As someone who’s spent most of their working life employed in minimum wage customer service jobs, I feel there’s some insights that I can offer about the industry, particularly retail.
Here’s a very important one.
I’m not paid to be nice.
This is a very common misconception that most likely took hold due to the popularization of the inaccurate and unofficial policy that the customer is always right.
For the record, they’re not. There will never be a wronger group of humans to ever shamble through a set of automatic doors. Embrace that truth and the rest is easy.
But for those customers who continue to insist that they’re always right, allow me to explain what I mean when I say that I’m not paid to be nice.
The objective in customer service is to obviously serve the customer. In that we are trained to be professional and to be courteous. Not nice. Being professional is following protocols and policies and solving customer issues as efficiently as possible. Courteous is using your manners. Nice is being pleasing and agreeable. I’m paid to do the first two. The third is a bonus. It’s not owed to you. And it will definitely not be bestowed upon you if you choose to be an abusive yahoo.
See, I can totally do my job without being nice. I can be professional and courteous without being nice. I can also be professional and courteous while you’re being a raging whirlwind of entitlement about whatever has displeased you and make “I’m sorry” sound like “fuck you” without being overtly rude. I don’t have to call you the result of an illicit love affair between a drunken used dildo sniffer and a scabie-infested two-dollar drama queen, but I can certainly get that point across when I say “Have a nice day” as you storm out.
Do you see what I’m saying here?
Because the people who believe that the customer is always right also seem to believe that the customer is also right to abuse the employees. Now, here’s the thing…and I really want you to consider this…when you get on your entitled customer is always right horse and go charging across that battlefield to get your whims whimmed, you’re typically engaging with the lowest level employees in the establishment. We control absolutely nothing. Your attitude is wasted. We don’t care. Fuck off.
There’s also the little thing of being a raging troglodyte that guarantees that we will not be nearly as helpful as we can be. We will give you the bare minimum of what it takes to get you out of the building. And you swearing that you’ll never return is our wish that you never really grant us. Because you always come back.
This sort of tomfuckery has been amplified with the advent of anti-maskers. Nobody throws a fit like a grown ass toddler told that it’s an establishment’s policy to wear a mask while inside of said establishment. To save anyone further embarrassment, allow me to clarify: if an establishment says that you need to wear a Santa hat to enter, you’d better be be saying “Ho ho ho” when you walk through the door. It’s the same reason you’re wearing shoes and your naughty bits are covered upon entry (though I will admit some folks even argue that).
The pandemic has definitely made tempers shorter and that’s not just the customers. It’s the employees, too. We’ve been dealing with high volumes of abusive bullshit lately. We’re to the point that not only are we not paid to be nice, but we’re willing to take a pay cut not to be courteous, even though we should get a raise for dealing with such a constant flow of exasperating humans.
So just remember that if you wouldn’t tolerate three minutes of someone screaming in your face for $7.25, don’t expect that employee you’re screaming at to do it for $7.25 an hour.
‘Cause we’re not paid to be nice.
And nowadays, you might just get your shit rocked.
3 thoughts on “I’m Not Paid to Be Nice”
When I worked in bookstores and libraries, I always told newbies that you have to be “The Smiling Assassin” with the public. Be pleasant and smile as you stick the dagger into ’em and tell them that the information they have about a book they saw on a display table six months ago — “You know the one…it was blue and called ‘The Something of Something Or Other’.” — is not enough to go on.
I’m going to have to use “The Smiling Assassin” in the future. That’s a perfect description of what we have to be. Some days, it takes more work than others to maintain that smile while a patron argues with you over the title of a book when they’re sure it’s one thing and you know for a fact that it’s not.