Happy Holidays and All That Jazz

If you’re one of those people who insist that it’s “Merry Christmas” not “Happy Holidays”, then I want to let you in on a little secret.

People in customer service, particularly retail, hate you. Straight up loathe.

Here’s why.

“It’s ‘Merry Christmas’, not ‘Happy Holidays'” is never not said in anything but a condescending, snotty tone. And let me tell you, customer service people love that tone. Probably because we get a lot of it. But it’s so special at this time of year. Really holly fucking jolly.

Furthermore, you’ve chosen the most stressful time of year in which we are already straining to maintain any shred of professionalism to debate theology with us. Now is not the time to pretend that your Christianity is under attack and you’re being oppressed. You’re buying overpriced electronics and toys your children will break in a few months, you’re not being martyred. Instead, you’re aggravating an underpaid employee who’s probably already dealt with six of you that shift. There are something like 25 holidays and observances in December. Yours is not special just because it’s been commercialized.

Now, I can’t speak for all customer service employees, but I can speak from my own experience when I say that I’ve never been told that I MUST say “Happy Holidays”. And I’d wager sick time that I’m in the majority on that one. Except I’m part-time and I don’t get sick time.

My own “Happy Holidays” rule is very simple: I say to you what you say to me. That’s right. I’m a parrot. If you say “Happy Holidays”, that’s what I say. If you say “Merry Christmas”, that’s what I say. And if you don’t say jack shit, then I tell you to have a good night and get on with my life. I no longer make an effort to “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” anyone anymore because one too many people took my holiday cheer as an offense.

Which is really the point of this whole post.

There’s a whole song about how this is the most wonderful time of the year, but some people have decided it’s only THEIR time of the year and they will ruin it for the rest of us because we refuse to accept that. Sadly these nativity scene erectors don’t seem to realize that the whole “good will toward men” thing includes them as givers as well as receivers and there’s no exemption just because they monetized a holiday that was created by cannibalizing the rituals and celebrations of other religions.

So keep in mind the next time you insist that it’s “Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays” the person you’re insisting that to would much rather tell you to go fuck yourself instead.

Ho ho ho.

I’m Not Paid to Be Nice

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.

The Retail Diet

When I worked at Wal-Mart for the last time, some ten years ago now, my diet was pretty terrible. I believe I once compared it to eating like a racoon raiding a dumpster. I drank a lot of soda, ate a lot of fast food, Hot Pockets and microwavable beef stew being the extent of my cooking. By the time I quit that gig, I had cut down on the soda drinking, but that was about it.

After I quit, I made some dietary improvements, mainly by actually cooking meals instead of microwaving whatever I could find and making soda and fast food a rarity. And I managed to continue with this for the next ten years or so, despite the different day jobs, even while holding three day jobs at once, and even while technically working in retail.

But doing floorset isn’t the same as working retail. I wasn’t dealing with customers on top of resetting an entire store; I was just doing a lot of folding, rearranging, and swearing. Working retail means dealing with customers while trying to put up freight, answer the phone, and keep the store in order. It means walking two to six miles during any given shift and never leaving the store. It means having registers crash during busy times, people calling in and leaving you to work a Saturday shift alone for several hours, listening to customers say the same things over and over again thinking they’re the first to be so clever. It means answering the same questions over and over again, listening to the same complaints over and over again, and holding your tongue during both.

In short, retail can be (and currently is for me) a high-stress, low-wage job.

And it kills my eating habits.

In the past few months of my new retail day job, I’ve drunk more soda and eaten more junk food than I have in years. I’ve craved soda and junk food more in the past few months than I have in the past ten years. Working retail triggers in me the need for a garbage diet that I might be able to get away with in my twenties, but not when I’m pushing forty. Yet, here I am, despite all wisdom, going right back to it.

I’m guessing the combination of stress and anxiety is the trigger for me here. I can’t say that I’m much of an emotional eater. However, I think that the stress/anxiety combo wears me out to the point that my willpower is gone and I’m too tired to care about what I’m ingesting. That’s definitely how it feels. It’s not a particularly healthy mindset, but it’s hard to maintain one when all of my energy is focused on getting through another shift. It leaves little energy for the effort of making good choices.

Right now I’m struggling with it. I can only hope that the stress recedes soon (the anxiety, I don’t think, ever will) and gives me a break that doesn’t come in the form of a Kit Kat Bar.

Tales From the Day Jobs: Father’s Day

As should be established through my babblings by now, writing full-time is my ultimate goal, but right now a day job pays the bills. I’ve had a few jobs in my time: fast food, retail, credit union, and currently, a transportation company. I’m one of those people who likes to have a good time no matter what I’m doing. Work is no exception. Thankfully, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a several like minded people. Between my co-workers and the customers, I’ve racked up quite a few entertaining stories, all in the name of surviving the grind.

And because I have no shame, I thought a good Friday feature would be to share a few of those stories from time to time. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

During my last stint in retail I worked as a jewelry sales coordinator. At the time my departement featured a “gift wall”, mostly filled with ceramic statues and jewelry boxes. The items changed depending on the holiday, but my department typically didn’t get anything for Father’s Day. However, an assistant manager asked me to clear a two foot section of my wall to fill with good gift items for Dad.

Since this was a weekend project, I ended up acquiring help from a couple of people from different departments that didn’t have as much going on. Our collaboration resulted in some obvious items: wallets, caps, tackle boxes, flashlights, golf balls-very stereotypical stuff. And then, as a joke on the assistant manager (because he was our favorite assistant to torment), we added boxes of condoms, neatly placed along side everything else.

Struggling to maintain straight faces, we called the manager over to inspect our work. He declared it adequate and that was it. He didn’t notice the condoms.

So the jooke changed. We left the condoms on the gift wall to see who would notice them.

Nobody of authority did. We kept waiting for someone to notice but no one said anything, much to our amusement.

The Monday following the holiday, everything left on the gift wall went back to its proper departments, condoms included.

Happy Father’s Day, indeed.