Every day I get myself out of bed around four thirty in the morning. It isn’t easy, I’m not going to lie about that. I enjoy working morning shifts, this is true, but that does not mean I have to enjoy waking up long before anyone else hears the buzz of their alarm or, in some cases, at the same time some are heading to bed. I do it so that I can get to work on time. I go to work partly for the pay cheque and mostly for the people I get to see there.
I’m one of those malfunctioning, alien-like human beings that generally enjoys working in customer service. I like the pace, I like the interaction, I like meeting new people every day. I like seeing the same people every day, too, because they are a constant in my world that I look forward to every single shift. I take pride in knowing people’s names and being able to follow up with them on the visit from their mother or the job interview they told me about. Possibly this is all a little too Cheers for you but this personal interaction is what makes my job so great.
As many people know the world of customer service can be treacherous. I want everyone to know that we, us service people, try very hard to make your every encounter with us pleasant and enjoyable. For the most part we would really like to have you always leaving with a smile on your face. We know this doesn’t always happen. It isn’t unheard of for you to catch us on a bad day, or in a bad moment, when we really don’t want to explain to you the difference between a latte and a cappucino (hint: foam) and when we try to, our customer service mask falters and you see the cracks. You sense our impatience or annoyance, we know you do, and I apologize for those times I have been off my game.
You notice this is because you expect me to be a certain way when you walk in to the store. You may never have encountered me before but as you walk up to the counter we are trained to expect a smile, a greeting, a friendly presence. You already have an idea in your head of what I’m going to be like and when I rise to that occasion, you welcome it with open arms. You have the previously formed expectation that I am going to be polite, respectful, friendly, and helpful. I do what I can to provide that, I do.
But what about you?
You have bad days too, I know that. You are running late, you just got a bad phone call, your girlfriend is being ridiculous and the weather is terrible. Yet just as you have expectations of me, I have them of you. And I don’t get let off the hook when I’m having a bad day and I slip up, so why do you? Why is it okay for you to be rude or short or when I ask you how you are, you think it’s perfectly okay to just say “good” and not return the favour? Why do manners go out the window?
I feel like a lot of people feel they can get away with acting in a ruder than necessary way when they are dealing with service staff. We are getting paid to assist you, after all, and we will assist you no matter what attitude you give us. But does that really mean you have to talk to me like I was the recipient of a lobotomy?
And yeah, maybe we get to know each other because for most of our interactions we have both been kind. Maybe we are on first name basis now and we know a little bit about each other. That’s awesome. I probably like you. You probably like me. We have a routine down now and it works. That doesn’t give you the right to tell me that I look like I woke up late that day or that my hair isn’t as nice as normal. We are not on that level. We will never be on that level. And just because I did wake up late today you really don’t have to point it out because I’ve seen you spill coffee all over yourself and I’ve never thrown that back in your face, right?
I want there to be the same level of expectation on both sides of the counter. It is exhausting, this service thing, eight hours a day, five days a week, if not more. Do you know how tiring it can be to stand there and smile at everyone, no matter what, and serve them to the best of your ability, no matter what? It sounds like I’m griping and I get that but really, it can be difficult, I promise. So maybe you can put your phone down when you approach the counter to order next time you come in, yeah? Or maybe you could just smile at me next time because I remember your order every single day without question and you’ve never even bothered to say thank you.
Or maybe you can understand that just because you see the girls working at the coffee shop every day, it doesn’t give you the right to make inappropriate comments or passes at them. We find it just as creepy as any other girl out in public would.
Service staff are not there to be treated the way you feel like that day. They are not there to put up with whatever attitude or persona you have decided to don. We are here to serve you, yes, and we are paid to do so. We are not paid all that highly and many of us do it because we really enjoy seeing you. Please don’t make us regret that decision next time you come in.
I want us all to get along, us staff and you customers, because when we do it’s a glorious occasion. I’ll continue to do my best if you promise to continue doing yours. And if you’re having a bad day, don’t worry about it – just let me know and I’ll make you your coffee in silence and send you on your way, knowing full well I did all that I could for you. How bad could that be?