At the bank, for the most part, customers were civil and polite. But when they lost it, they really lost it. I mean....explode status. They'd scream and yell and get in your face and tell you they were going to get you fired or call the police on you (seriously) and cause a giant scene. And you were expected to remain calm. And I learned how to do that. Because hey, I could kind of understand why people got upset sometimes. Money can be an emotional thing.
In my short experience in retail, it seems to me that customers are a lot different. In general, they are not as civil and polite. I haven't had anyone scream or explode on me in retail, but I have just plain rude customers all the time. For no other reason than they want to be, I guess.
This is the theory that I have come up with: I think bank tellers kind of hold this position of power, and so people feel like they should be nicer to them because they "control" their money. The person at the register at the department store does not hold any such power, therefore, you don't need to be as nice to him or her. What do you think? Valid?
Here are some of the people I have come across in retail lately that are just inexplicably rude:
- I had a girl interrupt me while I was in the middle of ringing up another customer, and ask me for a job application. I told her I would get her one as soon as I was done helping my customer. She sighed, and made a big show of having to wait. I was the only checker, and had a line of other customers waiting. I quickly grabbed a job application off the stack and handed it to her. She didn't say a word and left the store. Not even two minutes later, the phone rang, and I could tell right away that it was the same girl on the phone. She asked to speak to the manager. I transferred the call. My manager came up to me later to tell me about it. The girl told him that I had given her an application that was in Spanish, and she was offended that I had automatically assumed that she couldn't read or write English. Seriously? I just don't understand who would even get pissed about that. I think any normal person would just say, "Oh, excuse me? Do you have one in English? This one's in Spanish." It was obvious I hadn't looked at the stack and made a conscious choice that she should receive a Spanish application.
- For some reason, the counter surface at my work is the worst surface in the world to write on. No exaggerating. No one can ever sign their receipts because of that damn surface. I put out a clipboard for customers to use, because that works better to write on. I also have three or four pens in a cup that a customer can choose from. I had a lady who kept on trying to sign her receipt (unsuccessfully), but wouldn't use the clipboard. She kept on asking me to give her different pens, looking for a "better" one. With every new pen, I suggested that she use the clipboard, but she kept arguing with me that it was the pens that weren't working. After the fourth and final pen, she literally (and I'm not taking any liberties here, she really did this) threw the pen across the counter at me and said, "I don't have time for this! Just get me a pen that works." I must admit, I did not respond as gracefully as I should have. I said, with a definite edge in my voice, "I did give you a pen that worked. I gave you four pens that worked." (I test every single pen when I first come in the morning. I know my shit.) I took one of the pens and scribbled on a piece of paper using the clipboard where it worked perfectly. "See? It works. That is why I told you to use the clipboard." But why did she have to get so rude about it?
- Okay, this next one wasn't actually a rude customer towards me, but I saw someone be INCREDIBLY rude to one of my co-workers. It was actually just this morning. This lady came up to my counter with baby clothes and she asked me whether or not I thought a particular outfit was unisex, because it was a gift and they didn't yet know if it was a boy or a girl. I said, yes the colors were unisex, but based on the ruffle in the front, it was more for a girl. The lady seemed unsatisfied with my answer, and looked at my co-worker and said, "How about you? You would probably know. You're pregnant, right?" My co-worker slowly turned and her and I made eye contact and it was as if time had slowed down to a painful speed as I waited to see how my non-pregnant co-worker was going to react. "No. I'm not pregnant." she said. Okay, these things happen. And they're awkward and embarrassing for everyone involved. But this next part is the worst part. Instead of the lady apologizing or changing the subject or doing anything remotely near the realm of good manners, she said, "Oh, you're not? I guess you just have a big belly on you." Then she turned and winked at me as if it were a joke. I was horrified. I don't think I hid it very well, either, because she then softly mumbled "Sorry." But who does that? Honestly?