never, ever, be rude to customer service people.

10 Jun

Here’s the scenario: You’re having a nice dinner with some friends and you order a few evening cordials. Your waiter (we’ll call him Putting Myself Through College) scurries away and a riveting conversation continues questioning the resurgence of Dutch Modern furniture (it’s because of Mad Men, by the way). Suddenly, there’s a collective realization that Putting Myself Through College is taking about 10 times longer than he should be. You and your friends start to mutter little statements like “I guess he’s distilling the scotch” (snicker, snicker) and “Hope he didn’t get lost” (Good one, Chet!) and, just like that, the waiter is the enemy.

When Putting Myself Through College returns, nobody makes eye-contact with him. All your friends know that you E-vited the party and are, therefore, the evenings host. So you, alone, are stuck with the decision: Am I going to be nice to the guy or give him his comeuppance? Grown Men choose the former, you likely choose the later and say, “I’m not sure if we’re even in the mood for these now [you fruitlessly try to make eye contact with your friends], well, whatever, we’ll take them.” Putting Myself Through College sucks it up, apologizes, and hands out your Jackass and Cokes.

For a number of reasons, being rude to “the help” is unacceptable. While I shouldn’t have to explain why, the unfortunate prevalence of this behavior forces me to. Here we go.

First, customer service people have a difficult job that you don’t understand. They live and work in a place where stress is the currency and being the killed messenger is literally their job. 99% of the time, waiters can’t help it if the drinks are late – the bartender is up to her eyeballs because the co-tender called in sick at the last-minute, the computers that the restaurant uses just went down and everybody’s freaking out, another table is going bat-crap because little Walter has a nut allergy and didn’t know the Almond Tart would kill him, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Think of your job, aren’t there times when you go nuts because you can’t do the things you need to do as a result of external influences?

Second, being rude is never acceptable. This may come as a revelation to some of you, but your desire to lash out with sarcasm and biting words shows a lack of class and an inability to control yourself.

Grown Man, you’re a freaking tool, I hate you.

All right, quit being rude – I knew you wouldn’t like this bit of advice. You know why? Because being rude is fun! You’ve got embarrassment built up because you’re trying to be cool with your friends and host them well – and they’re thirsty. You’re frustrated because you just got off a plane and can’t imagine a reason why the car rental place didn’t hold your reservation. And so, your negative feelings bubble up to the surface and being rude give you a perfect opportunity to let off some steam and return to normal. Gentlemen, being rude is a reflex response for those who have yet to learn how to control emotion and empathize. Being rude is for children and talk radio hosts – not Grown Men.

Seriously though, my [customer service person] sucked. This dude was really terrible and had no reason for being so bad.

Fair enough, not every customer service person is a victim of the circumstances around them and I’m not asking you to go through life biting your tongue. Here’s what you should do, give it ten minutes to allow the rude volcano to subside. When that time has elapsed and you feel like you can be an adult about the situation, politely address the offender. Don’t curse, don’t insult the person, give a very factual representation of the issue and how your expectations weren’t met. If that person doesn’t seem receptive, speak to the next level up (manager, comment card, 800 number, web site) and state your case. After that, just drop it. You want justice and you want control – both of which are illusions.

Grown Men, it’s time to raise the bar on how we treat the service industry. If your Let’s Make a Mistake shots run a little late, simply engage your friends a riveting conversation about “the stupid blog you’ve been reading and why the guy writing it is probably a huge dork who has never even seen a girl.”

How dare you.

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22 Responses to “never, ever, be rude to customer service people.”

  1. Coco 10 June 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    Ooh. Let’s Make A Mistake shots. I’ve done a few of those. I also enjoyed my share of What Was I Thinking? cocktails in the way back.

    As a former server I heartily applaud this entry, Grown Man. Thank you for pointing out that people doing service jobs deserve respect too. And you cracked me up while doing so, which is a little bonus for me.

    • You're a Grown Man 10 June 2010 at 3:27 pm #

      So glad you liked the post, I really appreciate you commenting.

      I recently tried a “God It’s Been A Long Day, All I Want To Do Is Sleep” Martini, they’re the best – you should have one.

      • Coco 10 June 2010 at 11:22 pm #

        Alas, I can’t imbibe any longer, but that GIBALDAIWTDIS Martini sounds amazing.

        Hey, on my blog today I’m dissecting men’s fashion ads. I think you’d get a laugh out of some of it. Check it out if you like.

        http://mommyhoodandlife.com

        • You're a Grown Man 12 June 2010 at 5:47 pm #

          Coco, rad blog! While many of the men on it were terribly disturbing, it was very funny. Nice job.

  2. Pop 10 June 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    Great post GM! People who belittle those in customer service repulse me. Yes, there’s a time and way to complain–the steps you outline are excellent, btw–but shouting and going over the top makes you look ignorant. For example, at Dunkin Donuts, the worker asks a lady, “Cream and sugar?” She replies, “Yes.” To clarify, he asks, “Would you like both ma’am?”, to which she replies in a loud, obnoxiously slow way, “SI!” The worker was clearly Indian.

    Finally, I make it a point to be nice to people who work at toll plazas by saying Hello, Thank you, and have a nice day. My wife, who was my gf at the time, thought that was really impressive and she knew that I was a GM. :-)

    • You're a Grown Man 10 June 2010 at 3:30 pm #

      Oh man, one of the great byproducts of common decency is a GF becoming your wife – nice job GM!

      Also, the story of the borderline racist Dunkin’ Donuts person was equally horrifying and awesome! How terrible.

  3. Melanie 10 June 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    “you’re trying to be cool with your friends and host them well…” way to call people out!

    awesome challenges and good advice on what to do with the urge to be rude…

    • You're a Grown Man 10 June 2010 at 9:38 pm #

      Thank you, Melanie. And thank you for quoting me, it really helps my already gigantic ego.

  4. BeneathTheSpinLight 10 June 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    Thank you Grown Man!
    P.S. To all the rude customers, we talk about how rude you were after you leave. And our manager talks about you with us. If you’re rude to the Customer Service Rep for no reason, you’re disrespecting everyone that works with them.
    And that’s not cute.

  5. lookingforsomethingtofind 11 June 2010 at 12:50 am #

    Agree a hundred percent, I cringe when ever I see someone rude to wait staff, not so much for the wait staff, but the person being rude. They just look tactless, and classless, it ends up being more embarrassing for them than anyone else.

    • You're a Grown Man 12 June 2010 at 5:48 pm #

      Exactly. It’s a lose, lose proposition. Well put, lookingforsomethingtofind.

  6. Raven 11 June 2010 at 9:32 am #

    Before anyone ever feels the need to be rude to their server they should watch the movie “Waiting”. I’ve dated a waiter…and apparently the movie is autobiographical.

    And just because ‘they signed up for this job and knew what they were getting paid’ doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave a decent tip. You know those jobs that no one else wants to do?

    Great post! It made me rethink ever being rude to anyone again when you mentioned that bit about it being fun. Never thought of it like that before. I’m always trying to be more mature…not less. I know you write this for ‘grown men’ but it’s good advice for everyone.

    Awesome blog in general.

    • You're a Grown Man 12 June 2010 at 5:56 pm #

      I completely agree, docking a tip is a last (if ever) resort. I think a statement should be made with words, not someones rent payment.

      Thanks for the tremendously thoughtful and helpful comment. “Waiting” just got added to the queue.

  7. QueenPinky 12 June 2010 at 10:00 am #

    Yea, my fear usually revolves around them spitting in my food. But they are people too!!! Treat others as you want to be treated! Especially when they handle your food.

    • You're a Grown Man 12 June 2010 at 5:59 pm #

      Absolutely, having your food NOT spit in is a great byproduct of being polite. Thanks, as always, for reading QP.

  8. Chadwick 16 June 2010 at 5:59 pm #

    Good post man! As a server who was forced into this position because of the economy I’ve had to deal with some terrible customers who mostly think I’m stupid and unambitious in life, they don’t know i’m trained in PR, Film & THeater design who cannot find a company with the resources to hire him in the economy. Always great to be treated like an ignorant “help” instead of a well educated, down-on-his-luck young adult.

    Thanks for the thoughts buddy.

    • You're a Grown Man 18 June 2010 at 3:22 pm #

      Well put. While there’s never an excuse to judge someone at all…doing it because of some perceived status is even more ludicrous.

      I really hope you find some PR, Film, or Theater work soon.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • EmilyGrace 23 August 2010 at 10:16 pm #

      Hear hear, Chadwick. I, too, am a college graduate who is waiting tables. I was talking to a co-worker the other night about how we wished we could have addendums to our nametags stating our degrees and goals. Ugh. Great post, GM. I think everyone should work in some area of customer service/retail during their lifetime.

  9. Cassandra 1 September 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    Loved your post…it reminded me of the Dave Barry quote, “A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.” I work retail and the customers are just as bad…I often wonder why people think it is ok to throw clothing on the floor and speak down to those that serve them. Not cool.

    • You're a Grown Man 1 September 2010 at 4:05 pm #

      Not cool at all! Also, great Dave Barry quote…I love how he can say in 17 words what took me 700 to say.

      Thanks for reading, Cassandra, I really appreciate it.

  10. Eric 10 May 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    I dont condone being rude or hateful to people but your premise bates the question what are you paying them for and what’s the purpose waitstaff’s job? I also waited tables in some lean times (I’m an attorney now) and your job is pretty simple, to serve people. You’re not the food/drink police, or some martyr.

    For instance, if anyone else continually messes up at work (accountaints, lawyers, construction workers)you get chastized. There’s usually some sort of discipline process or you get fired eventually. But if you’re waitstaff you should be immune to this? Don’t forget those ‘evil customers’ are buying a product from you and if its extremely late, cold, etc the use for the product is less and the point of coming to the restaurant and paying you is pointless.

    In my opinion if you’re rude and incomptent you deserve to have customers give you a hard time.

    Sincerely,
    A Former Waiter.

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