Before I became the acupuncturist that you all know and love, I had a LOT of various jobs. I found customer service to be the most soul-crushing, especially around the holidays. I have always been the type of person who can let things slide off my back, but I still have PTSD-like flashbacks of my days working behind a register around Christmastime. I have witnessed all types of disgusting human behavior during the month of Christmas. Back in the day, I was verbally (and sometimes almost physically) abused, degraded and threatened so often that I took it as a given. I've had people swear at me and call me horrible names because our store didn't open early enough for them. I've seen people tear things off shelves and toss them on the ground in fits of rage due to a lack of free wrapping. I once had a man peg penny after penny directly at my face because we didn't accept checks.
I've had customers make crazy requests and then have tantrums because I couldn't fulfill them. I've also had crazy requests that I did manage to somehow fulfill, without a single 'thank you." I've been berated for accidentally blurting out "Merry Christmas" to those who don't celebrate Christmas, and berated for not saying it to others who do. I've dragged through 14 hour shifts and limped out the door to an angry mass of people protesting that we shouldn't close so early. I've spent my share of nights having nightmares about the horrors of the past shift, and the next shift to come.
I know that a lot of people complain bitterly about the decline of customer service in today's society, but today I implore you to see it from the other side. You know how one negative interaction with someone can ruin your entire day? Well, multiply that by 100 for those in customer service.
I still remember a day long past, three days before Christmas. My spirit was broken, and I was a shell of my formerly happy self. After days of torment and degradation, I was on autopilot, zoning out all the pain and suffering. After being yelled at for perhaps the 20th time that day, I turned to my next customer, and began to ring up her items.
"I just want to tell you something..." she began, and I braced myself for another complaint or sharp comment.
"You're doing a fantastic job. I would never be able to deal with all this so well. And don't worry, this will all be over soon!"
It sounds silly, but that one comment raised my spirits and helped me to get through the day. It was just so nice to know that there were people out there who "got" it. I may not have been curing cancer, but I WAS working my ass off, and that show of appreciation for my efforts meant a lot.
Although my retail days are far behind me, I never forgot how that simple comment affected me. To this day, I go out of my way to show appreciation for a job well done. I never hesitate to tell a particularly helpful sales associate that they are doing a great job, and often I will find a manager to let them know, as well. I have written complimentary letters to companies praising particular employees, and I Yelp about experiences that have been especially positive.
So, as the holiday season comes ever closer, bear in mind that the clerk who might not seem all that helpful has probably already been insulted and screamed at by 10 people before you ever crossed his path. That salesgirl who is blatantly ignoring you may simply be trying to hold on to a moment of peace and serenity, so that she doesn't end up losing it and storming out. And that helpful, smiling associate? Throw him a kind word or two...if only because that smile might be hiding a plan to kill everyone in the store before burning it down!