Sorry, That’s Not My Problem–Customer Service Edition

The other day at work, my coworker recounted an interaction she’d just had with a patron while I was away from the desk (I was on shelving duty that day and she was covering my supervisor’s lunch). She printed out a receipt for the patron -it’s low-stick paper with the due date printed on it that we can slap on the item if a patron wants it- and it got caught in the printer. It’s been doing this all summer with both receipt printers for reasons (I think it’s another disapproval sign from the ghost of Ms. Kent). It’s annoying as hell, but it takes less than 30 seconds for us to open it up and retrieve the receipt.

This happened to my coworker while she was waiting on a patron, who said, “Never mind if it’s going to take long. I’m in a hurry.” My coworker had the receipt free by the time the woman had finished her sentence, but it still bothered my coworker that the woman felt the urge to get so snippy with her about it.

When my coworker told me about the incident, I shrugged and said, “You being in a hurry is not my problem.”

My coworker was shook that I would approach the situation like that. I told her, “Your emergency is not my emergency. Your time-constraints are not my time constraints. You come in here, you’re on my time now. It takes however long it takes.”

This made an impression on my coworker because the very next day she dealt with another patron whom she was trying to help find a specific movie in what’s known as WorldCat, which covers the whole country. It can be involved. And when my coworker wasn’t finding the desired results fast enough, the woman said, “I’m in a hurry.”

My coworker later told me that she turned away from the woman, mouthed to herself “That’s not my problem”, turned back, and said, “This can take a few minutes. Would you like to come back later when you have more time?” The woman declined, my coworker finished searching for the movie (nobody has it, which baffled us both), and the woman went on her way.

She wasn’t rude, the request was completed, and the point was made.

That’s not my problem.

The thing about customer service is that customers or patrons frequently want to make their problems your problems. And I do not accept anyone else’s problems. I have enough of my own that I’m in no mood to deal with. I’m definitely not in the mood to deal with yours.

Telling me that you’re in a hurry does not make me go faster. The task takes as long as it takes and it’s eyebrow raising at how many people will tell me they’re in a hurry like that will somehow make searching for a book magically go quicker. It doesn’t. I’m looking for a title that might be wrong by an author you don’t remember. Settle in. This is going to take a beat. If you’re in a rush, come back later. No one’s life depends on you finding this book right stat now.

Likewise, I’m sorry you waited until the last minute to send this fax, but it’s not my fault that they turned their fax machine off and it’s not my problem that whatever you’re sending is going to be late. Also, I don’t care if our dollar per page fee is too high. Pay it or learn to work email. Regardless, it’s none of my concern.

I’m not saying that people aren’t entitled to adequate customer service; of course they are. But I think that many people do not (or don’t want to) understand that the people behind the counter can only do so much. We’re only responsible for so much. If you want better customer service, then be a better customer.

And if that pisses you off, well…

That’s not my problem.

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