Recently I was reading a new (to me) blogger's "About" page, and after reading it I absentmindedly clicked on the link above the page, the one that looked like it would take me to the author's most recent post. I read the post, and oh, I wish I wouldn't have. I went from somewhat agreeing with the author to completely disagreeing with the author and yet still trying to "have an open mind" to getting supremely annoyed with the author and thinking that I would probably never read that blog again. Ever. All in the span of one post! Blogging - it's so dramatic!
Anyway, as I was reading I kept thinking "ugh, I need to comment. This chick is SO wrong". And then I would think "no, don't comment, you'll just be one of those annoying naysayers and all her devoted commenting fans will crucify me and wonder why I don't just 'hit the X at the top of the page if I don't like it'". And then I thought, "this is all so stupid, these unspoken blog commenting policies. Whatever happened to freedom of opinion? I'm totally commenting". And then I realized that the post I had been internally debating commenting on was over two years old, and (of course) comments were closed. So that was that.
Which, by the way, if you think I am putting on any airs about being "better than that" as far as commenting goes, let me clear that right up. If I get a mean commenter, I fully expect everyone to totally gang up on that person and make them feel horrible for even having INTERNET ACCESS, much less the nerve to disagree with the likes of me. I mean, seriously. This is like high school, with anonymity! What could be better? </end sarcasm
Okay, so back to the point. The post that got me all riled up was about the customer service this particular author received in a retail clothing establishment, and said service was not up to par. So instead of recognizing this as an unfortunate SPECIFIC incident, the author decided to instead rail on ALL retail employees in general; belittling them and saying things like "I mean, who do they think they are? They HAVE to work," and "I seriously doubt that most of them can even afford to shop in the places they work" and "in my opinion, 'retail clothing clerk' is just one step up from being a Wal-Mart cashier". Ugh. I'm sure you can see why I was annoyed; I'm getting aggravated again just paraphrasing the post.
I even read through the comments (I was having the heated internal debate: to comment or not to comment) and an ASTONISHING amount of them were all like "OMG yes, that girl wuz SOOOO rude, you are totally right and they should send you one million dollars in gift certificates and also they should probably build a shrine to you, in apology. And if they need a shrine template, I'll send them mine because clearly I worship you, OMG!!!! Youz is AWESOME!"
And then I threw up a little more.
However, after a while I got to a comment from someone named Mary, who didn't link to anything (smart, Mary!) and she was like "I am very well-spoken and will now write eloquently about the fact that perhaps YOUR CLERK was not very nice, but in general retail and service industry employees are very kind, and generally make up the 5% of the human population who are able to deal with mean, inconsiderate, and dishonest people day in and day out and still remain cordial and helpful at almost all times".
And I was like, GO MARY!
Because that is so, so true. People who have never worked a service industry job have NO IDEA what those of us who do work in this field go through on a daily basis. Most people wouldn't be able to handle it; wouldn't be able to keep a smile on their face and remain genuinely devoted to helping the person who just got through cussing them out. It's not easy, and I think people who are good at customer service have a GIFT. I really, really do. So it's really not fair to make generalizations about ALL SERVICE INDUSTRY EMPLOYEES by assuming that none of us WANT to do this job; that we all just have to because we are too stupid/poor/uneducated to get a job doing something "actually good". That is insulting. We don't fault professional athletes because they are gifted at a sport and then choose to take that gift and make a profession out of it. We don't fault teachers, who have the gift of teaching and then choose to use that gift to teach our children. So why would we fault service employees, who have the gift of serving others, if they choose to make a career out of it?
One of the most annoying misconceptions about service employees is that we are in this industry as a last ditch-effort; because we can't hack it at anything else. Or that we HAVE to work, and have just failed miserably at "normal" career jobs and so whaddaya know, we're just stuck behind a cash register. This assumption is ridiculous and wrong. The woman who owns the boutique next to mine (and waits on customers there nearly every day) was a district judge for over 40 years, until she retired to do (guess!) RETAIL. Lots of the ladies who work in boutiques are married, have lovely homes and husbands who make very handsome incomes. And yet (gasp) they ENJOY working retail, and they do it because they WANT to. I know, I know, how stupid must THEY be? I mean, to lower themselves to serve the general public? Plenty of college students work retail jobs part-time, decide they like the retail world and graduate (with degrees! OMG!) and STAY IN RETAIL. I know, it's shocking. Some of them even become managers, and regional VPs, and make (are you sitting down?) a REAL, ACTUAL INCOME. Maybe even more than their customers make. I know, it seems like it just COULDN'T be true. Other service industry employees have merely decided that it is more important for them to work a job they enjoy and have flexible hours than it is to have a "more impressive" job title or an extra 10K per year. I know, prioritizing your personal enjoyment and family over career? Unthinkable!
Of course there are the inevitable bad apples; the ones who spoil the bunch. This is true for ANY industry. Ever been to the doctor and had a really bad experience, maybe the doc prescribed you the wrong thing or just didn't care and sent you out without really helping? Yeah. Me too. So has everyone. That doesn't mean every doctor is incompetent and uncaring. Ever dealt with a shady lawyer? Do you think all lawyers are scuzzy? How about a bad banking transaction - do you now want to store all your money under your mattress? I mean, let's get serious, there are always going to be bad waiters and waitresses, and of course you will, at some point, encounter some rude sales clerk in a shop. However, in general, service employees are there TO SERVE YOU. They are going out of their way, running their tails off, to MAKE YOUR EXPERIENCE BETTER. What could be nicer? You don't even have to pay them, most of the time - they will wait hand and foot on you and then you can just walk out and say never mind, I don't want anything today. Or you can stiff them on the tip, if you feel like it. Doesn't matter, we're still all going to see you the next time and try even harder to make things great for you. It just blows my mind that when faced with what essentially boils down to a personal assistant, lots and lots of people choose to belittle and insult rather than accept and thank.
And we still come back to work the next day, smiles on our faces, ready to HELP YOU. So when I read something written about how a service industry employee is somehow less important, less of a PERSON than the rest of the human race, it really gets under my skin.
Okay. I feel better now. Next post: Retail Blues II - We Are Not, Actually, Your Babysitters