My Contribution to American Commercialism

August 20, 2004 at 3:39 am (Work)

I have officially decided that the most annoying group of people on the face of the planet are customers. Well, not all of them, but some of them. Customers who seem to have rocks for brains. Customers who seem to think they are gods, and I am their slave. Customers who have temper issues.

Customers whose life is at an end because they are frantic that they won’t be able to get the sheet set they want, and beg and scream and demand that you find one for them, and then conveniently forget about their dire need for this particular style of sheets and leave you with an item on hold, that you jumped through hoops to get for them, that they never come to collect.

I promise I’m not bitter. I only deal day in and day out with this strange group of people called customers, that I sometimes join, but spend more time on the other side of the counter. I have decided that customers can be divided roughly into four groups of people.

The first group is the Friendly Ones. You know, the customers that smile back when you greet them, thank you pleasently for your help, and are patient when there’s a snag in the system beyond the control of the cashier – or perhaps even because of a mistake made by the cashier. No, these people understand that no one is perfect, no computer system works right all the time, and sometimes there are policies that just have to be enforced – because the corporate gods say so, and the cashier can’t do a thing about it. This group is my favorite. They make being behind the counter almost enjoyable.

And then there are the Apathetic Ones. This is by far the largest group. They, well, simply don’t care. Their sole intention is to get in, shop, buy, and leave. What is there to say about this group? They tolerate snags apathetically, they tolerate mistakes apathetically – they’re just, well, apathetic to the whole retail process. They are what makes retail so humdrum routine.

The third group starts to get into rocky waters. These are the Snobby Ones. They greet your attempt at retail cheerfulness with a cold stare. Youre attempts at small talk bounce off them like a brick wall. You might as well be slime on a dirty sidewalk, for all they care. You are not worth their time to even acknowledge as a living, breathing, human being, because obviously their job is so much more sophisticated than yours. Generally speaking, they are similar to the Apathetic Ones, except for when a problem arises. Oh, then there’s trouble. Suddenly, the invisible casheir becomes the source of the worlds problems. “What do you mean you can’t find my sheet set for me? It’s been discontinued? How dare they discontinue the sheet set I wanted. The nerve!” “What do you mean I can’t use two coupons on the same item? What? This coupon is only good on one item? Well, I was sure it was for my whole sale, so even though it says it right on the bottom of the coupon, in fairly large letters, “May only be used on one item”, by golly, it should have been the whole sale! After all – do you know who I am? Who are you to insinuate that I can’t read a coupon correctly! Obviously, because you are at the bottom of the commercial totem pole, you have no intelligence, even though I don’t know how to read, and there for I shall now treat you as the slime that you are.” This group often can turn rapidly into the next group, if their problems aren’t assauged by a manager who appears and says the exact same thing the associate says.

This last group are the Angry Ones. Angry Ones often start out as snobs. Sometimes they start out as Apathetics. Perhaps they are not so much as in a group themselves, as they are the natural end of the Snob group. Although, there are those who seem to come in looking for a problem to rant about. They are the crown-princes of the Angry Group. The others must be provoked. And when they are provoked look out! They frequently like to demand to speak to managers. “You don’t have the coupons in the store? What?! You mean, you don’t give every customer who walks through the door a 20% discount!? How DARE you! Why, that other customer had a coupon? Mailing list! I don’t want to hear about a mailing list!” “I can’t use eight coupons on one item!? You mean I’m not allowed to get this $300 dollar comforter for free!? But the savings I could have with these coupons! I want to speak to a manager about this. What! I can’t use eight coupons on one item!? I’m going straight to corporate with this.” “You don’t carry the replacement heads for this shaver!? You actually expect me to go to more than one store to buy the replacement parts I need!? What kind of a place is this! How inconvinient! How dare you inconvenience me!” “How dare you answer the phone while waiting on me! I am absolutly the most important person in this store; and no matter what that person on the phone wants, you will not answer it while you wait on me, and make me wait an extra 10 seconds while you redirect that person to bedding. I’m going to report your rudeness to a manager.” “Good heavens, you pressed the wrong button on the cash register, and now I have to wait 2 more minutes while you call a manager to void this!? No one, I repeat no one, is allowed to make mistakes around me. I wish to report you to a manager for inconveniencing customers while you purposely make mistakes to annoy me.”

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, customers have a right to be angry. I sometimes get frusterated at retail personel. But I get upset because they stand at the front of the store talking for 15 minutes, completely ignoring me, and I get a rude answer when I ask for help. I don’t get angry at a perfectly nice, cheery, chashier who happens to make a mistake. I don’t scream at the customer service person because they have to enforce a store policy that I’m not fond of. I don’t throw temper tantrums because the item I want is out of stock.

And so this is my contribution to American commercialism. I stand behind a counter, and smile at every customer, no matter how rude, because that’s my job. I stand behind a counter, and am polite, no matter what kind of verbal abuse the customer throws at me. So they can have their sheet sets. And coffee makers. And vacuums.

It all brings me to ask: what is it inside someone that brings them to scream because of a coffee maker? A comforter? A razor blade? Temper tantrums over household appliances. Honestly. Sometimes I wonder at the adult population in this society. Are we three year olds, or a mature, intelligent, learn-ed community? Work in retail for awhile. You’ll start to wonder. While I can get some relif by laughing at how really stupid people are, I am also saddened at the state of morality of the world. When a pillow becomes more important than treating your fellow human beings with common courtesy and kindness, I really realize the moral decay that this world is in, and how badly we, as the Church, need to stand out as those who carry the love of Christ in their hearts. Unfortunently, I fear that Christians, too, are in the latter two groups at times. Who can know? I can’t see inside people’s hearts when they are screaming at me. But is there no more to life for people than getting the things they want? Apparently not. And there’s no better place to learn that hard lesson than behind the counter at a retail store.

“I don’t need reminded who is number one, on my list of priorities when all is said and done. I don’t need reminded to look out for myself, so maybe when you wave goodbye you could think of someone else. I’ve never grown from the terrible two’s, I’ve just learned to hide it from all of you…
Every revolution leads the people on with promises and changes egalitarian. Hitler Mussolini Stalin Bonaparte, well they prove a revlolution doesn’t really change your heart. Yeah well we’ve never grown from the terrible twos, don’t you know nothing changes after a coup…

Who is gonna sing my selfish song?
Well the answer is me so don’t sing along
Who is gonna change this heart of stone?
Oh my God my life

Is a selfish song.”

– The Paul Coleman Trio, Selfish Song

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