How to behave like an adult without even trying

>So, it’s come to my attention that general standards of decent behaviour in this world are at an all time low, especially when it comes to how people behave around customer service personnel. This was brought home to me this evening when two extraordinarily rude people spilled lotion all over the floor while I watched in cringing horror, and then laughed while I was trying to clean it up from the floor before it stained. From around their shoes. While they refused to move. The best part was when they did it again, about thirty seconds later.

I’ve been reading a lot of historical novels lately, and I’ve been realizing that the slaves in these novels get more respect that service staff do. (Hey, disclaimer, slavery sucked and I know that, thank you.) Maybe it was something about property value, or maybe it’s just fond imagination in the minds of historical novel authors. Either way, sometimes I find myself wishing I was on a Southern plantation, especially when dealing with clients like those above.

Most of the time, customers/clients/guests/whatever you call them are just fine. Some of them are even wonderful, and it’s probably not fair that while there is a “customers suck” website, there is no corresponding “customers rock” site. Just this evening I had a wonderful customer from Maryland who was very sweet and good natured with me, who asked all kinds of interesting questions, asked for and respected my recommendations, and said “thank you m’am” when we were done.

I’m wondering what it is about some people though. They seem to have this internal drive, this need, to be rude to staff. Some people are demanding and spoiled. That’s one thing, and it can be annoying, but then there are others who simply have no respect. They look at the people who are trying to serve them as though they are so many dolls lined up in a row, without emotions or desires of their own. For these people, it’s as though the person behind the counter is a tool to be used and thrown away, and the best way to get service is to be mindbogglingly rude.

Now, I have said elsewhere on this site that I pride myself on having excellent customer service, and the ASS technique is a time tested method of mine. I feel that few problems can’t be solved with the ASS technique.

But it bothers me that so many hard working men and women are treated as lesser beings merely because they are on the wrong side of the counter.

Now, I’m sure that none of my loyal readers are ever rude to customer service staff, and that all of you treat them with the politeness and courtesy you wish to be treated with. So I’m imploring you to go out into the world and spread the gospel:

Customer service representatives are people too. They work hard, long hours, and most of them really want to make you happy. Most of them want you to have a wonderful, positive experience in their establishment, and most of them will go above and beyond to ensure that you are pleased. So please, don’t make it any harder on them. It is not at all flattering to my impression of you when you behave like an ass, and your girlfriend probably isn’t very impressed either.

If you, as a customer, are not happy with your service, then by all means say so. But try saying it in a courteous and polite way, say for example: “Excuse me miss, but this steak is more rare than I like it.” The server will probably say “oh, I’m so sorry, let me take this back to the kitchen and get it all fixed up for you.”

Try to remember that the problem you are having is probably not the fault of the person you are dealing with. Did the poor girl at Radio Shack manufacture that defective merchandise? Did the hapless counterperson at the coffeehouse set the refill policy? Probably not. So why take it out on them? A rational and polite complaint will be met with cheerful service–there’s no need to be rude about it.

Kindness goes a long way, and it is remembered. You will find yourself getting better service (and little presents from the staff) if you are polite to them. Note that I don’t say “make an effort to be polite to them,” because I don’t think being polite requires effort. I think being rude requires concentrated, focused effort that could be better spent on other things. You don’t need to try to behave like an adult–you already are one, now act like it.

Sometimes you will run into a clerk who is rude. This does happen, and it does suck, and I apologize for your experience. It’s possible that person is having a bad day, but it’s still not a good excuse for behaving that way. But the ASS technique works in reverse–try and let it roll off your back. Don’t let it sour your day. Try killing them with kindness–it’s really hard to stay rude when someone is being sugary sweet to you. If it’s a business you’re never going to enter again, let it slide. Unless it was really offensive, in which case track down the manager and gently suggest that they have a chat with their staff. If it’s a business you frequent, it’s certainly acceptable (and it will probably be appreciated) for you to mention to the owners or manager: “hey, I was in your store the other day and clerk x was being kind of short with me.”

I know I appreciate feedback about my service, and most customer service personnel do. Business owners and managers, likewise, are always interested to know how the staff behaves (especially when they aren’t around). If you are a courteous, mellow, and respectful customer, you probably won’t have to deal with rude staff very often–I, for example, almost never have dealings with nasty clerks.

A little respect in your daily life can make a vast difference in how you interact with the rest of the world, let me tell you. If you can take a moment to remember that the people serving you are also people, with homes, needs, and experiences of their own, you might find them more receptive and helpful. By behaving like a big person, you can access a whole new level of customer service, friends.

If you’ve been noticing that everywhere you go, the staff is rude…know thyself.

[how to behave]