Where did Miss Congeniality go?

Robert Roe

Customer service is often discussed, dissected and dissed. Let’s take a quick break to look at the other side of the counter—the quality of customers.

Over the weekend, within the span of an hour, I saw two people walk out of two separate businesses, apparently not satisfied with service, selection, or something. Perhaps their biorhythm was in a pessimistic downswing. Anyway, they left the businesses with the theatrics of Rhett leaving Scarlett, turning at the door with a dramatic parting shot (loud enough for the people behind the counters to hear) “I’ll just go to so-and-so (insert competitor’s name here).” Looking at the scenes through the lens of a disinterested third-party, and in keeping with the Gone With The Wind theme, frankly, I don’t think the businesses should give a damn.

Customers have (if it’s humanly possible) become ruder in geometric proportion to the speediness of today’s service. In an era of quick-change, drive-thru, and instant everything, today’s customer keeps asking for more, bigger, better, and faster. They want it now, and they don’t ask for it politely. The unintended consequence of their actions usually is slower service not only for them, but also the hapless people unfortunate enough to be in their proximity.

For example, a quick stop at the local gas station can be anything but. The person in front of you purchases a scratch-off lottery ticket, then proceeds to scratch it off then and there. Somebody’s gonna win—but it sure isn’t the people who have to wait in line behind them. Then there’s the person who fills their gas tank, then goes inside and blocks the pump while they go shopping. Why—is there a beef jerky emergency at home? Are you preparing for the end of the world? Sure, those hot dogs languishing under the heat lamp might survive nuclear winter, but can’t you pull your car out of the way so other people can tank up? Here’s a suggestion—while you’re there, you might want to use the pressure gauge to check that over-inflated opinion of yourself.

One of my personal favorites is the fellow customer who comes up to the counter while you are being served and buries the poor salesperson under a litany of questions because their matter is sooo pressing. Wait—this news flash just in from the Palomar Observatory—the universe really does revolve around you. Go to the head of the class.

Restaurants are a treat, as well. To hear some of your fellow ingestors complain, you’d think grouse was the specialty of the day. Their pedantic whining is a sure-fire recipe for indigestion for everyone seated nearby. You dine out to relax. Why not give your bad manners a rest, as well?

You know, a simple smile or thank you goes a long way. So, the next time something doesn’t go just your way, your Majesty, take a breath, and remember that your own business and livelihood just might depend on other peers of the realm.

Possibly the one you are about to insult.


Robert Roe