The Bean Blog (currently on hiatus)

Friday, October 08, 2004

Do Your Job, Asshole

Two experiences I have had over the past week have worked me into a frenzy. You know, the type of frenzy that involves sitting on your ass, watching Sportscenter and blogging. That type of frenzy. With me?

But back to the situation at hand. My blogging friend Newell and I have been having a little "argument" in the comments section of his post of Wednesday, October 06, 2004, about the expections of retail/customer service employees vs. the expectations of customers.

Let me preface my opinion with my own history working retail and/or customer service. I do this because I have a feeling that my brothers and sisters in retail bondage around the globe will strong disagree with me, but what the fuck.

Anyway, I started working at a McDonald's at the tender age of 14. I moved on from there to a Baskin & Robbins and then a drug store. After graduating from high school, I ended up working very briefly at a gas station and then for a very extended time at a little bookstore, where I would work for 4 years (my longest stint with one job). During the bookstore job, I finished getting an associate's degree and got a "real" job, i.e. fulltime non-retail employment working for the state of Delaware as a computer network specialist. Although this was a foray out of retail, at least 50% of the job was customer service: "I can't log in!" "My computer won't do X!" I can't tell you how many times I said, "Let's try rebooting first." A move to Pennsylvania also meant a change in employment, and I ended up working for a community center. This job was also at least 50% of what I would call "customer service" although a community center doesn't really have "customers." I answered all sorts of questions and helped all sorts of people do all sorts of things. That's customer service.

All of this is my very long and drawn out way of saying, "I've been there, retail bondage brothers and sisters." I've answered the stupidest questions by the stupidest person. I've had someone say, "Where are the napkins?" when the napkins were literally about six inches from them. I've had people ask questions like, "When is the June 6th parade?" I also remember this one time when a charming gentleman came up to me and started yelling about how there was no toilet paper in the bathroom, so he had to "hang his ass over the sink and clean it that way," and what was I going to do about it? (Stay far, far away from that sink, if you're curious.)

So I've been there. I know what it's like. Have I always been the model of good behavior in these situations? No, of course not. I've said things I shouldn't. I've done things I shouldn't. And I've been chewed out by my boss for saying and doing those things. I deserved it.

I know that I've deserved it because I've also been on the other side of it. I've been the customer who has been treated rudely by the person behind the cash register or on the other end of the phone line. For instance, my street recently got permit parking, so I had to get a permit for my car. I've never had a city issued parking permit. I didn't know the drill. So I called the number I was supposed to call and asked, "What do I need to do?" The woman started rambling off this list of items I needed to bring to get my permit. One of them was the car's registration card. I still have the temporary registration for my car since it's new, so I said, "I just bought a car, so I only have a temporary registration. Is that okay?" She just repeated, "Bring your registration card in with you," and sounded completely annoyed by me. I said, "Excuse me, I must have the wrong person. I was under the impression that this number would connect me with someone who was supposed to answer my questions. Could you transfer me to that person, bitch?"* When I wanted her to clarify what I could use for proof of residence, she gave me attitude again.

What the fuck is up with that? I mean, does she have somewhere else to be? She's stuck there for eight fucking hours to answer these types of--perhaps--stupid questions. And I know they are stupid, but I want to make sure because I don't want to go through the hassle of going downtown, parking, going into the Philadelphia Parking Authority building, waiting in line, only to get up to the window and have the person on the other side say, "Oh, I'm sorry, a water bill isn't good enough. We need the electric bill." I'd rather spend two mintues asking stupid questions of a person who is paid to answer stupid questions. Just do it bitch! Tell me the goddamn water bill is fine! What the fuck else do you have to do?!

My friendly (I hope :) argument with Newell is along the same lines. He posted that a customer at a gas station should know the number of the pump they want gas from. Yes, they should know it. I give you that. But if they don't, isn't it the GAS STATION ATTENDANT's job to know just that type of information? I've had that exact experience, both as a gas station attendant and as a customer. When customers approached me and didn't know their pump number, it was no big deal. I spent about 20 seconds ascertaining which car was theirs, and then I put the pump number in the computer. After all, what else do I have to do? Even if there's a line of people, what difference does it make? I'll be there until my shift ends whether or not people are in line. I help the customer in front of me as quickly and politely as I can, and then I help the next one. Doesn't make one speck of difference to me whether or not I spend 30 seconds or 10 minutes with one person.

That's why I get so annoyed when I'm the customer, and I get treated like I'm a hindrance. I am a polite, reasonably intelligent person, as long as you are the same to me. I know that, as a customer myself, I've been in the same exact situation I described above: I've not know the pump number. When I get attitude from the gas station attendant about it, I say, "Hey, asshole, do you work here? Okay then, WHAT FUCKING PUMP NUMBER IS THE BLACK SUBARU PARKED AT? Four? Thank you. Put $20 on pump four."*

*Okay, I've never actually said these things because I'm not clever enough to come up with them on the spot. I'm more shocked that I'm being treated badly for no apparent reason. But in the future, watch out!


  • Great post! Im with you on the customer service.

    Ive worked as a public library clerk, and yes, customers get on your nerves but you still grin and bear it. Having worked customer service, I EXPECT good customer service.

    This post also reminds me of the scene where Brad gets fired for telling off a customer in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

    Luv ya sweetie.

    PS I NEVER know what pump Im parked at for gas. Its a dyslexic thang.

    By Blogger Vadergrrrl, at 2:59 PM, October 08, 2004  

  • I shan't take sides! I shan't take sides! I love you both too much... it's like asking a child to decide which parent they adore more... mi amore. Four more? No, I implore! Adios!

    By Blogger Dan, at 3:29 PM, October 08, 2004  

  • I'm totally with you on this one, Oz. I too have served my time dealing with the public, (for two years during school at a local supermarket), and I was always the picture of patience and civility, even faced with the most outrageous provocation and mind-numbing stupidity. Therefore, I get really annoyed when I'm treated badly. I started recounting one story here, before deciding it'd be better off as a post. When I start ranting, I just keep on going, and it's probably rude to post too long a comment...

    By Blogger Fyse, at 4:51 PM, October 08, 2004  

  • Okay... first off, if you will notice the latest comment on my own blog, I AGREE with you. A gas station attendant should be able to tell someone what pump they are at. Period. I have agreed with you from the beginning, but I guess that wasn't clear. Frankly, I'd rather have a customer not have any clue what pump they are at and tell me as much, than try to guess and do so incorrectly. The incident that caused my rant on "customers should know what pump they are on" involved an old woman paying $17+ LESS than she was supposed to because she told me the wrong pump number. It just so happens that someone had also pumped gas at the pump she told me she was on, so she ended up paying that guy's cheaper total.

    As for customer service in general: I always try to be as polite as possible when dealing with customers, even when they don't deserve it. YES, I feel that some customers are unworth of the decent treatment that I give them, but I give it to them regardless. And when I say they don't deserve it, I don't mean for stupid questions. I had a guy come in today and ask where the donuts were. I pointed and said, "Right behind you, sir," in a very polite, if slightly amused, manner. They were about four feet behind him in a huge giant display case that proclaimed 'KRISPY KREME DONUTS' in big red letters. This didn't phase me. I'm talking about people who come in and give me an attitude for no real reason. They decide that because they've been having a bad day and I'm just the lowly pissant who works the counter at a gas station or fast food joint, that they can treat me like shit. Well to those people I say, fuck you asshole, in my mind, and continue to give them the song-and-dance routine even though I may no longer be smiling, and my oh-so-polite words will sound a bit less insincere.

    By Blogger Newell, at 10:25 PM, October 08, 2004  

  • That last line should read, "...a bit MORE insincere" or "a bit less SINCERE". I think you get the point.

    By Blogger Newell, at 10:27 PM, October 08, 2004  

  • Thanks all. Honestly, I was afraid to read the comments to this post. I was sure that I would be soundly beaten down, but it's nice to know that I have kindred spirits out there.

    Dan--you pathetic wimp!

    Newell, Looks like your post could start a chain reaction of posts across blog world!

    By Blogger Oz, at 7:09 PM, October 11, 2004  

  • I'm nothing if not inspirational... I think.

    By Blogger Newell, at 1:34 AM, October 12, 2004  

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