Everyone has a breaking point. Surprisingly for me, a person with very little patience, my breaking point in environments like work or school is actually pretty tolerable. However, today I said enough is enough.
A customer who shops regularly at the discount liquor store I work at is not the friendliest person in the world – but then again I have my days of wanting to tell the world to take a hike while I stew in a few moments of misery. But this customer for the past five years has treated my coworkers and myself with disrespect in more ways than I care to count.
But just to get a feel, counting seems like a good way to put it all into perspective:
1.) Throwing money at a cashier. I know it’s not a staple rule like saying excuse me if you belch, or holding the door for the person behind you, but something should be written in the manual of manners about how to correctly behave during a shopping transaction. Whenever I have been the customer in the relationship I find it easier to hand the cashier my money. It ensures that I have given the correct amount to cover my bill and it is the polite thing to do. Throwing money at a person sends the message they are beneath you and that they should be the lowly person that should have to count every dollar bill out just to make sure the almighty customer can purchase a few bottles of booze. If you wouldn’t want me using quarters as darts and your forehead as a bullseye, I would say it be best to not throw your money at me, but simply hand it to me, nicely.
2.) Using curse words. I have the mouth of a sailor who hasn’t brushed his teeth in weeks, okay maybe months. It’s a bad habit that I have tried to work on, but even so I’ve been able to eliminate curse words from my vocabulary when I am in professional and educational settings. I wouldn’t tell a customer to “Have a nice f$#%ing day” nor would I tell a professor that their test was a “f@#$ing cakewalk.” Call me old fashioned but I prefer to drop the “F” bomb when I’m in a setting of friends, or those who I have built the rapport with to share a common language. If I wouldn’t use the “F” word, or any word on the laundry list of curse words for that matter, in front of my grandma then I won’t be using it in front of my boss, professor, or even customers. So if I give you the common courtesy of using clean language as to not offend your ears, I wouldn’t say it is far off to expect the same in return.
3.) Biting the hand that feeds you. In the instance of the customer who was the straw that broke the camel’s back, one suggestion would be not to bite the hand that feeds you. The Master’s program that I am currently in has a strong concentration in marketing, so I have learned traditional marketing strategies like advertising and sales promotion to things more subtle and unconventional like relationship marketing and good customer service. So if a sales clerk gives you a special privilege, I would say take the gift and do not spit in their face. So when this customer demanded to put in an order over the phone and pay by personal check (two policies our store doesn’t allow) I graciously bent the rules and let it slide, because after all the customer has shopped with us on a regular basis, so I could make an exception. Instead I was cursed at for asking what bottle size the customer wanted (Who knew Jack Daniel’s Whiskey came in seven – yes, seven – different sizes?!) I was told that I was “f***ing making thinks complicated.” But I’d say asking a customer what bottle size they wanted was a pretty routine and normal question. When the employee at Chipotle doesn’t charge me for extra guacamole, I’m not going to tell him or her that he or she is “making things f***ing complicated.” Mainly because I don’t swear at cashiers but also because I happen to be a frequent flyer at three local Chipotle restaurants and maybe, just maybe someone forgot to mark “CG” on my burrito bowl or said that since I stop by often it’s the “least they can do.”
4.) Feeling entitled and cutting off other customers. They say millenials are an entitled generation. I somewhat agree with this. Partially because I just want to jump right in to a big boy job after my Master’s degree and take the world by storm. But even with a coveted Master’s degree I need to realize that I can’t just walk into any job with little experience – I need to work my way up. Just like I can’t cut who is ever in line ahead of me because I feel like it – I have to wait in line. Yet, as you can probably guess, this particular customer finds cutting in line is okay for him and him alone. Where I work, not only do we sell a wide array of wine and spirits, we also tap into another vice: gambling! Yes, you can also play every New York State Lottery game that your heart desires and your wallet can afford. However, they are two different transactions in two different lines as a way to make things easier for business. We do get customers that strictly purchase lottery tickets, those who strictly purchase alcohol and those who go for the gusto and purchase both. For those who dabble in both vices, we make it very clear that they need to be done separately. A person who cashes out their lottery order cannot simply cut in front of those customers already waiting in line to purchase alcohol and vice versa. This customer when told he needs to wait in line because we do only have one lottery terminal and said terminal can only account for one customer’s transaction at a time, decides to throw his money at a different cashier telling said cashier to give him lottery tickets. Not even a “please” or “thank you.” The place I draw the line at feeling entitled over other customers is slyly sneaking in my 8th item so I can get through the “7 Items or less” line at Wegmans, but hell, even when I have 9 items I feel too guilty to sneak it through. Even when I arrive at the conveyer belt at the same time another customer does, I always allow them to go ahead of me. Same goes for a 4-way stop sign: Always let the other person go. It’s just a simple act that is polite and doesn’t make you look like a jackass. Plus will the few extra seconds, or minutes be that detrimental?
5.) Blow off someone’s request and continue to be a rude, ignorant, disrespectful human being. But if you have been following this story closely, you probably know where this goes. Yes, after cursing me out over the phone, not appreciating the rules that were bent as a way to compensate his regular purchases and throwing money at me like I was an exotic dancer (I may be a good dancer, but definitely not an exotic one), the guy thinks he can not only be disrespectful to me, but to other customers as well. I was heated and I was working up the guts to give the guy a piece of my mind. But even then I had to stop and think: my boss, other customers – I can’t make a scene. I politely told my boss what happened to voice my concerns. But when this customer decided to keep his practices going not once, not twice but three times in one day, (yes, three times in one day – I don’t exaggerate) I decided enough was enough. I, against my own disdain cashed out his alcohol and lottery orders, separately, and then as I handed him his tickets the conversation happened:
Me: “I would appreciate it the next time you call in an order to be a little more respectful on the phone.”
Customer: “What are you talking about?”
Me: “You called in an order this morning and you were very disrespectful on the phone.”
Customer: “How would you know?”
Me: “Well, I’m Matt. I’m the one that took your order and I didn’t appreciate the way you talked to me. So next time I would appreciate you being a little more respectful.”
Customer: blank stare looks to other cashier as if he is puzzled and amazed that a lowly peon of a discount liquor store cashier called him out on his deplorable behavior
Me: opens eyes wide as if to suggest “What? Cat got your tongue?”
Customer: You got a lot of nerve, boy.
Customer leaves. Blackout. End Scene.
So there is goes, even when a polite request was made to show a slight bit of respect the customer tells me I have a lot of nerve.
I may not own my own business. I may not drive a fancy car. I may not have money to throw around like it’s scrap paper. But what I do have is a slight potty mouth, that is never used to offend someone, an undying ambition to be the best I can be, a person with a guilty conscious if I sneak more items than is allowed in a “7 items or less” checkout and a person with enough respect and appreciation for people, whether they are a customer, a cashier, the president, or a janitor to treat them with kindness, politeness and respect. And if that gives me a lot of nerve – so be it.