Customer service sucks because customers suck

This is the 3rd in a series of open letters from the various stakeholders in the retail store. Last part follows next week. I have a point to make – eventually – and will do so at the end of the series. In the meantime, this is how the retail assistants see things…

Dear Customer

I work here between these four walls every day for 6 days a week. I hardly ever see the sky because it is dark when I come in and dark when I leave. I have forgotten what it is like to smell fresh air, having to breathe the recycled shopping centre air for 10 hours a day.

I am expected to wear an ill-fitting uniform that does not suit my body type and a ridiculous name badge to pretend that I am friendly and want to be on first name terms with you. Despite the ridiculous name badge, you still call me ‘Excuse Me’.

You may not know this but I DID notice you when you came in and I DID notice you waving. You may not have noticed that another table (yip, that is what we call you) had arrived before you and you may not have noticed that I happened to be busy cleaning up the spill caused by a little brat that should have been controlled by their parents. My boss has a funny thing about making sure we serve customers in order of arrival, and I have this funny thing of wanting to keep the boss happy. (Actually, I need to keep him happy, but that is another story.)

When I come to your table to take your order, you never greet me, and even if you do you rarely make eye-contact. It’s OK you know, being a minimum wage slave is not a contagious disease.

For me to earn the privilege of serving you, I had to work a 6 hour shift without a break for free. Ostensibly this was my ‘trial’. I subsequently realised that the boss ‘trials’ (insert air quotes here) at least one or two people a week – I guess it cuts down on the wage bill, so I was lucky to be even get the job – and he makes sure I know it.

I mention this just in case you were wondering why I did not smile in such a way to make you really feel welcome.

There’s that, and of course the fact that you are the seventy third customer I will be serving today and my feet are killing me. Also, not to sound judgmental and all, but when you and your partner took out your mobile phones and got busy texting and Facebooking instead of talking to each other, I kinda assume that you would be a rude a#^*holes anyway and that I would be wasting a friendly greeting on you two.

So when I stand at your table with my little notepad and ask what I can get you, I am hoping you will pick something on the menu, say please, and let me get on with my job. Instead you will proceed to deconstruct the menu and order bits and pieces to suit your taste – because you are special: you are a CUSTOMER.

I would love to point out that if you would like put make up your own menu like that you should consider opening your own coffee shop instead. It is called a menu and there is a reason we have a limited range of options. But I will patiently wait and take your order. I will not think about the abuse the chef (a cook really, but he wants to be known as a chef) will hurl at me when I give him your complicated order.

I will do all that for you without spilling a hot coffee in your lap. But, be warned, if you give me any grief when the orders don’t arrive at the same time, I might not be so kindly disposed towards you.

You see, you will be spending more on this one meal than I will make today; and no, the tips go into a tip jar and the owner actually keeps it to pay us our wage.

Besides, there is only so much rudeness that a person can take. Of course, you would threaten to take your business elsewhere, but I predict you will feel the same way about whichever store is the unfortunate recipient of your patronage pretty soon. But I also know you will never realise that the common factor in all these poor customer experiences is YOU – not the shops and not the retail staff.

But to be honest, that is a vain threat. I won’t do anything. I will suck it up. I am finishing my Masters Degree in Sociology soon and then I am out of here. Then you and the owner both can suffer at the hands of yet another inexperienced assistant.

It is a bit sad really, because to tell you truth, it could be a nice job – maybe a career even.

Just a pity about having to deal with customers like you.

Your humble retail servant

PS: I did not spit in your coffee. I couldn’t be bothered. I can’t vouch for the cook though. Chef, I mean.

HAVE FUN

Dennis

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