I'm Thankful...

>> Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It occurs to me that I can fill out the spaces between blogs with some thoughts of my own. Like the one I had today...

I'm thankful I don't work in the service industry, where, day in and day out, I have to deal with customers. I went to go order some more contacts for my daughter and waited half an hour. There was only one person working it and she was doing the best possible under the circumstances. When I got here, she was helping someone picking up their glasses while another woman roamed the room, looking at frames. Then, after I got there, a pregnant woman came in prompted by the worker who was NOT at the optical store. The woman was fixin' to go any time and came with a teen and a tiny tiny kid.

The woman who'd called her hadn't told her exactly why she was coming in. Her glasses hadn't been ordered (or paid for), the insurance information was not available. And this poor lady, who looked for glasses, forms, ANYTHING to give the pregnant lady had nothing she could do for her.

No one got testy or angry with the saleslady, but I could tell she felt bad about dragging the pregnant woman on a wild goosechase (even though she hadn't done it). And felt bad about people having to wait.

Interestingly enough, you might be interested to hear that I'm so obviously a sympathetic ear I got an earful. The woman looking for glasses accosted me, first to tell me how it never rains it pours, first her cat was sick, then her eleven year old grandson. The cat, apparently, is a beautiful Tonkinese she got from the local shelter. They said not to let him outside, but what they didn't tell her was why. Apparently, he's deathly allergic to fleas. She loves him though. And she's trying to juggle vet and doctor visits while going back to school in her retirement (yes, all of this was unprompted. I think I must look trustworthy.) She is going to jury duty on the 6th and just broke her glasses so she needs new ones but she had no idea how to find some that looked good on her.

My glasses look good on me, she said (after complimenting my one beauty, my hair) and then asked if I could help her pick some out. I did. I'm good at it, told her about my own recent cat rescues (she was jealous of my little manx sweethearts, I could tell) and liked the frames I found her very much.

Nice lady. I liked her. Still, I can imagine that being trying if I had a line of people waiting on me.

In fact, even dealing with friendly, understanding, honest people day in and day out would get wearying and, let's face it, there will always be assholes. One asshole can pretty much ruin a day of nice people.

I've done some time on that side of the counter, long ago, thank heaven. I remember some of it fondly but mostly, no. I wouldn't want to do that again.

People frequently rant about the service they receive here or there, the idiots that work here or there and whatnot. Me, I'm just glad I don't have to work in those places, I don't have to apologize for situations I didn't create, I don't have to treat even the rudest and most insensitive people with friendliness. So, if I don't jump on the pick on the clerk bandwagon, well, you know why.

It's a tough and often thankless job.

All honor to them.


  • nipsy

    I've been in and out of the customer service industry for over 15 years now. The best for me is handling customer complaints and orders over the phone and internet. The worst is being behind an actual counter. Such as the woman I had last night who brought back a watermelon she claimed was bad. Of course we switched it out for a good one. Then my boss and I looked at the one she had sliced, and eaten about half. It was a perfectly good watermelon. Ughh

  • Roy

    Been there, done that, and still trying to get back in. I've been in retail for 30 years. Yeah, it can get trying, but in my experience the nasty ones are a tiny, tiny minority.

  • Stephanie B

    Not trying to say there's anything wrong with doing it. My husband enjoyed interacting with customers more than any other aspect of his job when he worked for Petsmart.

    I'm just saying that the useful bit of personality that makes it appealing appears to be lacking in me. And I respect the patience because, though I agree with Roy that most people are perfectly reasonable, the nasty ones are often so memorable.

  • Shakespeare

    I agree... and I tend to do all I can to be patient and friendly, even when there's a rush and I have to wait.

    Oh, and your hair is not your only beauty... what gave you that idea?

    You should read FAIREST by Gail Carson Levine, the author of ELLA ENCHANTED. So far I like it better than ELLA, and it speaks to the assumptions about what is or is not beautiful. I'm going to read it aloud to my daughter as soon as I finish it. She'll love it, I'm almost certain.

  • Stephanie B

    You know, I've never read Ella Enchanted, but the movie left me, um, bored. I still haven't figured out what the big deal was.

  • Patricia Rockwell

    Everyone tends to underestimate customer service employees. Their jobs require not only physical labor and intellectual labor, but also emotional labor. That is, they must invest (or appear to invest) concern for the customer in their work. But what if that waitress is not feeling well or that shoe salesman is worried about paying his bills? They have to put aside their personal concerns and make the customer their priority. Those that do so successfully (or appear to do so) can have fulfilling careers, but those who can't, are often miserable. I had a graduate student who did his thesis on emotional labor and collected data from waiters and waitresses. It was eye-opening and made me think twice before I judged a customer service worker too quickly.

  • The Mother

    I think it takes a special kind of someone to work in service.

    Thankfully, that someone isn't me.

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