Too rude to shop

  • By Alison
  • 5 August, 2009
  • Comments Off on Too rude to shop

Our local blockbuster has a rigourous training scheme which all employees must undergo. Successful staff must be able to take and match videos, accept video card, pull up details,  tally up video and snack-like beverage costs, calculate change and give the customer back their card – all without ever EVER making eye contact with the customer.

I am sure that you find this as astonishing as I do. At the very least, entry level quality customer service involves eye contact. I know that the service industry in Britain doesn’t teach people to wish their customers a nice day. That is because they don’t believe in saying things that they don’t mean. And they REALLY don’t care if you have a nice day or not. For the most part, they are probably hoping your cat burns down.
But to not even make eye contact is an all new level of anti social behaviour don’t you think? And must take some concentration to do. I would have thought that even base curiosity would tempt you to raise your eyelevel up slightly.
The more advanced employees are able to master the art of no eye contact as WELL as conducting the whole transaction without a single break in conversation with their workmate. The requirements for this trick also demand that the accomplice be totally oblivious to the fact that there is now a queue of 8 people.
Of course, I realise that those on the cash register side of this retail relationship are not always the ones with the unforgivable behaviour. Would you even WANT to wish someone a nice day if they’ve not taken a breath in their phone conversation from the cinnamon bagels all the way through to the wilted lettuce. And I’m not alone in this thought either.
After reading through Brene Brown’s entry about basic dignity – which is very much about the rudeness of a customer who doesn’t get off the phone during the entire time they are being served – I got to a line that read:

When we treat people as objects, we dehumanize them. We do something really terrible to their souls and to our own.

And I found myself dawdling over the reality of that thought.

Dehumanising is stage three of genocide. I am hardly suggesting that the next step after being rude to a shop clerk will be cultural mass murder, However it seems perfectly plausible that as each person gets so wrapped up in their own needs, they quietly drive others to suicide by the act of ignoring them on a daily basis. 
So it basically comes down to how selfish we all are, and how wrapped up in our own pressing little needs we all are. I don’t think that texting madly to your mates while you are on the move is really fulfilling to your soul. 
When I was younger (so much younger than… sorry) when I was younger I racked up the phone bill in my parents house by spending hours talking on the phone to a boy I liked. I lay on my back under the stairs, where the 2 foot long curly telephone cord could afford me to stretch out, with my feet planted on the underside of the open staircase, and I laughed and chatted and giggled like a typical teenager. Then when I finally got off the phone, I’d look forward to the next conversation with a fervid passion. 
Do texts and tweets fulfill that pleasure? Or have they reduced something wonderful down to the everyday, dull and mundane? And are they important enough to excuse you from interacting with the people who are around you – serving you, helping you, or just passing you in the street?
Here’s a challenge for you. Say hi to every person you walk past. If you can’t manage that – smile at them. Even if they don’t smile back, they’ll wonder what on earth you knew that they didn’t. And if they do smile back, maybe you’ve just added some sunshine into someone else’s life.

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