customer is Not Always Right

Working retail gives you a whole different outlook on the world.

You start to become accustomed to your life having a constant Muzak soundtrack, for one. I used to love “Her Diamonds” by Rob Thomas and “Second Chance” by Shinedown – but now that I get to hear them every day I work? No thank you.

More importantly, though, working retail gives you an entirely different outlook on strangers and the world around you. Because of retail, I have learned that, in general, people are whiny, obnoxious, rude, self-centered, stupid and mean. And that’s the short list.

Maybe I’m jaded. Definitely, I’m exaggerating. But peel away my layers of sarcasm and bitterness from being stuck in a kiosk in the middle of a mostly dead mall, listening to that awful Muzak and the sounds of a fountain for eight hours a day, 40 hours a week (and this is just for the last few weeks), and the same facts remain.

I’m not claiming to be a saint. I know I have my bad days where, come in contact with me, and you’re liable to have your head bitten off (they’re rare, I swear). However, even on my worst day, I would never dream of being rude to the people that serve me food, cash me out at the store, or the ones I just come in contact with throughout the day – people I don’t know. They always get an “I’m fine, how are you?” and a “Have a nice day,” no matter how un-fine I am or how much I may want their day to suck so that maybe, just maybe, the higher powers that are making my day bad will focus on someone else for a minute or two.

This pleasant demeanor, however, I have found, is not the case of some of the other six billion or so people on this planet. Yes, I get the sweet old folks, and the really friendly thirtysomethings that make me laugh, and the little kids who are too adorable for words that come up with their parents. I get a lot of them. And I am incredibly glad they, too, aren’t rude, obnoxious, etc. – but being the way I am, I just assumed this is the norm, and that I shouldn’t have to say that I’m thankful for people using common courtesy. Clearly, I was wrong; clearly, I should start throwing a prayer of thanks the Big Guy Upstairs’ way every so often.

It’s that small percentage of people who disregard that common courtesy that make me understand how waiters would want to spit in customers’ food. They make me understand how sites like WaiterRant and NotAlwaysRight can exist.

There was the woman who interrupted me while I was with another customer, argued with me about me ruining her watch, and then insisted I charge her less for a battery because her watch “got ruined in water, so clearly it’s not water resistant” (even though the watch said “water resistant” on the back, and it was probably not the water that did it because there was no water damage, but whatever).

There was the man, last Christmas who screamed at me about not being able to do a return without “his girl’s” credit card, and no, he couldn’t get it and come back because he was “at work” during this whole ordeal. Yes, sir, I said to him (with much, much more than a hint of sarcasm that he, in the middle of his turning-red-from-rage rant, somehow didn’t detect), it clearly is my fault, and I clearly am incompetent. Oh, and you should probably be fired for being here right now, but, yes, I’m the one in the wrong and should not follow company policy, just for you.

And then there are just the people who can’t bother to respond to my greetings when they walk up to look at our watches. Yes, a one-syllable “hi” clearly is too much to expect. I know, I know, how dare I?

They make me want to smash their watch to bits, hand it back to them, sweetly and sarcastically say, “Have a nice day [possibly insert a for-now-censored word here],” and walk out of this little box, never to return. Fortunately, I have some sense of decency – or, you know, I’d just like to keep my paycheck – so I suck it up while they’re around, swear under my breath as they leave, and call it a day. It’s working out so far, minus the whole jaded and sarcastic thing.

What I just simply cannot understand is how, how in the world, someone can deem it okay to act so rudely towards a person they have never met before. A person they will probably never meet again. A person – and, actually, this one should matter – who has control over their restaurant order, or who is handling their expensive, precious watch. What gets me more is that some people will even do it when there are other customers around. You do know we talk about you after you leave, right? Because, guess what, it’s just not me who thinks you rude and inconsiderate.

There’s a special place in the afterlife for people like this.

And then there’s the deluge of stupid comments I get. No, miss, I am not making a backhanded comment about your money situation by asking you if your Gucci watch is real. I actually need to know, because, if it is, I cannot work on it.

Yes, sir, batteries really are $12.95. I know it’s expensive. No, if you keep asking me, I will not lower the price.

No, ma’am, I do not want to “just try” to work on your very expensive Coach watch because I’d like to keep my paycheck (see above). If you’d like issue me a weekly check when I get fired for going against company policy and breaking your watch, and if you promise you won’t get mad at me when I do break it, then, yes, by all means, I “just try” your godforsaken Coach watch. You’ll thank me later, when you have your watch done at a jeweler’s and get it back in one piece and working.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, your fellow species. I am begging you (seriously, picture me down on my knees, clasping my hands, and say this in a pleading voice) – be nice to those you encounter. Didn’t we learn this in, I don’t know, like, Kindergarten? It’s really not that hard, and you know that if the situation were reversed, you’d want people to be nice to you.

You don’t have to compliment me, tell me how wonderful I am, or tell me how spectacular our batteries are, but, for the love of God, say hello. Wait your turn. Don’t whine or throw a temper tantrum. Say please, thank you, and have a nice day. And don’t push me to give you a discount, or work on your watch if I can’t.

When you don’t find spit in your food, when your watch comes back not in a zillion pieces, and when you don’t earn a reputation of being a person to avoid, you’ll see my point.

You can thank me later.

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