Is Rudeness Inevitable In A Service Economy?

The funny thing about a service economy, writes Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal, is that it’s created a world where people who interact with the public are deliberately trained to be rude and compassionless. She thinks it’s partly because we threw out manners right as we reached a cultural moment where we interact with strangers more than ever. But that’s only part of it–she also notes that clerks are trained to get in your face and aggressively push for higher sales, and that the dreaded “Dead Face”–that stony look that’s used to shut down any communication at all–is probably taught by consultants as an efficient way to handle people.

“I pay them to be rude to me” is kind of an anthem of the service economy.

To an unusual degree people now feel they have to protect themselves from each other. You have to put forward the rules of behavior, every day. When the person from the bank on the phone says, “Margaret, I’d like to talk to you about your account,” you have to say, “I’m sorry but I didn’t invite you to call me by my first name.” Or perhaps it’s, “I didn’t really want a freelance mammogram, and I’m not sure it’s right that you give me one,” or, “I have to tell you that it’s not polite to block my path and attempt to force a conversation.”

But such vigilance is tiresome. Most of us give up and accept the thousand daily breaches and violations.

“We Pay Them to Be Rude to Us” [Wall Street Journal]
(Or try accessing the article via this Google News search.)

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  1. chimpski says:

    If people are involved there will always be rudeness, and politeness, and everything else that comes along with being human.

    • chaesar says:

      well put, you caught the Golden Snitch, game over

    • Sefford says:

      Might as well throw in the towel and be as rude as possible.

    • t-spoon says:

      Completely agree.

      And, for the record, anybody who asks a bank teller not to call them by their first name is a bitch.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        Why? Why does it make me a bitch to prefer to be called “Ms. Smith” as opposed to “Jane”?

        • dragonfire81 says:

          I usually rely on “Sir” or “ma’am” if I don’t know a person that well.

          • Dallas_shopper says:

            That works just as well. I prefer to be called “ma’am” rather than my first name by people who are complete strangers to me. I don’t bite their heads off if they call me “Jane” but I would rather they called me “ma’am”. Call me old-fashioned, but that’s how I roll.

        • Marshmelly says:

          Because, imo, it makes you seem stuck up and demanding of respect…so much so that you chose to point it out unnecessarily when it doesn’t even have to do with the matter at hand. If you were an easygoing, laid-back person it wouldn’t even be an issue at all. Maybe it has to do with young vs. old…I don’t know. I would be taken off-guard if someone actually used my last name as opposed to the other way around. Its your name, and people should be allowed to call you that.

          • newfenoix says:

            Nobody calls me by my first name unless they have permission. I was never much into the “sir” issue but it bugs the hell out of me when some one calls me on the phone and starts out with my first name. I will not call an employee by their first name although that may be the only thing on their name tag.

          • Dory says:

            There’s nothing wrong with being “demanding of respect” as far as customer service is concerned. I’d much rather be respected than pandered to.

          • GeekChicCanuck says:

            And you seem presumptuous and demanding that we all share your point of view. Now who’s a b1tch?

      • herbie says:

        Anyone? Or just women? Because I see you used the “bitch” word. Maybe you’d like to rephrase? Or think about being less of a jerk?

        • Marshmelly says:

          The person in the hypothetical example is a woman…and if she were real, I’d say she’s a bitch too.

      • Dory says:

        I don’t like people pretending to be familiar with me for the sake of selling me a product or service I don’t want. You know nothing about me beyond what the database has inserted into your script, and you probably don’t care, either. Save us both the effort of pretending to be friends and get to the point.

        • Marshmelly says:

          bitter much? Who cares if someone calls you by your first name. I don’t understand why people make such a big deal over it.

          • Dory says:

            Self-centred and judgmental much?

            Nobody treats everyone exactly the same: there are always categories and limits and boundaries and comfort zones. Each of us is comfortable with other people to varying degrees: my friends can hug me almost any time they like, but I don’t like it when coworkers do it; my mom can come over any time she likes and have tea, my ex-husband needs to make prior arrangements if he wishes to do so; my spouse is allowed to call me “Schmoopipie” and grab my ass, while if some jerk at a bar tries to do so, I’d punch his lights out; and so on and so forth. (These are not examples from my own life, I’m just trying to illustrate the point.)

            Calling a customer “Sir” or “Ms. Lennox” instead of “Max” or “Judy” isn’t about first names, it’s about respecting those boundaries–boundaries which, to the salesperson, are usually unknown. There’s nothing morally offensive about going straight to first names, but if you should happen to violate someone else’s comfort zone in doing so, you have only yourself to blame. Starting with a more formal term of address is meant to avoid that, and show respect in so doing.

            • P_Smith says:

              Exactly. Whatever happened to conversations starting like this?

              A: “Mr. Smith, I…”

              B: “Please, call me John.”

              A: “Thank you, John. I…”

              .

        • zaku2s274 says:

          Personally, I do not care what they call me as long as we get to the point of the initial conversation and find a solution to the problem.

      • P_Smith says:

        There are appropriate levels of respect in certain situations. Just because somebody’s doing business doesn’t mean they get to violate them.

        If you disagree, call your doctor by his first name the next time you see him. He’ll likely tell you to call him “Doctor”. Why would it by out of line for you to expect him to call you “Mr. t-spoon” instead of your first name? Or go walk into a lawyer’s office you’ve never been to before and use his personal name when you meet him. Come back and tell us what sort of a reaction you get.

        It’s always inappropriate for someone to assume familiarity, especially where formality is expected. Customers can rightfully expect to be called “Mr.” and “Mrs.”, not “Bob” or “Mary”.

        • SenorBob says:

          Meh. My vet goes by Dr. Beth (honorific and first name) and calls me by my first name. She’s kinda awesome like that

    • chimpski says:

      As an often overseas traveler, I used to get really annoyed by how people pronounced my name, and always demanded they get it “right”. I’ve learned to let it go, and it really doesn’t bother me anymore, just the fact that someone is making an effort to communicate is good enough.
      I don’t care what people call me, it’s about how they treat me…. although “honey” still gets to me…. eww

    • Bob says:

      Doesn’t the whole sale training staff to be pushy obnoxious “the customer is never right” pricks contributes to the decline in manners and the increase in rudeness? I feel that basic manners (not the mannerisms of the ultra high class wealthy) is what society needs to prevent us all from assaulting and killing each other. I believe basic manners is the lubricant of society that makes livings in society bearable because it enforces respect for each other. Now we have clerks that are actually trained to invade your space and time to hock another piece of merchandise or some supposed “great offer” for a price. We even have an entire industry of advertising to do just that on TV and radio.

    • P_Smith says:

      I disagree completely.

      Most people – customers, in this case – function on the two rule “Tit for tat” basis:

      1) People start out being nice.

      2) If others treat them nice, they’ll continue being nice. If others treat them rudely, they’ll respond rudely.

      Any customer backlash is exactly that – bakclash, a response to employees treating them rudely. Few people go into stores with a bad attitude, and even those having a bad day won’t take it out on people who treat them with respect.

      There wouldn’t be any annoyed customers if there weren’t bad service. Companies brought this on themselves.

      • Conformist138 says:

        Oh my god. You have clearly never worked a single day in a service job. I want to throw a humiliatingly ill-fitting uniform on you, shove you behind a McDonald’s counter, and let the lunch hour wolves have you. Or maybe put you at a desk with a poor-quality headset and make you auto-receive billing calls until you lose the will to live.

        See, a lot of “customer backlash” is being lashed back at the wrong employee. Thus you get the “I WANT WHAT I WANT AND YOU PEOPLE WONT GIVE IT TO ME SO GIMME GIMME NOWNOWNOW!” directly after opening with “Hello, how may I help you?” Other times, the customer is just worked up and frustrated before speaking to a single person and that frustration bursts out even before anyone has had a chance to help. How many posts here are from OPs foaming at the mouth about not getting an email back and haven’t even tried making a phone call?

        Are there rude employees? Yes. But it’s just as likely that the employee is rude because of constant rude customers. This is a cycle, not a one-way flow.

        • jefeloco says:

          …or lack of training and perspective. When I was the hunting/firearms lead at a local outdoors retailer I would pull underperforming employees off to the side and set up one on one training to supplement the bi-monthly department meetings.

          When my old manager or I said an employee was “underperforming” we meant that they were not greeting customers adequately (turning away or ducking down an aisle, ignoring customers they didn’t like the look of, etc…), rushing the encounter to push sales or giving incorrect information/advice. We figured that informed customers who were treated well would be more likely to make future purchases with us even if they didn’t get something that day.

          Overall, our hunting sales, awesome considering the size of our store and lower population area, were in the top 10 out of about 30 total stores.

      • lukesdad says:

        You’ve obviously never worked in retail.

  2. womynist says:

    Too bad I have to subscribe to the WSJ in order to finish the article.

  3. FatLynn says:

    My bf just started working retail, and he commented that the training is pretty much the exact opposite of how he likes to be treated by sales people.

    • photoguy622 says:

      I know, when I worked at Sears they said I had to make sure the customer said “No” three times to the extended warranty. I only asked once and then I was done. They constantly gave me hell about my “extended warranty numbers” even though my customers were always happy with me.

      • BorkBorkBork says:

        Yep, I’d get harrassed by my superiors when I worked at Kohl’s for not being more pressing about the Kohl’s credit card. They wanted three no’s as well. Well, one was enough for me!

        I just had a moral issue with trying to force people to open 29% APR credit card they didn’t need (this was in the midst of the economic meltdown).

        I never had an unhappy customer though.

        • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

          Yeah, what is it about the three refusals thing? Are people fairies now? You know, the whole if a fairy makes a promise three times, then they are bound to keep it, something like that.

          It is going to get to the point where customers, once the employee launches into their spiel, just say “No No No” to get it over with.

          I do not run into it very often, thankfully, but I might just start doing so in the situations where I do run into people trying to sell me their credit card. Maybe “I refuse thee, I refuse thee, and I refuse thee a third time, darken my day no more with thine obligatory sales pitchery.”

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            Research shows that people say No automatically the first time. It takes until the 3rd time for the person to actually listen to what the customer service person is saying to make a real judgment as to whether or not they really want the upsell.

            And why do we reject them outright? Because every time we go there they hound us wih upsells. So now they have to ask us 3 times just for us to consider it.

            So as they continue to bombard us with upsell, they have to create greater and greater schemes to get us to buy into it.

            • haggis for the soul says:

              The only cure for this is for no one to ever, ever say yes.

              • RvLeshrac says:

                The cure, actually, is for people to go FILL OUT THE GOD-DAMNED SURVEYS, and EMPHATICALLY STATE that they don’t want to be bothered.

                If you think employers listen to the employees when we tell them we don’t like to be bastards, you’re all insane. They only care what the customer thinks.

                Since 90% of customers fall for this crap and/or don’t bother telling our employers that they dislike being treated like sacks of money, it isn’t surprising that The Mgmt doesn’t stop.

      • Bohemian says:

        Oh that explains it. I went into Sears a few years ago looking for a tool we needed to fix my car. I got the repeated badgering to open a credit card. I thought the sales guy was being a complete pushy jerk for repeatedly asking me the same question multiple times even though I said no very bluntly and clearly the first time. It made me so mad I never went back to Sears.

        • photoguy622 says:

          Exactly, when I was told to do this I was of the opinion that this just drives the customers away.

    • Brielle says:

      And companies wonder why they get such backlash!

      Case in point, I go into Radio Shack to get a part for something out of their ever shrinking electronics parts section, and I barely get 5 feet into the store when I’ve got one guy asking if he can sell me a new phone, another hovering around me offering his opinions on what i’m looking for (even though noone’s asked me yet)… Its crazy.

      Fry’s was just as bad – I’m walking down the game isle looking at XBox games and dweeb salesperson decides to get on me about buying Starcraft 2. “Sorry dude, i’m a console gamer.” didn’t work, and I finally had to walk away from the game isle… over to consumer routers/wireless isle, and got another one trying to steer me away from the Linksys e2100L to the Valet branded stuff.

      If a customer knows what they want, why oh why don’t you want to help the customer get what they want? Happy customer is a good customer.

      • jtheletter says:

        My phrase of choice for chasing away bothersome RadioShack employees is “Yes, I need a one milliHenry toroid inductance coil.”

        That is an actual electronics part and out of desperation I went looking for one at a RS a few years ago. The look on the non-technical employees face was one of utter fear. I have used it ever since when they get pushy about “helping” me and it has worked like a charm to let them know that, no, they really _can’t_ help me.

  4. TuxthePenguin says:

    Depends on the service. Generic bank that you just want to pay as little money as possible to house your money – low customer service. Tax accountant – high customer service. It also depends mostly on what you are willing to give in terms of respect/payment.

  5. Leksi Wit says:

    … And that is why I try to do the brunt of my shopping online, or in local mom and pop places. In the very least, I purposely avoid businesses that employ such tactics, such as Best Buy for example. But I am fortunate enough to live in a community with a vibrant downtown and a wide array of retail options.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Yeah, I am at the point where the only things I buy in person are clothing/shoes–to try them on–and food. At least at the grocery store, they do not have people following me around, pawing at my grocery list.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        About the only things I don’t buy online are shoes and groceries. Most sites have pretty accurate size charts; just get a tape measure and get your measurements. Works for me.

        As for people at the supermarket following you around pawing at your list…hell…someone would actually have to WORK at my local supermarket for that to happen. Whenever I go there there’s maybe 1-2 lanes open for checking out, one folorn guy at the deli and another at the fish counter, and that’s about it. Maybe the rest are out back smoking. Or maybe the shelves are all stocked by robots. Who knows. I like to be left alone at the supermarket unless I can’t find something….or until it’s time to check out. Then I really prefer not to wait 20 minutes to pay for my cart full of melting, wilting groceries. One local chain here used to have these red courtesy phones on every aisle; if you couldn’t find something you picked it up and it rang into an office upstairs. You asked the person “Hey, where are the garbage bags” and they’d say “Aisle 12, halfway down on the left.” God I miss those.

  6. Destron says:

    Honestly, I don’t like sales people at all. That is why I don’t shop Best Buy. It pisses me off when I browsing and someone approaches me every two minutes. If I need something Ill come find you.

    That said, when I worked in retail the people I had to deal with generally made me rude. I dealt with each person on a case by case basis and how some treats me is going to determine how i treat them. You get in my face and cuss me out cause I wont break a policy im going to be rude to you. Especially when I know your lying. Your not slick, 800 people before you already tried that one.

    • scoccaro says:

      I am with you, every time i go into Banana Republic i am shouted “hello” at from the other side of the store then asked every 2 minutes if i need help or a fitting room so i just leave.

    • angienessyo says:

      This. I’m generally very polite and nice to everyone at work but when I get the people that are rude I end up being rude back. It’s not even a conscious decision, I don’t even think about it when it happens. It’s not until after I deal with the person that I’m like well geez, I probably could have been nicer, but that person wasn’t pleasant either. There are times where I will just slip up and might end up being rude to someone that didn’t deserve it but the few times that has happened it was because my place of work is extremely cramped and sometimes we get extremely busy which makes the story ridiculously hot and you just get worn out so sometimes that stuff is gonna slip out.

    • crunchberries says:

      Seriously? Every time I’m in a Best Buy, it’s like I have to send a search party to find anyone to help me. I only wish I could have the employees you deal with.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Yeah, its like a dead zone there, tons of employees running around and no one willing to help. If you have BB employees that are willing to do anything other than stand around and talk to their fellow co-workers then consider yourself lucky. Also it would be helpful if they would ask 5-10 min AFTER you enter the store, asking if I need any help as I am walking through the door especially in the winter when I am walking in from freezing cold and am flustered isn’t gonna work. I will probably need help when I discover that I can’t find what I came there for, or if I have a question while I am shopping, not as soon as I walk in the front door.

  7. Judah says:

    Yes. Because the people in service are not serving the public. They are serving their employers who only desire money, not being nice.

    • blag says:

      Yes, exactly. The service economy in which we are forced to live (and work) breeds rudeness. The “nice” are prey to salespeople. They spot ‘em coming a mile away and intentionally target the visible kindness. The only way to combat this is by becoming hard and rude in return. It results in mutual inconsideration and ensures the formation of concrete barriers between strangers.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        The “nice” are also prey to customers. I have to repeatedly tell a fellow employee not to listen to what the customers are telling him, because they’re lying 9/10 times.

        -That laptop didn’t come with a broken screen.
        -It didn’t come with that sticky fruit-smelling liquid in the keyboard, either.

  8. ARP says:

    You have historically low salaries, high unemployment, and downward pressure on the middle class. You also have growing materialism where image is everything and substance, quality, etc. doesn’t really matter as much. So, a combination of price and brand perception are most important. Therefore, we tolerate poor customer service in a flailing effort to do more with less, while still keeping up with the Johnsons because we don’t want to be paid more to be treated with respect.

  9. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I think it depends a lot on where you live.

    In Boston, I experienced very rude service, which I was used to anyway – because I grew up outside of the city… so I know that a good percentage of people are usually sarcastic, monotone, etc. Which I don’t mind as much as others might.

    In Florida, service was a mixed bag – as with it’s residents.

    Here in Tennessee, everyone has been extremely friendly in the service industry. I haven’t met a rude person yet. Even if they’re a sales person at a kiosk – they’re much less in your face compared to other places I’ve lived in.

    • Etoiles says:

      Unexpectedly, my husband and I experienced non-stop terrific service on our California road trip this past May. We flew in to San Diego, drove to LA, then drove up the coast to San Francisco, and had amazing service from pretty much everyone the length of the state. I’ve never had a rental-car-shuttle driver grinning and cheerful and helpful like that before!

      He’s originally from the south and I’m originally from Boston, so we have pretty different baseline expectations. Me, I don’t *want* a conversation with a sales clerk; I’m happiest with a smile, a “good morning,” and generally being left alone until I want to be rung out.

      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        “Me, I don’t *want* a conversation with a sales clerk; I’m happiest with a smile, a “good morning,” and generally being left alone until I want to be rung out”

        yeah, that’s the only issue I’m having now that I live here. It slows things down and sometimes I’m just not in the mood to “fake” it…

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      Oh how I love Tennesseans. There are very nice and grateful also.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      In southwest Virginia the service industry people, especially those in retail, are so sickenly sweet that it nauseates me.

      And it slows thing down even slower than I would’ve though was possible. I don’t want you to be rude to me, but I don’t want to have a sweet, smiling conversation as if we were friends, either.

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        I was really frustrated with that in West Virginia. Everyone was so nice, which was awesome 95% of the time. But that 5% when you were in a hurry was horrible. It also seems like the south moves at a slower speed overall.

    • MishunAcomplisht says:

      I’m sure in certain parts of Florida, primarily Miami you are pretty much shot or ran out of the store if you try to speak English as a customer any more.

      Any state where the official language is ENGLISH needs to shut down any business refusing to speak or engage in the official language.

      • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

        Does Florida have such a declaration (official language)? The country as a whole does not. Can you give a citation to that effect?

        • kc2idf says:

          As in Canada, official language is a matter that the federal government has chosen not to take up, in favour of giving it to the provinces/states to decide.

          I don’t know if you consider Wikipedia to be a reputable source or not, but here it is anyway. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_official_languages_by_state :

          • United States
          • No official language nationwide, English is the de facto but not the de jure official language (at the federal level).
            • English (official, in Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming)
          • English (de facto, in Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, District of Columbia )
          • Spanish (official language in Puerto Rico and regional language in many parts of states like New Mexico, Texas )
          • Carolinian (regional language in the Northern Mariana Islands)
          • Chamorro (regional language in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands)
          • French (regional language in parts of Louisiana (de facto) and Maine)
          • Hawaiian (regional language in Hawaii)
          • Samoan (regional language in American Samoa)
      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        I didn’t know states had an “Official Language”.

        I also have never been in a business where someone “refused” to speak English to me.
        I have been in MANY Spanish stores and many Asian stores.
        Half my family is Spanish/Mexican and a lot of them own businesses. They speak Spanish to Spanish people (sometimes even English if they both speak fluently) and English to white people.

        I think a lot of restaurants in America would need to close down… such as restaurants that have their menu in Chinese, Spanish, French, etc.

        Probably need to shut down all the Chinese, Spanish and Russian newspapers in some of the larger cities here, too.

        We also probably shouldn’t accept anyone into our country to work or travel, either. They may taint our country with their ridiculous languages!

        • RvLeshrac says:

          Don’t forget those black people! They talk funny, too!

          How in the hell can Florida, Georgia, and Alabama say that the official language is “English” without bursting into laughter? I can count on one hand the number of people I speak with in those states that even have a basic grasp of grammar.

          And the spelling is atrocious.

    • rockasocky says:

      My mother–born and raised in Hawaii, where the cashiers will smile and ask about your day and chat with you while ringing up your purchases–was absolutely horrified at how “mean and rude” the cashiers were in New York. She tried to smile at them and ask how they were, and they just stared at her.

      East Coasters, why are you so unfriendly?

  10. Clyde Barrow says:

    Yeah I completely agree with this article. And I feel the same attitude when I am approached but I’ve developed my own responses and they are usually quite good. I look at them in the eye and say, “No thank you but I appreciate it”. That’s it. Nothing more. If they again try to talk to me I turn my back on them and walk away. You have to be continually cognizant of these types and learn how to deal with them. In America I’ve learned that we are way too emotional in how we deal with customer service, sales, not buying something so we feel guilty. In Europe it is completely different. You’re in a store, you’re there for business, and the owner/reps treat you that way. No BS, just common courtesy and dialogue between the rep and customer. It’s like shopping as it was in the 70s in the U.S.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I have very different memories of shopping in the 70′s but I’m guessing it varied regionally. Back then, there were very few chain stores and more small, independent, owner operated businesses. The owners had an active role in day to day operations and would know most customers at least by face but often by name. Shopping was a much more personal experience because the lives of the customer and shop owner were more intertwined through things like bowling leagues, going to the VFW, church, etc.

      The only industry that I can think that comes even close is auto repair. Where the customer typically knows the mechanic fairly well, lives in the same neighborhood, etc.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Some restaurants are still like that. I’ve been in several where the owners are very hands-on with the service and will come by your table and ask how you’re doing, etc. Of course, they’re not huge chain places either.

        And the food is much better.

    • brinks says:

      I would welcome a customer like you at any of my previous jobs. Say no, be nice about it, and I’ll tell you where I’ll be if you need anything later on.

      Common courtesy goes a long way. People want to accuse employees of being rude, but how about not being rude to THEM?

  11. MishunAcomplisht says:

    The fact that this article even exists, and that the things that are said in it are said, is a majorly pathetic tragic essay on our society.

    The fact that people (consumers) who pay for these enterprises accept being treated as slaves, and don’t witch hunt to find and take down these consultants who are paid million dollar salaries knowingly designing the systems that abuse and enslave us, spells the beginning of a virtual economic concentration camp system, if not an eventual customer service holocaust.

    In the meantime, NO business that employs people abusing me gets away with it. I will fight disrespect viciously and completely every single time and make them pay, through exponential word of mouth, and blistering emails, phone calls and personal confrontation. No employee should ever accept a job abusing customers, because they are a customer in a lot of areas in their life themselves.

  12. xjeyne says:

    What about the public being trained to be rude to employees?

    I work in retail, and the company I work for is the only retailer I’ve ever worked for, but in my 3 years I’ve experienced countless acts of rudeness from customers, most of it stemming from the mentality in this article: that all salespeople are trying to hard-sell you on something and you should totally shut them down no matter what.

    Look, when I welcome you into my store and ask you if you’d like some help finding something, it’s not because I want to sell you something. I’m actually genuinely welcoming you, and genuinely asking if you need help. I DON’T appreciate being totally ignored, or when you come in on your cell phone so you don’t have to talk to me (then tap your foot when I have to answer my phone – WTF?), or come in with your iPod on so you can’t hear me, or interrupt me with a curt “NO” when I ask you if you would like some help. It’s rude and unnecessary, and I’m a person too, and my feelings get just as hurt when someone is being a dick.

    • MishunAcomplisht says:

      I’m sorry about people treating you badly, but the sad fact is, you accept that as a reality when you take a retail job and it has been that way for years. I’m not unsympathetic, I used to work at Kinko’s and saw my share of angry mental cases. Hopefully you have enough good customers to make it worthwhile.

      But also remember, if customers are nasty, it is more often than not because another retail employee, much more like a series of HUNDREDS of retail employees coming before you, has abused them and gotten them to that point. Yes, the best consumers try and separate that and treat and see you as a new person, just like that’s a best practice for you to use on the next customer after one treats you badly, but the system is abusing employees (you) AND customers (them), and all too often, once you are abused 100s of times in your daily life, you are a cynical nasty consumer. All you or anyone else has to do is read this blog on a regular basis to understand the millions of reasons why.

      What should happen is a revolt against the CEO’s cutting corners, laying off, outsourcing, downsizing, streamlining (or should that be SCREAMlining), making you do five people’s work, and outsourcing most if not all of your customer’s jobs, just so they can be even more fukking fithly rich at your expense. So be mad at them.

      • haggis for the soul says:

        I’m sorry, but everyone is responsible for their own behavior. Not taking things out on people who haven’t wronged you is part of being a grown-up.

        • mllejanvier says:

          What haggis said.

          I was trained to greet every customer as they enter and thank them as they leave. It’s just polite. I can’t count how many times I would greet someone, only to have them get defensive and say, “I’m just looking” to which my response was always, “And I am just politely greeting you.”

        • ChungkingXpress says:

          How I wish our society en masse would learn to grasp this concept…

      • xjeyne says:

        No I totally get that working in retail is synonymous with dealing with shitty people sometimes, but articles like this get under my skin, especially this one, because it really does paint the average consumer as the victim, and the average salesperson as the evil robot upseller. I take offense because I’m not like that to my customers, yet I have given up and generally accepted the “thousand daily breaches and violations” that customers inflict upon myself and my employees. I feel like someone should write a counter-article to this one and call it, “we get paid to accept your rudeness.” Or something.

        Or maybe the rest of the article isn’t as generalizing as the snippet. I don’t know because I can’t read the entire thing.

    • brinks says:

      THANK YOU. My feelings exactly (I would assume my Powerpuff twin feels the same).

      As a long-time retail manager, I have always been trained to be nice to people. I’m sorry my customers don’t want me to say hi to them, but it’s my damn job. I’m going to greet people even though they’re on their cell. They might think that’s rude, but it’s no more rude than refusing to end their call when they actually DO need help, then shhhh-ing me when I ask them a follow-up question.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        I sometimes make a quick call back to kill time while waiting in line at the supermarket, but I kill the call when it’s my turn to be rung up. It’s just rude to be on the phone in a situation like that. If I expect the cashier to be courteous to me, the least I can do is be courteous myself…right????

        • xjeyne says:

          Whenever a customer is in line on the phone and ends their call before trying to interact with me I mentally thank them for their manners. I don’t usually say it, but I’m thinking it.

      • xjeyne says:

        Yes!!

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      When I used to work at Sears, we were told we had to approach each customer in our department, just once, and ask if they were finding everything. We knew there were people that didn’t want to be approached, but we were mystery-shopped, and we could lose our jobs for failing to do it.

      I had a man threaten to go to his car, get a gun, and kill me if anyone ever approached him again in the store.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      I try to always be polite to clerks; if I’m in a clothing store for example (rare these days, I shop online) and they greet me, I politely greet them back. If I’m carrying 5 items and they offer to start a fitting room for me, I gratefully accept. They generally leave me alone while I continue to browse. And at some stores, they will grab a different size for you. At others, they won’t. At most shops, I get 2 sizes of the same item if I’m not sure which size to get. I also temper my expectations to how expensive the store is. At a store like Target, I expect the bare-assed minimum: clothing on hangers, and a room with a door to try them on. At Nordstrom, I expect a lot more.

      But I try never to be rude to retail clerks, even when they’re rude to me. I’ve done that job before and I know how one shitty customer can wreck your whole day. And how days filled with shitty customers can make you loathe humanity.

      At my local 7-11, the girl behind the counter was new; I’d never seen her before. I asked for a carton of cigarettes. It took her a while to find them. She comes back and says “Sorry, it’s my first day.” I was like “Hey, no sweat; we’ve all had first days at a new job before.” Why be bitchy to someone who is just trying to do her best? I don’t understand it. And I wasn’t annoyed at all. It’s 7-11 at morning rush hour. I don’t expect to be in and out of there in a snap!

    • anyanka323 says:

      Most people who have worked in the retail/service and restaurant industries at one time are decent customers. They’re usually understanding if there’s any wait or delay. They generally know it’s not the clerk’s fault that there wasn’t enough scheduled for a rush. They generally know it’s the people who sit on their butts in the office all day concerned with keeping payroll down are to blame. Probably some of the better customers in my experience are fellow retail employees and waiters/waitresses.

      Their need to keep payroll down and keep their own bonuses is one reason why retail employees are perceived as rude. We’re stressed out on good days and completely overwhelmed on busy days. We don’t have time to hold a grown adult’s hand while we walk them to when the f****** string cheese is at while there’s a line of customers waiting to be checked out.

      The least desireable customers are those who never have worked retail either never having a need to work or not having a desire to work.

    • meltingcube says:

      What really gets to me is when a customer is making unreasonable requests, or has unrealistic expectations. I frequently have to tell customers we cant help with something that our company doesn’t offer, nor has any affiliation with. Customers also seem to think we are mind readers. You have an error you say? Okay… well whats the f**ken error?

      Additionally, they also seem to have an issue with matching up price with service level. Paying $3 is NOT going to give you the same service level as paying $300, so stop expecting it, and then get pissed off when we refuse to provide it. If you want better service, upgrade. Simple as that.

  13. mythago says:

    Peggy Noonan whines about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket and everybody behaved like angels before the hippies came along? In other news, water is wet.

  14. PerkStreetJen says:

    @womynist – try this link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704407804575425983109795768.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    Noonan is right, although in her examples of how service people have been rude to her she failed to consider how she might have been rude to them. I don’t know that vigilante manners are the answer, either, but a little kindness all around couldn’t hurt.

    Did anyone else have The Quarreling Book as a kid? (http://www.amazon.com/Quarreling-Book-Charlotte-Zolotow/dp/0064430340) The basic idea is one bad thing happens to one person, and they take it out on the next guy and the next and the next – until one person manages to turn it back around. I don’t think I’m so naive as to imagine one person smiling can turn around an entire culture of shoving to get on the bus first, the lady at CVS refusing to look me in the eye, or me blowing up at someone over the phone because my patience happens to be tried that day. But we can’t all just sit around waiting for the next guy to be the one to start being nice. @ARP points out a few ways in which both sides of the coin are left feeling pretty crappy.

    So where do we go from here? Thanks to Noonan for pointing out the problem, now who’s ready to start working on a solution? I know I am. I’ll meet you at the bottom of the chute. You bring the beer.

  15. Guppy06 says:

    Service costs money. Want better service? Pay more money.

    What’s the matter, Peg? Is the “invisible hand” not doing what you expected it to do?

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      You got it right. If you want lowest prices, that desire will reflect in the service or product you get.

      The invisible hand is doing exactly what the society is demanding of it.

    • MishunAcomplisht says:

      Umm, nope, not quite. When the industries collude so that you get lousy base-rate bend-over-and-take-it-now “service” no matter WHAT you pay, you are absolutely dead wrong.

      People like you who haughtily quote little sound byte economic non-realities would be amusing if you weren’t so in denial.

      Take a look, more and more airlines are getting rid of first class and packing more rows in for more sardines, and just try and call any computer company now that makes consumer level computers and get someone who doesn’t sit in a foreign country and name a script. You can’t.

      And at every single solitary level, all products and services are now honed and precisely engineered to take away more economic value from you, and put it in the CEO’s pocket, decreasing value and sizes and increasing profit.

      Yes, that is people making millions of dollars deciding every single solitary consumer needs to be exploited and punished in a service hell.

      • Guppy06 says:

        The examples you cite are nothing more than market forces at work.

        Airlines remove first class seats because fewer people are willing to pay to fly first class and more people are opting to fly in the back of the plane (if not flying RyanAir or Spirit outright). And even then, there’s almost always still enough empty seats in first class for the airlines to offer service upgrades at the gate.

        PC manufacturers? The big-name manufacturers that persist today got to where they are by competing on price. Dell got to where it is by assembling computers for less than they could be purchased at retail stores. The others followed suit as consumers decided they preferred lower price over the personal service of smaller boutiques. How else do you explain Dell’s ability to purchase AlienWare, rather than the other way around?

        Occam’s Razor dictates that, all things being equal, the simplest explanation is the most likely. The simplest explanation, in a system where profit-driven corporations dominate, is that nobody sells service because nobody buys service, rather than one that involves some shadowy cabal of corporate executives colluding to keep the masses down.

        The market had dictated that every town should have a Walmart, not a Nordstorm’s. And as a former member of Reagan’s staff, Ms. Noonan should be applauding this, as she is free to move her money to an institution with better service (in exchange for earning lower interest rates).

  16. Anonymously says:

    Their only goal is to get your money, and you’re standing in their way of that goal. Any time a salesperson pushes something on me (such as a car lease), I assume it’s because it’s a good deal for them, not me.

  17. soldstatic says:

    i think a part of it is also interpretation. My fiance is a server a local, fairly nice, sit down eatery. When we go out to eat, I’m always getting kicked under the table for being rude. Most of the time I’m asking the server questions about what I may potentially be ordering, especially when it’s about beer because it is one of my passions. So I may ask a server “Do you know if this berliner kindle weiss is served with the green woodruff flavoring as is done in Germany or is it just the beer?”. I can ask that in the most polite and forgiving tone, usually because I expect the server to not have a clue and have to go check, but my fiance usually tells me to shut up and just order. It makes a difference though, and depending on the answer I might rather have something else, but it annoys the server who then has to make a special trip just for annoying little customer me. So I am perceived as being a rude annoying tool of a customer, despite my best efforts to assure the server that there is no rush and they can take their time to get an answer, and thank them for checking for me.

    • MishunAcomplisht says:

      Part of me thinks you are sarcastic, but just in case you were serious, you shouldn’t be frequenting a general eatery and asking that type of question. It’s analogous to asking a Best Buy employee to rattle off every single country where every single transistor and plastic piece in the laptop on the shelf is made in. Can’t you find a beer snob pub to go to where they can answer to your satisfaction?

      Also, generally speaking, once you identify the proper brand name and know it’s given quantities, such a question becomes irrelevant at best.

  18. Snowball2 says:

    The problem with this service economy is that we expect million-dollar service at rock-bottom prices. As consumers we can’t deny that by shopping for the lowest price, we are encouraging this bottom line cost-cutting by companies. You can’t get $5 t-shirts or $30 printers AND top of the line customer service, something has to give. Until we are willing to put our money where our mouths are and shop for the best customer service at higher prices, we get what we pay for. Unfortunately, the people working on the front lines in retail or other services are under the most pressure to deliver on corporate sales goals (however realistic or not), and yet are among the lowest-paid employees in a company, the least empowered to make customer service decisions, as a function experience very high turnover, and consequently are viewed as not worth investing in by corporate. So who works these jobs? Low-skilled workers, students, other transitional workers. For exceptional service, you need to cultivate a culture of customer care and pride in the service function as a career, you need to invest in training, you need those knowledgeable employees to stick around, and for that you need to pay them a wage commensurate with that skill and experience level. That starts with a company making it a priority but it also takes money. And how does a company make money?

    • MishunAcomplisht says:

      Nope, again, simply wrong.

      The reality is, industry has colluded in a race to the bottom, thanks to WalFart, to make it so that THERE ARE NO OPTIONS for higher price items or service, no matter how much you want to lecture otherwise. There is now nothing but bend-over service or break-in-5-hour products no matter what the price, and soon there will only be bend-over service and break-in-5-minute products for bend-over prices, and then the Corporate plot is complete. Wake up.

      • Outrun1986 says:

        People won’t buy higher priced goods, if your store isn’t competitive people will just go for the lowest price. If you own a store where lets say T-shirts are $10, and they are $5 at Walmart for the same exact item from the same exact manufacturer, even though you have good service and nice employees they will go to Walmart to get the cheaper shirt. Some people will probably feel offended by seeing a higher price and will leave your store and never come back, and tell all their friends and family that you are running a horrible overpriced store.

        The model of higher priced store with excellent employees just doesn’t work these days. Or people will come to your store for advice, get the advice they need, then go online to buy it for less to to Walmart to buy it for less. Which makes your employees work for nothing.

        • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

          I know that I will pay the $10 and just buy fewer shirts rather than give Wal-Mart my business. And I know a lot of other people who feel the same way.

          • dragonfire81 says:

            But you and the “other people” probably still represent a minority and a there’s probably not enough of you around to keep a business afloat.

        • Snowball2 says:

          @Outrun1986 You’re absolutely right. If offering good customer service and higher prices was such a good business model, it WOULD exist. Unfortunately it’s a situation where people say one thing, but do something else. As much as people say they want good service, when it comes to actually spending their hard-earned dollars, they usually go for the cheapest deal. Those who really are willing to spend for service are not enough to run a viable business.

          • Etoiles says:

            Plenty of people do spend more in return for better service. But it’s not the difference between a $5 t-shirt and a $15 t-shirt. It’s the difference between a $5 t-shirt and a $75 shirt. The high-end and luxury markets still pride themselves on quality service but most of us don’t have the cash to live exclusively in that world.

      • Bohemian says:

        Even in higher priced goods you run into the same problems. The reason being for the most part the higher price is due to either features of the product or the name cache. The only real exception are a few smaller high end products that don’t have the broad recognition or distribution so they almost don’t count. I could spend $100 or $1000 on an espresso machine. Both are equally likely to break down. Both will also have crappy or no customer service, usually outsourced and unable to do anything. I will be harassed for my phone number and obnoxiously upsold on some credit card no matter what machine I buy.

    • P_Smith says:

      Bullshit. We expect to be treated like human beings, not walking ATMs.

      Anyone who treats me without any respect isn’t going to get any in return.

  19. yurei avalon says:

    Really? Everywhere I have ever worked in the service industry, the training has always been about being as polite as possible whilst kissing as much customer ass as possible.

    The only reason we get rude and surly is yanno, having to do deal with customers all day. Oh sure, I love chatting up the pleasant ones, but for every one of them, there are ten more a*holes demanding this, that and as fast as possible while asking the most inane questions. And never saying thanks or tipping the wait staff, or making a huge mess, etc. And letting their anima- er, children run amok unattended in the process.

    Or the fact that we don’t get breaks when we’re supposed to, or left alone on our breaks, or have to deal with crappy, broken down equipment all the time.

    So yes, we might start the day out as a radiant bundle of sunshine, but it will quickly degrade into that stony, emotionless mask or an all out scowl as the day quickly wears on us as we battle it out on the front lines. Most of us veterans of service I assume have just given up the whole happy pretense and just get right down into mask mode as soon as they walk in the door. I know I have :(

    • brinks says:

      I think it’s clear that the woman who wrote this article (a) has never spent a moment working in the service industry and (b) is one of those asshats who makes our job all the more difficult with her ridiculous demands and condescending attitude.

    • Destron says:

      Agreed, when I worked in retail my employers paid thousands of dollars to train me on how to treat customers, and it was nothing like that.

  20. Skankingmike says:

    Everyday that I work with the public, I lose more faith in humanity.

  21. MishunAcomplisht says:

    I would actually really love to see a national “Consumers Fight Back Day” where on that day, every single consumer absolutely SHREDS every rude salesperson, retail peon, phone peon, manager, etc. for the lousy service they get every day, and leave every single business person screaming, crying and shaking in fear.

    It would be good to exercise our power while we still have it.

    • Etoiles says:

      When I worked in retail, that was called “Tuesday.”

      There’s no need to take out institutional-level displeasure on front-line employees, the vast majority of whom are doing the best they can for $7 an hour or less.

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        Exactly. The poor peons on the front line are humans. And they’re trying to deal with doing the work of 3 people, pushing whatever ridiculous sales goal they’ve been given that day, keep a smile on their faces, deal with crazy people, angry people, and every jerk in between. And they’re just doing this to keep food on the table, not because they have a deep-seated belief in the company they work for.

        Yes, they shouldn’t be rude, but they shouldn’t be BLASTED, either.

        • newfenoix says:

          There are two causes for the problems with customer service today…corporate attitude and customers. Corporate asshats demand that store managers train their employees to be polite, always smile, smile with their voice and other items of BS. It is totally unrealistic for any company to expect uninterested, poorly-paid young workers to kiss a customers ass. It just isn’t going to happen. Ranting, raving and cussing an employee is just going to get thrown out of the store.

          Now to the other issue; customers. I have many years in retail management and the stupidity and rudeness of customers never ceased to amaze me. My wife and I recently had lunch at a Dairy Queen and a “gentleman” was literally having a melt because his blizzard didn’t look EXACTLY like the picture. This guy looked as if he were in his late ’50′s or early ’60′s but he cussed and screamed just because his damn ice cream didn’t look just like the picture. Those people on this forum that work in customer service know what I am talking about because they see stuff like this each and everyday.

  22. MishunAcomplisht says:

    While we are on this topic, I want to bring something else up, and that is cashier retail moron peons who start the next customer’s transaction before mine is done. This should NEVER be allowed. It crowds the next consumer into me, and then starts some beef between us consumers unnecessarily, and feeds into the mindless “GET OUT OF MY WAY IT’S MY TURN NOW” bullshit.

    People on here bitching about rude customers? Start treating them with respect then they won’t be so rude.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      And on the flip side, that cashier is probably told that if she doesn’t scan 300 items an hour, she’s fired. What’s she supposed to do while you casually open up your wallet, put all your bills away in descending order, fish around for your car keys, fold your receipt just so, get out your sunglasses and umbrella and put your coins in their happy little slot before you’ll move along.

      I’m the person behind you, and I have places to be too, you know.

      • NHpurple says:

        Yes, the cashier does have to meet a quota as does the guy in the drivethrough window, x # of transactions. Sure, we all understand that, but can I please have just 2-5 seconds to put my receipt and change in my pocket? I still need to use two hands for the cart.
        Before I even got to the point where I was dealing with change, the customer behind me in the line was trying to put groceries on as I was still putting my order up and the cashier hadn’t even begun to ring my order. The perfect ending to this? It was a new cashier and she ran out of tape, so we had to wait. No problem, I remember those days as a cashier, but the lady behind me? Guess all the hurrying was for nothing.
        Since my first job was in retail, I am pleasant and make conversation with cashiers and salespeople. However, I have no patience for poor service.

    • roguemarvel says:

      I work at a very busy fastfood/sitdown restaurant and I really try my best to focus on the customer in front of me when ringing up because I do think its rude to move on while they are putting away their stuff. However, because of high labor cost at my restaurant I’m usually the only casher and I have had my manager come up behind me to start ring up the next customer on my register to make things go fast (which totally screw me up and make me take longer because i lose my grove) . What I try to do is look at the next person in lines order (we are cafeteria style, they get food before paying) and start typing it in while the person in front of me is gathering their stuff so I’m a little ahead of the game.

      And it totally backs me up massive if someone spends more the 10 second getting their money out. I’m really nice about it since i understand, but I can’t help but thing in the back of my head how a manger is going to come talk to me about how I’m not ringing fast enough or a customer is going to bitch that we only have one casher when we have two registers

  23. Sunflower1970 says:

    It’s a two way street. Customers AND sales people can be rude. If one is treated rudely they will probably treat the other person the same way. Some customers come in with a chip on their shoulder thinking the world is owed them and then there are those sales people who are ready to fight because they are waiting for that one rude person.

    Case in point. The article today about the customer who wanted a bagel sans any butter or cheese but refused to say plain, and the barista who wouldn’t give her anything: http://consumerist.com/2010/08/english-professor-booted-from-starbucks-over-bagel-linguistics.html

  24. DataShade says:

    Yeah, I don’t believe that Peggy Noonan actually ever gets tired of being a moral scold.

  25. brinks says:

    I have to disagree that people in the service industry are TRAINED to be rude. This is obviously coming from someone who has never worked a day in the service industry in her life, perhaps? (I don’t know – I can’t see the full article).

    I’ve worked retail since 1993 at various companies. Whether or not it’s enforced by management, ALL training programs I have encountered have stressed putting the customer first. To say we’re TRAINED to be rude is offensive.

    I’ll tell you what makes us rude: asking us to bend a policy because you think you’re more special than the rest of our customers, despite the fact that it could get us fired; causing a scene just because you’re too good to follow our returns policy; refusing to answer our questions that we HAVE to ask because our job depends on it or because the quality of your order depends on us knowing the answer; or any of the other self-entitled douchiness that we read about daily on Consumerist.

    It’s my job to greet you immediately and make you feel welcome. It’s my job to ask you questions to determine what your exact needs are and then to recommend the product that best meets your needs. It’s my JOB to offer you some additional stuff because, despite the fact that maybe you don’t want it, my JOB depends on those numbers. I deal with every customer in a polite manner, even when they clearly don’t deserve it. I was trained to solve your problems, and I’ll do my best to. I was trained to do that, NOT to be rude.

    If you think I’M being rude, maybe you should look in the mirror. When you act like a self-entitled asshole, expect that it may affect the quality of your service.

    • dulcinea47 says:

      Thank you! I’m wondering where exactly people have worked that have been TRAINED to be rude. Yes, you’re trained to upsell, etc. and people don’t like that, but it’s not the same as being RUDE.

      • vastrightwing says:

        I disagree. It’s rude to force yourself on to others without their welcome. This behavior is exactly why I won’t wonder into Sears, Best Buy, or wonder into most mall stores like Sony Style, Bose, etc. Sure, a few people appreciate this, but I bet most people do not. It’s not a lot different than cold calling people and sending unwelcome emails to solicit business. Sales people are there to help with questions… Ok they’re supposed to be there to help customers with questions, but they are really there to harass you to buy the most profitable items in the store. The more susceptible you are to their advances results in more pressure and spending more money until you either buy or leave. This can’t be good in the long term. But then, I don’t treat people this way, so I wouldn’t know.

        • brinks says:

          Being in the industry for years, I treat employees with respect and RARELY have any issues. If I do, I tell a manager because I know it wasn’t me.

          Most of the time, you get what you give. If you come in and are pleasant and not condescending, you’ll get good service much of the time. If you give a FIRM but polite no when asked to purchase additional items, the employee should lay off. If not, well, then maybe the employee deserves it if you’re rude.

        • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

          But that’s not the front-line person’s fault. It’s the fault of their corporate management. I don’t think you can call the store staff rude for doing what they’re told they have to do to keep their jobs, as long as they’re not yelling at you, berating you, or the like.

  26. Nighthawke says:

    The PROFESSIONAL image is what the industries want their service reps to have. This image can be perceived as offending, rude, and condescending. Once the reps are trained to be like this, then their managers complain to them why do you have such poor customer service scores? Well, duh, it should be readily apparent that their training is FAULTY!

    Management should take big steps back and look at the overall trees and see where the trouble starts. There are few and far between people that have the professional look, but come at a price.

    I know, for I’m in that position now as a local service rep for a fortune 500 company, and under the gun to be PROFESSIONAL.

  27. RayanneGraff says:

    If someone is rude to me, I am rude to them back no matter who they are. I am nice to you untill you’re NOT nice to me.

    When I worked retail, they constantly bitched at us to sell more impulse items and ‘weekly specials’, and they specifically instructed us to pressure the customer with as many add-ons as possible. I worked at Auto Zone, and if someone bought an alternator, we were supposed to make them buy belts & belt lube. For batteries, a ‘battery care kit’ and new terminal leads, for headlights, bulb grease. For spark plugs, new plug wires & boot grease, etc etc. EVERYTHING had an add-on. If we failed to sell enough add-ons, we’d get punished with mandatory 6 am meetings every sunday. Morale was lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut, needless to say. The customers didn’t want all that extra crap, and none of us enjoyed forcing it on them.

    I believe that crap like that is responsible for most of the bad attitudes in customer/clerk relations. The employees are in a bad mood because they are forced by management to bug the hell out of the customer, and the customers are in a bad mood because they know they’re gonna have shit pushed upon them by the clerks.

    • vastrightwing says:

      YES!

    • brinks says:

      You are 100% correct in this, and I hope everyone reads your post so they understand.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I’ll take add-ons sometimes. But if the person is pushy or bitchy about it, or tries to push another one on me and won’t take no for an answer, then the first add-on goes back to them and I pay for my original item and leave.

  28. Geekmom says:

    Best Buy lost a sale from me because of rude staff. I asked the guy about the processor on a laptop because I’m not up to speed with the newer models and he just started telling me oh it’s duel core so it’s faster than single core, but it’s slower than some of the other processors.

    Okay… so he doesn’t know jack about computers..

    So how much is this going to cost after taxes.

    Well let me look it up on the computer, you’re going to want geek squad to optimize your computer for you of course, remove all that stuff you don’t want

    Nah. I’m a computer tech I know how to remove all the bloat ware and do the updating myself. It’s no problem.

    Oh well they adjust the registry, you can’t do that yourself.

    grrrrrrrrrrr.. The whole time he was speaking to me he was being condescending and speaking to me as if my simple female mind couldn’t possibly grasp such a complicated thing as a computer! I am always tempted to go back there and tell his manger thank you, if he hadn’t employed someone like that I’d have ended up buying that crappy computer instead of the nice one I got for 130 off at Officemax. (Yeah I couldn’t believe I found a decent laptop at Officemax!)

    (I couldn’t wait to get one from Dell or Newegg and I had to work with the money I had as I don’t believe in buying things I can’t afford. I even paid for my car in cash and I am poor.)

  29. Geekmom says:

    Best Buy lost a sale from me because of rude staff. I asked the guy about the processor on a laptop because I’m not up to speed with the newer models and he just started telling me oh it’s duel core so it’s faster than single core, but it’s slower than some of the other processors.

    Okay… so he doesn’t know jack about computers..

    So how much is this going to cost after taxes.

    Well let me look it up on the computer, you’re going to want geek squad to optimize your computer for you of course, remove all that stuff you don’t want

    Nah. I’m a computer tech I know how to remove all the bloat ware and do the updating myself. It’s no problem.

    Oh well they adjust the registry, you can’t do that yourself.

    grrrrrrrrrrr.. The whole time he was speaking to me he was being condescending and speaking to me as if my simple female mind couldn’t possibly grasp such a complicated thing as a computer!

    Thanks Best Buy! If you weren’t rude to me I’d have bought that crappy laptop because I thought it was the best one I could afford, I found a much better one the next day on sale some place else!

  30. vastrightwing says:

    It’s a mixed bag. People are different. However, in general, I usually expect to be accosted when I step in a retail store of any kind. From worst to best, I’d say it’s car dealers, directBuy, Gyms, boutiques (particularly in malls), big box stores, large general merchandise (anchor stores in malls), Pharmacies (Wal, Rite, CVS, etc.), warehouse clubs, convenience stores, grocery stores, etc. This is partly why I try to avoid going into a retail establishment of any kind if I can avoid it.

  31. Outrun1986 says:

    The problem here is that people in general retail service jobs are being payed too little to do too much work, when the pay goes down, the morale goes down too. People who are working the $7-10 minimum wage cashier jobs and jobs at the electronic’s counter just don’t care because the pay is too low to make them care. Prices are high and inflation is higher causing people to work medial jobs that they don’t want just to make ends meat.

    Customers are rude, but its very hard not to be, if you aren’t rude, you will be taken by the salesman on a large purchase. There are also enough bad retail employees out there to make customers act this way. If you don’t act defensive you will get taken.

    Customers are extremely price focused, so much so that they know if they go next door they are saving a dollar, they will do so no matter how good your customer service is. Some are not price focused, but in this economy where everyone is battling to save a buck most people are very very price focused.

    I like to start out nice, however if you are hard selling me products that are clearly very overpriced and that I do not need, there is usually no other way than to refuse in a rude way, or else the employee will just keep pressing for more sales. I did not walk into your store to be upsold on a million things, I walked in to buy something, and to get out quickly. Just because I am there is not a cue for you to take me for all I have. I have no problem with an employee asking once, but it is not that anymore, it is the hard sale, so much so that they won’t let you buy the item without at least buying a few other overpriced things. In these instances I just walk away and buy it somewhere else, which is probably exactly what you want me to do but I am not spending more than I set out to just because I am in your store and an employee says I have to. Now I just try to make all the big purchases online, so I don’t have to deal with this and waste my time.

    • brinks says:

      I’m glad you can also see it from the retail worker’s side.

      You’re right, though: you often need to be firm when you say no. If the employee thinks there’s a possibility you might say yes, they’ll keep on trying. If they understand that you will NOT purchase a anything else, they should lay off. If they keep pressing and go over the line, go ahead be rude. At least you tried to be nice.

    • vastrightwing says:

      I do understand this, again, it’s exactly why I stay away. Going into a store is where all sense of personal space fades away. it’s creepy. I’m nice to clerks, but it’s tough. they come to me and try to sell me something I don’t want and it’s like a telemarker: I have to say no three times before they understand I’m not going to buy what they are suggesting. I then have to check my receipt to make sure they charged me what was advertised, they didn’t add some “free” 3 month shopping club. I then open the box to make sure the item isn’t physically damaged, etc. it’s not fun.

      • Outrun1986 says:

        Yeah this is a problem, especially at some stores where I shop. They can sign you up for magazine subscriptions, warranties and all sorts of things without you even knowing it. Gamestop is infamous for signing you up for a $3 protection plan on games, which is something you really have to watch out for since its such a small amount. I am trying not to shop there anymore. Its usually ultra hard to get them to remove the charges too, which wastes more of your time.

        You can calculate what you are paying before you get to the register but there is tax here so its hard to get it down to the penny, and the upsell items are usually small items so you may not even notice the charge, but if they can sneak a small charge on everyone’s bill then it adds up to a lot of money for the company.

        I do start out nice, because I am not out to make anyone’s day miserable (and there is the chance you may get a very nice salesperson), but if the worker gives me the attitude or the hard sell, I am not buying and I will give them the same attitude back. Its the fair way to handle things. When getting customer service over the phone, it really helps a lot to be nice to the person, moreso than if you were nice in person.

        I like online shopping because I can see the total, tax I am charged and any other charges right on the screen, with store registers its hard to get this breakdown, and most don’t have it or the screens are blurry or broken so you can’t see exactly what you are getting charged.

    • anyanka323 says:

      Agreed. The ones making the money for the suits in the regional, district, and national offices are most of the time the ones that are least paid. The same suits come up with ill conceived initiatives that the peons are expected to execute with 100% enthusiasm.

      Another reason that morale is so low in many chains is the corporate mindset that employee theft is more prevalent than it actually is. It does happen, especially in big box stores, but the majority of theft is by customers. It’s simply absurd that some stores have more cameras in areas that are frequented more by employees than in open sales areas. Most people who work in retail learn to spot potential shoplifters after a while mostly through behavioral cues. These are the more intelligent employees too. Most after spending time in retail don’t trust too many customers to be completely honest.

      Most large chains expect their employees to surrender any expectations to privacy that they have. I can understand to a degree, but some chains take it too far. I don’t think that your bag should be searched when you come in and leave everyday, especially if you’re a woman. I also think that you should be able to have a lock on your locker to protect your belongings from unscrupolous co-workers.

      I’ve asked customers carrying backpacks to leave them at the entrance with a fellow employee because based upon my experience, they’re more likely to get away with shoplifting. Some get offended, but they are usually the ones who intend on stealing. If stores have no problem expecting employees to give up their privacy for little or no reason, then they should extend it to customers whose behavior is suspicious.

  32. BrazDane says:

    There can be no denying that sales people in retail are mainly trained to SELL and that many display an astounding lack of knowledge or courtesy when dealing with customers. However, this is likely due to cost-cutting. If you pay bottom-level wages you also attract less educated people who will work for this kind of money. However, they generally resent their low-status jobs and how much they have to work for so little money, so they respond by not caring. We, as consumers, encourage this by continually patronizing discount stores.
    Once in a while you’ll see someone who actually has a nice and polite personality that shines though, but a lot of time you really deal with people who just don’t do well in a SERVICE world.

    Try going to more poor countries and see the difference.

    There, any job is worth keeping and most will do their utmost to satisfy the customer. Sometimes, corporate policy is horrible and employees seem like assholes when enforcing it. However, most can actually do it with a smile and without taking your dissatisfaction personal. Waiters, for example, feel they really need to earn their tip. Not like here in the US, where most waitresses (college girls?) expect a tip simply for doing their job and giving you a fake smile and a few well-worn phrases that would seem polite if it wasn’t because she was almost out of earshot again before you could even answer her “How’s the food tasting”.

    Here in the US I have also experienced countless times how salespeople take any and every complaint personally. They simply don’t understand you are complaining about the product or store policy, not necessarily about them as people. And that is due to a lack of training.

    instead, many rely on how they were brought up, and many kids are brought up hearing they are the most wonderful person on earth, simply because they exist and breathe. Then, the moment their meager skills are found wanting or someone criticizes them, they immediately see it as a challenge to their ‘most special in the eyes of mom and dad’ status and get angry at the customer.

    What I wonder is: why don’t we see more stores opening up that focus on customer service? If I was given exceptional service, I would probably pay a little extra. ESPECIALLY, if the store would try and give me honest advice and education on the product AND would have a generous return policy.

  33. Green Beer Day says:

    I think some of the issue with rudeness and the general lack of customer service these days is where the employees live. If you live in the area where you work you are likely serving your neighbors – people you may interact with outside of your job – and have a higher likelihood of treating them better since you may see them again. But if you hire in workers who live outside the community they could give a crap less about the customer experience since they don’t live in the area.

    Perfect example: near where I live in Atlanta a Steak and Shake opened in-town near Emory University (Toco Hill). You’d think the staff would possibly be college kids or folks who live in the area. Wrong. The demographic is completely skewed with the majority of the staff being outsiders to the area. The customer service there is abysmal and the quality of the experience is poor (they would run out of ice cream often and not due to overwhelming demand…a shake-based restaurant and out of ice cream?!?). If you complain you get nowhere because the management is the same way – not from the area.

    Bottom line in my experience: transience does not engender care or high levels of customer service.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Yeah if you live in a tourist town, there is really no incentive to be nice (especially with ultra low pay), because your customers probably won’t be coming back. The stores can overprice, and have horrible service, and the customers will still buy anything and everything regardless.

      However if you don’t get a lot of tourists, and are mainly dealing with the locals, then perhaps workers have to strive a bit more to keep business from going to their competitors, since businesses will be relying on repeat customers.

  34. friendlynerd says:

    Even Peggy Noonan is right twice a day.

  35. TheRedSeven says:

    Article mainly existss behind a paywall.

    With WSJ, I generally just put the URL of the ‘teaser’ into Google’s search bar and then click on the cached version. Often works.

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:h4qEdvpLFwMJ:online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB10001424052748704407804575425983109795768.html+http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704407804575425983109795768.html&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    Enjoy!

  36. grapedog says:

    I was never trained to be rude in any job of that nature, but the problem is that it comes out in you as you deal with customers. If everyone told the truth, there would be much less rudeness, but too many people are looking for a free handout. Blame only yourselves and your fellow man for any rudeness you get. If the vast majority of people were not trying to rip off these companies, most times it wouldn’t be an issue.

    • RandomHookup says:

      And I don’t want to be rude to service workers, but sometimes it just comes out that way. There are certain things that irritate me and it’s not necessarily that person’s fault, but I am ticked off at the system or management or the jerk in line behind me.

  37. stlbud says:

    The story is not available unless you have a subscription. I suggest you find another source.

  38. Syntania says:

    I was always taught to respect others while growing up. I also believe in the Golden Rule. Whenever I go into any establishment, I do my absolute best to be kind and polite to the servicepeople there, whether it be salespeople, waitstaff or whatever. Lo and behold, I rarely if ever get treated with contempt. When I am at work and not the consumer, I do my best to be kind and polite too. BUT… if I am kind and polite to you and I am still treated like the poop you scraped off of your shoe, you are darn tootin’ that I am at the very least going to put on the Dead Face. Don’t treat me like crap when I bend over backwards to be nice. I don’t tell you ,”no, I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” because I want to see the veins pop out of your forehead as you call me every name imaginable. I tell you that because I either a) have no means to do what you ask given the tools that I have access to or b) the company I work for is not allowing me to offer that as an option for whatever reason they decided to do that.

  39. Blious says:

    On the flip side, customers are more rude then ever so is it really that surprising to see some fighting back?

    And no, I have never been in a customer service industry but I do hear stories from people online claiming they called up SCREAMING at someone and realized it was their fault somehow….whoops

  40. zyphbear says:

    I think this article is what is showing what is really wrong with society today. This all has gotten attributed to the employees and nothing related to the customers. I’m not saying I haven’t gotten rude employees before, in fact, quite the opposite. But I think alot of this has to do with the interactions EXPECTED from both sides of the experience.
    While you are trained to be pushy at some places that do sales, you do what you feel you have to so you can keep your job. After all, some people have numbers to hit that are not set by them, but someone else. Not hitting those numbers could get you written up to fired at the end of the day. Now I’m not saying that some forms of ‘pressured selling’ can’t be interpreted as rude, but some people also have it in their mind that everyone is alway trying to sell you something and you always have to be on the defensive. That isn’t true. Many stores (from big chains to mom and pop stores) just want to literally greet you and know someone is there that can help you out if you need it or if you have questions. I have worked at a mom and pop comic/toy shop and I just say hi as people come in from whereever I am at so they know where to go when they have questions or get something that is locked up, 98% of the time they just are rude and walk away from the direction I’m sitting. There’s no pressure there, but they have been taught to be rude since they feel I’m a salesperson. I do finally get some people that come up and just want to talk about the stuff in the shop, not to buy, but to see if there are questions that can be answered and that’s what I’m here for. If you want something, I can help, if you don’t and just have a question, we can get an answer for you, no strings attached.
    But it also is related to what the customer THINKS should be done and what can really happen too. After all, you get those customers that do part of a promo “buy 2, get a gift card”, but then expect you to take the value of the gift card off that same purchase. Then the customer starts yelling ‘why won’t you take it off? It’s still a gift card!’. Forgetting they are fulfilling a promotion to get said card. Or The customer that wants to do a transaction like opening a bank account or cashing a check and not willing to give their Driver’s License as part of the transaction. How does the person know who you are unless they can prove it? You may not care that if they try to do the transaction without the ID, they get fired, but they sure do. Then the customers who call into customer service lines that use X amount of service, but wanting the company to magically lower their bill, it doesn’t work that way! You pay for what you used. How do you lower the bill? Use less! That’s true for everything from utilites to cell phones to dining. You don’t walk into a restaurant and say “I ate the lobster, but will only pay you $5 to get the whole thing now that I’ve eaten it”.

    Now saying all of that, there is also a big difference in how you are treated by different companies and how some take pride for the attitude of the customer service reps. A few examples: you have a company like T-Mobile that attempt to be as nice as possible whenever you call and they make the experience a great one whenever they can. That’s why when the iPhone was only available on AT&T or the Droid on Verizon, alot of people were very sad to be leaving the service they were getting with T-Mobile and going to the situation where AT&T will blame anything under the sun and not treat people nicely. Then there is Zappos. They take so much pride in their operators and how they treat their customers, they will pay people to leave.
    Taking the same example, there is also the issue that when some customer’s call into these companies, they feel the need to give their life story, and when the operator relays that they don’t need to hear all of that, it’s treated as being rude. There is also no point in the customer calling into a customer service line, then start calling names/swearing/yelling/throwing a fit like a 4 year old to the customer service rep. There is no reason for this type of behavior, but when the customer doesn’t get what they want they feel its because of the employee, forgetting the behavior they then contribute to the situation. I know someone who works a customer service number who has said they have had customers that said “unless you give me what I want, I’m going to stay on your line all day since you can’t hang up on me and I’ll get you in trouble!”, others who will yell swear words and derogitory names at the employee for 20 min (for a situation that can be fixed in 3 min). Then there are those customers who call in and don’t have their own information, like their SSN, address or credit card to pay for the service, then complain how long it took to hold. All of these issue is what contributes to the employee being put in a position that seems to be “mean” when actually every other person has caused their day to go to hades, so just do your part and they can do their part. Don’t make it harder than it really is.

    Then we get to the part that isn’t caused by either the customer or the employee, but affects both: the company/employer. This is where the issues really can go from bad to worse for both sides. You get the company that goes and pushes the employee to sell ‘x number of item’ or their job is at stake. Then the ones that say the person on the customer service line isn’t 1) taking enough calls or 2) selling enough items. Either one causes the issue that while the employee wants to try and help, if you are going to be rude then you could either 1) take up too much time with a conversation that means nothing or 2) not purchase whatever the person is suppossed to sell. So when you call, get to the point and nicely decline what you are offered, don’t sit and cause the call to be worse than it really is.

    This is just where society needs to all treat each other better from both sides, shouldn’t be blamed only on the employees, nor the customers. But the customer’s also need to remember the employer and to treat the employee with respect and understand they are just doing their job. If someone says “welcome to the store” just say hi back, it’s not hard. If they ask if you have questions, simply answer “not yet, but when I do, I’ll let you know. thank you.” The nicer you treat the employee, the nicer they will be back to you and easier to have a simple transaction or answer questions. You make their job easier, they will have all the incentive to to make the transaction as smooth as possible too. The harder/ruder you make it, the less incentive they have to treat you with respect.

  41. Olivia Neutron-Bomb says:

    Welcome to the world envisioned by your beloved ex-boss, Ronald Reagan, Peggy! He was a dolt, and you’re a dumb bitch. Civil enough for ya?

  42. Buckus says:

    I’d like to “Take the Chute” many times, even though I don’t work in customer service anymore. Just yesterday I was completing a car sale with the finance person. Haggled the price with the salesperson for like 2 minutes, that was pretty much a non-issue. But the finance guy kept pushing and pushing the service plan. I literally told him no ten times before he got his “Closer” to come in and cut the price. Even then, I still didn’t want the service plan, but there is value if they cut the price. Still, when someone says “No” it’s frustrating when they keep trying to sell it.

  43. stvlong92 says:

    Its reality shows. The crap they show on them has worked its way into main stream society. The longer they stay on the air, the worse it’ll get over the years. I predict more in-store violence between customers and employees….fights, shootings, etc. Its like cell phones. People just talk away like no one is around them. No one cares anymore. Talking loud, walking into people, dealing with a cashier at the grocery store and talking, etc. Someday it may all be outlawed when the violence gets too overwhelming. Just like a stop sign will be put up at an intersection only after some kid gets hit by a car.

  44. QuasiPreneur says:

    Ever been to Vegas? Service where they are “paid for performance” can be a great motivator for good results (minus Taxi drivers and minimumwagers). Why would a $8.50/hr person go out of their way to provide “extra” service of being kind? Of course but then there is the American attitude… everyone for themselves because no one cares. Ever been to Japan and been treated badly?

    I’ve done my minimum wage gig and have gone out of my way many of times.. but its so hard to maintain that level of consideration and thoughtfulness when people don’t reciprocate.

    Also coming from the midwest where everyone is neighborly helped however, after being in California for few years and no one really cares whether I act considerate or rude/cold … I’ve become more cynical over the years.

    on a daily basis…I’m trying to change that. Excuse me’s, pardon me’s thank you’s, opening doors, giving up parking spaces, smiling to strangers is hard work.. but I want to change!

  45. QuasiPreneur says:

    Other examples of American “rudeness” …. Calling strangers by their first names, wanting to shake people hands, looking people in the eye, crossing someone’s path, all things considered “rude” by other countries.

    I still have the habit of calling people by Mister/Ms .. even when i say excuse/pardon me I still add “sir” but now realizing in America (I’m 99% American btw) “Excuse me sir” is more condescending than respectful… what the heck happened :(

  46. Joey_Brill says:

    Lady Peggington Noonington is afraid of the help: Virginia Woolf without the talent.

  47. zyphbear says:

    Customers need to stop getting attitude when dealing with employees. My friend on a customer service line took a call, was very polite and answered all questions completely, then when they were finished, the customer said “I have something to tell you”.
    Friend: “Yes? Is there another question I can help you with?”
    Customer: “You didn’t sound like you were thankful for having a job.”
    F: “Excuse me? I’ve been completely polite to you on this call.”
    C: “you heard me, being polite isn’t enough, you need to express to me how thankful you are to me for having a job.”
    F: “My job is to help you with the issues you had, which I have done. If there is nothing else I can help you with, we can end the call now.”
    C: (Starting to yell) “Don’t you get that attitude with me! You need to be kissing my butt and showing how thankful you are that since I have service with you, you have a job. I’m going to call back and get you in trouble with your supervisor unless you make it up to me and show me you are thankful for your job.”
    F: “Since it appears you have no other questions, I will now end the call. Thank you for calling.” -Ends call-
    Now what the customer was expecting is beyond anyone, but my friend did not get in trouble at all.

  48. peebozi says:

    it’s more profitable to be rude than polite in many circumstances. this culture is brought on by wall street and their ONE AND ONLY RESPONSIBILITY—-PROFIT ABOVE ALL ELSE.

  49. spokanekim says:

    It’s common sense, people. Person walks into a store with iPod on and looking like they know exactly what they want and where to find it = don’t bug that person. Person walks in looking confused and tries to make eye contact w/employees and/or walks the same aisles several times looking frustrated = see if they need help. Cookie cutter customer service will always end up pissing off at least half of the people all of the time. You don’t have to be paid a fortune to learn how to read overt signals from people – it will help you achieve success no matter where you end up in your career. After you get some experience mastering the obvious, feel free to work up to the next level where you can identify people who expect their hand to be held at every moment vs those who would appreciate the freedom to browse for awhile. I know this comes across as really sarcastic but that’s not my intent – I feel for those forced by inept management to thrust themselves upon or completely ignore customers regardless of their apparent need for help or lack thereof.

  50. jiubreyn says:

    Rudness in a service economy is just a fact of life, but is not to be expected with every interaction. When dealing with complaints on a daily basis, it gets old. It’s human to get bored with something yet continue to subject ourselves to jobs we “hate”.

    I work for a company that prides itself on customer service ratings and make it a number one priority for front line agents. Granted we have a few rotten apples but they never stay long enough to spoil the bunch. If they do, you can bet your buns they’re getting peer feedback about their performance.

  51. IrishPuterGeek says:

    And clicking on the link leads you to a nice teaser followed by an “order now” to read more?

    Ahhhh…. irony!