Lessons from a Nasty Angry Customer. And Plato.***

Yesterday at work a customer bitched me out, going so far as to demand to speak to a manager. (This was noteworthy given the fact that, as a rule, we have awesome customers and, also as a rule, I am a great sales person, but that is neither here nor there…) I dutifully summoned the top person in the store to the register where Nasty Angry Customer and I were standing across from one another, separated by a counter and the privacy of our own lives.  I have to say, I was perplexed as to what exactly she was so upset about.  As she “recalled” (and I use the term loosely) our exchange to the manager I wondered if we had, in actuality, even been in the same room.  Her anger was so acute, her words so venomous that I literally shook my head not out of disagreement (which I certainly felt) but in an effort to shake my brain around enough to make sense of what was happening.  Clearly she was upset.  Less clear was over what, exactly.*

As I stood there,  I recalled the words that my oldest, dearest and most even keeled-friend in the world shared with her son at his Bar Mitzvah last weekend; “Be kind to people, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.  (I feel compelled to note here that it was a kick-ass BM service and party.  Upon arrival home I needed a shower and three ibuprofen: telltale signs of a successful party.)  (Further noteworthy is the fact that aforementioned friend is Catholic yet managed to throw the best BM party ever. ❤ ) To be professional I had to be kind.  More to the point, to be true to myself I had to be kind.

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As Nasty Angry Customer continued on her diatribe, recalling in vivid detail an exchange between us that never happened, I stopped feeling defensive (and sweaty) and began to feel compassion for whatever it was that had tied her panties into such a tight bunch.  She was accompanied by her young son who, despite being ridiculously cute, I suspect (having had two of my own**) had been propped upon her last nerve since about an hour before she came into the store, if not before.  Maybe her husband had been a jerk before he left the house in the morning.  Perhaps she is dealing with financial difficulties, or ailing parents or had an argument with a friend.  It could be worse: a lost job, an unfaithful spouse or a sick child.  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that she was obviously having a rough time and I was an easy target who had the choice to make things better or make them worse.

It seems that the whole world is struggling these days…and it shows.  People are shorter tempered, angrier and more fearful.  It is easy to think that you are the only one who is dealing with frustrations, disappointments and dread.  Easier still is taking it out on other people.  I can assure you that nothing that happens in a retail environment should result in the degree of fury that Nasty Angry Customer unleashed on me.  It could easily have happened that, on the heels of my beating, I would have turned on the next unwitting person to cross my path.  I am proud to know that that is not what happened.  I stopped my brain and reminded myself that I had no idea what is going on in her life and that it was far easier to just be kind.

I hope each day, as Jess continues to navigate the life of a nearing-pubescent-transgender person, that the world will not judge, comment, criticize or attack her but will stop and get out of themselves long enough to be kind since most have no idea what is going on in her life.  In fact, most have no idea what is going on in my life, or anyone else’s for that matter.  Aside from those we are most intimate with, we simply do not know.  Even those we share our lives don’t always let on just how hard things are.

Be kind.  Be compassionate.  Allow someone like Nasty Angry Customer to rip you a new one every now and again.  Everyone has their struggles…you, me and them.

*I had plenty to be upset about myself…if nothing else, I was just forced to pony up $600 for two new tires which blew out because of the ineptitude of some town workers…

**Yes, for the first seventeen years of my parenting I was a mom of boys.  Despite the dolls, wigs and abundance of pink, Georgie was a whole lot of boy in many, many ways.

***And, of course, MFKG: my rock.

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8 thoughts on “Lessons from a Nasty Angry Customer. And Plato.***

  1. I find both in my professional world as an attorney and in my daily interactions that people just are not as nice as they used to be. The world is a harder place, but also a place where people feel way more entitled than they used to. I try to live the way you do– just be nice and hope for the best. Too bad it doesn’t always work.

    • I work in customer service and I can relate. Sometimes we just happen to be in the right place at the right time for another to vent. We are an easy target for someone to vent frustrations, and we just have to remember it’s just that. Frustration. Patience us hard and even harder to maintain calmness but when we do, seems the customer calms down too

  2. Am amazing post and message…beyond unfortunate that you were on the receiving end, but rather than taking the bait and letting her anger seep into you (and ruin your day), you were able to shut it down by having the perspective you shared. I think this might be the wisdom that they say we gain as we grow older…but, wait, does that mean what I think it means?! 🙂 you rock…ILY…xo….

  3. Sometimes you forget that there is something behind all that anger, resentment and venom. I think we have all been in situations where our first response is to respond in the same manner. It’s true that everyone is waging their own kind of battle and certainly we all handle it dfferently at different times. We are human after all and have a breaking point. Most often than not, there is usually something going on. Other times, sadly, it’s just the person’s personality … some people like to yell at others as it makes them feel better, if only for the moment. A few years ago I was in my neighborhood Dunkin Donuts and a customer was all over a young girl, to the point where I had to step in. I said something and the woman told me shut up, called me fat and told me to have another donut. I laughed, and said is that all you got? She stormed out. The next morning I saw her and she apologized for being rude to the girl behind the counter and for calling me fat. We talked for a half hour and she told me her husband had asked her for a divorce the morning of the “incident.” I used to tell the story a lot because I thought it was funny. Once I found out why she did and said what she did, the story wasn’t funny any longer and I stopped telling it. Thanks for the reminder JR … you rock! xo

  4. Thank you for the reminder that we are all facing our own battles and that when someone is yuk to you , its their issue not yours.
    Good on ya for not taking it personally a lesson to all of us…i know I fail horribly on that daily!

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