Social Question

chyna's avatar

Why do so many service industry people act like jerks?

Asked by chyna (39860points) July 26th, 2014

I went to the post office today to mail a package. I asked for the least expensive way to mail it that I could also have a tracking number. The guy actually sighed as if I was a bother! Then quoted me the most expensive shipping they have. “Overnight priority with tracking and 50.00 insurance will be $12.00.” No, I said the cheapest way, and he sighs again. I was the only customer in the post office.
I seem to come upon this attitude everywhere, although I usually walk up to counters with a smile and a hello.
Do you come across this a lot? How do you react?

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26 Answers

Darth_Algar's avatar

Perhaps that was the cheapest way?

chyna's avatar

No, the cheapest was 3.16, with tracking.

jca's avatar

@Darth_Algar: Overnight would typically NOT be the cheapest way.

Pachy's avatar

To answer what I think is your core question, @chyna, yes, I encounter poor customer service in person and on the phone a lot. While low pay for many of these jobs is surely part of the reason, I think a bigger reason is that so many people doing these kind of jobs due to lack of education and other reasons) really don’t like their jobs and aren’t motivated, or probably even encouraged, to do more than the minimum. And by the way, I’m sure they encounter THEIR share of bad manners from customers.

I have to add, though, that I encounter lots of good service too. For which I always express appreciation.

ibstubro's avatar

I think it’s a version of ‘The Little Man Syndrome’. They don’t get paid well and they don’t have any real authority, so they make their own fun by acting superior to the customers.

I tend to call them on it. “Why does that make you sigh?”

This week about my internet service…
Phone rep: “I’m pretty sure you’re not understanding my question [giggle].”
Me: I’m certain I do not understand your question, or I would have answered it correctly the first time. I also fail to understand why you find that funny, and why you keep repeating the same question, when you are obviously going to get the same answer.”

Nothing infuriates me more than a phone rep talking over me every time I try to respond to their comment or question, and I tell them so. My ISP has the poorest customer service I have ever encountered, anywhere, in the English-as-a-first-language world.

Darth_Algar's avatar


It might depend on what, exactly, OP is trying to ship. Details – they matter.

chyna's avatar

A small rubber gasket that didn’t fit.
But really, my question isn’t about how much money it costs, it was the guy at the post office’s attitude. Why be rude to customers and a jerk. I asked for the least expensive way to ship and he gave me the most expensive.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Because so very few understand the importance of being a good customer.

They fail to take the clerk’s or surgeon’s point of view into account. These people have dealt with horrible customers perhaps for years.

The key is to manipulate the clerk into wanting to help you. This is done by distinguishing yourself from the masses by being pleasant, demonstrating even a little personal interest in the clerk, explaining your problem with some intelligence and showing respect for the clerk’s precious time. YOU AREN’T THE ONLY CUSTOMER IN THE SHOP, THE RESTAURANT, THE EMERGENCY ROOM.

You must take care of the people you for lack of a better word, use.

canidmajor's avatar

I have been on both sides of the counter, and I never thought it was my job to “manipulate” anyone into doing what I want. The guy was a jerk, and had no business behaving like that to you. When I was behind the counter, I always figured it was incumbent on me to be, at the very least, pleasant and civil, unless the customer was over-the-top jerky. As a customer, I figure it’s my job to be the same.

I am fortunate to live in a place that is populous enough where I have choices where I can go, even Post Offices, so I can vote with my feet.

I don’t think it’s necessarily service people, @chyna, I think it’s people, but the service people are the ones we all have to deal with face-to-face. The stories of horrible bosses are legion, or mean co-workers.

It is with great difficulty that I don’t just yell and throw stuff at jerks.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Because the guy sighed he was necessarily a jerk?

canidmajor's avatar

An obvious sigh in a circumstance like that is jerky, @Darth_Algar. I’m pretty sure @chyna is able to tell the difference between an innocent sigh and exasperation.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Yeah, you’re right. The worker couldn’t possibly have been sighing over anything else in the world at that moment. He, obviously, had to be a jerk.

bjoy's avatar

Yes, yes and yes. My belief? 1st they are mad they’re at a job they don’t like r are tired of, u are out and about spending $ they r worried about not having to spend. 2nd you may dress, look or appear ‘better’ in some way then they feel like to themselves. But main reason? Their Insecure I will never be better than I am now-thoughts .

canidmajor's avatar

@bjoy: sorry, but I think your conclusions are just cliched generalizations. And please try to avoid text speak, it makes your answers difficult to read.

@Darth_Algar: So you can’t tell the difference between an exasperated sigh and a regular sigh? You might want to hone your observation skills.

jca's avatar

@Darth_Algar: She said she wanted the cheapest way, but she did not say she wanted overnight.

Kardamom's avatar

I think a lot of people were never taught good manners by their parents or at school. Later, they were never given any, if at all, training on how to be polite in their job. So they got used to acting however they felt in any given moment. Unfortunately, their bosses probably never witnesses this type of behavior and may not even be aware of it, because most customers don’t complain to the management, and even if they do, unless the behavior was video taped, it wouldn’t be prove-able.

These kinds of people also probably hate their jobs, and don’t like people (there’s a few of those right here on Fluther, and they have said, publicly, that they don’t like people). They still have to work to make a living, but they don’t feel there is any reason for them to be polite, as long as they’ve got their job. They don’t even have to excel at their job, they need only be marginally adequate. As long as their bosses don’t punish them for acting poorly, they’ll continue to do whatever feels right to them at any given moment.

I had to make some phone calls yesterday, 4 in total, to get some pricing for a service that my friend needs to use. I was thankful that all of them were extremely nice and helpful. Maybe it’s because they were all veterinarian’s offices, but maybe not, maybe I just got lucky. Last month I had to talk to someone at Netflix, twice, because of a credit card problem on our end, both times I talked to separate reps and they both were wonderful. Big shout out to Netflix customer service.

One thing that I have found to help get better service, especially when you think that the rep behind the counter is having a bad day or might be grouchy (like maybe you just witnessed an unpleasant transaction with the person who was in line ahead of you) is to walk up with a nice smile on your face and say, “Hi, how’s your day going so far?” It tends to knock them for a loop, because they don’t expect it, and then they kind of have to give some sort of an answer and most people don’t want to appear foolish, so they usually just smile and say something like, “Well I’ve had better days.” or “I’m going camping tomorrow, so it’s all good”. I’ve un-grouched a few grouchy grouches that way. I’ve also cheered up a few cashiers who just had a run-in with a bad customer too. Other phrases that have worked for me are, “Wow! What about this heat, huh? I can’t remember the last time it rained.” or “That poor lady, she must be having a really bad day, which is too bad because that watermelon she just bought looks really good.” I’ve found that by inserting a random conversation into the mix, before they’ve even had the chance to grouch at you, tends to stop it in its tracks.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Because customers are often jerks to them. What goes around comes around.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@canidmajor “So you can’t tell the difference between an exasperated sigh and a regular sigh? You might want to hone your observation skills.”

And you can tell the difference based upon an after-the-fact retelling from a not-unbiased source?

Kardamom's avatar

@Lightlyseared Yes, customers can sometimes be jerks, but @chyna wasn’t being a jerk.

At all of the places I’ve worked, it was made clear to us, by the management, that we should be polite to everyone, even if the customers were being jerks. I often got thrust into situations, by my boss, because I was known for “being nice” and he didn’t have very good social skills and could be very abrupt. He hated having to engage in the social niceties, so I got very used to it. This was a typical statement from me to our patrons, “Pardon me ma’am, but we are about to wheel a load of widgets through here and I don’t want you to trip, so I’ll just move you back here behind this barrier. It might be a little bit loud too, because of the mechanism and I didn’t want you to be startled.” or “I’m so sorry that this is taking so long, may I offer you a cup of tea while you’re waiting?” or “I’m sorry this product that we are using smells so bad. You probably didn’t think that it would smell like the stock yards when you came down here today. We’ll try to get it cleared out in a jiffy, but if you like, we can get you tickets to come down on another day, instead.” I found out that apologizing in advance, even if you aren’t actually doing something wrong, goes a long way in disarming people.

When in doubt, act more British : )

Coloma's avatar

Well…he is a Postal employee, maybe he is on the verge of going
Seriously, most postal workers have the personality of the stamps they peddle, small and flat.
I think it’s a sign of the times as well, so many unhappy people and the economy in the trash and hating their lives. One big bah humbug scene, not an excuse but possibly a reason, however, it is never okay to behave that way towards a customer in the line of duty.

I would have made a humorous but unmistakably assertive remark no doubt.
Something like ” Maybe you need to put your spectacles on as I believe you might be confusing me with a piece of second class mail?” haha

mazingerz88's avatar

Oh boy. Experienced exactly the same thing at the post office a few times. They bring their unhappiness to work and this sighing thing is just one of the top ten awful responses I’m sure. I react by chuckling, smiling or no reaction at all.

To be fair, there were other postal workers I’ve seen who showed the right attitude when asked that very question. Calm, earnest and rare but it happens….cheerfulness topped with a sweet smile sometimes.

Those are the intelligent ones. Smart enough to know not to “sweat the small stuff”.

Coloma's avatar

Well, I ‘d blow my brains out if I had to work in such a dull and detail oriented environment, the mail must go through but unless I was a pony express rider, forget being a postal employee. haha
So boringly mind numbing. Ugh!

Response moderated (Flame-Bait)
jerv's avatar

Dealing with horrible customers will eventually make you treat every customer as horrible. But there’s also the possibility that they are just a horrible person themselves, or are just having a bad day.

AshlynM's avatar

Maybe they don’t get paid enough.

ibstubro's avatar

How many people would be courteous if courtesy depended on feeling as if you were being paid your worth, @AshlynM?

Postal workers that have worked their way up to a desk job have it pretty sweet.

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