I’ve always thought that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat retail and customer service staff.
I just witnessed a particularly rude woman at the gas station, waiting for her carwash to be rung up through the system. She asked for the most expensive wash, and when he processed it for her, snapped rudely at the clerk as she wanted the MIDDLE option. He smiled and simply re-did it for her. What a trooper. I recognised her as a rep for one of our suppliers. I instantly disliked her. She may be sugary sweet to me, but if she treats someone in his position like that, she isn’t worth my respect.
Those who have worked in retail or customer service before will understand this:
A guy in a suit comes in to your CD store. He wanders around briefly, then picks up a CD or two. He brings them to the counter, puts them down and nods at you. You ring it up, smiling and talking to him, he barely responds. He hands over his credit card, takes his bag, and leaves.
Another guy in a suit comes in with headphones in his ears. He must be on his way to work. He is not young but acts youthful and appears optimistic. He wanders around, picks up some CDs or DVDs, comes over to the counter. He smiles at you and chats away, answering your questions about his day and Christmas shopping and yes, it is unusually warm for this time of year. You throw in the special Christmas giveaway disc for him for free, because you like him. Because you know that he’s probably someone’s manager and they love him. Because you know that he respects you and might remember you if he saw you again. He leaves, you feel good, you carry on your day.
Which one of those men has worked in retail before? has started from somewhere small and worked his way up?
Which one remembers what it’s like to earn minimum wage and serve with a smile, even when there are so many assholes out there?
Which one has no time for people ‘beneath’ him now, regardless of whether he started as a mail boy at the Post Office?
Which one do you respect?
I worked in retail for a few years and inherited my mother’s natural gift for sales: I was the highest earner in the store; I brought the most sales in, and I worked the least amount of hours. I worked there longer than I should have, purely because I loved it. I loved selling, the music, the atmosphere, the dress code. But eventually it just didn’t pay my bills.
Love your service staff, people. They are not beneath you. They are overworked and underpaid, most doing it for the love of it, or because they need experience to get that higher level job somewhere. They may have been hired, as was in my case, for their knowledge about something. About products or people that you have no knowledge of.
I guess the underlying message there is that you should respect everyone you meet. But start today with the guy at Burger King. You gotta start small.