This Job Would Be Great If It Weren't For the Customers: Customer Service Communities

Hey ho, it's holiday shopping time. I was just at the mall with a friend, and I don't know if they were pumping gingerbread scent out of the ducts or what, but I was feeling pretty vacant standing there geeking out at the sparkly decorations and giant SALE! signs. I think a barista had to ask me three times how many shots I wanted in my drink, poor thing, as I stood there stupidly, anesthetized by capitalism and the Chipmunks' "Christmas Song." (As an aside, can I say that I am horrified that another Chipmunks movie is about to come out? Please, make it stop. David Cross, how can you be in this? (Link nsfw: Crossian ribaldry.) You are dead to me. Until I forget you did this movie with the CGI chipmunks. Which will probably be next week.)

The trip to the mall made me think of when I was behind the counter in college, be-nametagged and crazy sharp, slightly impatient with all the sheep on the other side of the counter, "yes, yes, of course I can remember yours and your seven friends' special orders," but not qualified, alas, to do anything that paid more than minimum wage. This made me think that it would be the perfect time for a guide to bloggers who have occasional bad days, or who are completely stuck in customer service hell.

I feel I must disclaim at you now. Remember, angry people often do things like swear like sailors--read at your own risk.

Customers Suck. This community is populated by baristas, fast food workers, hotel housekeeping, and large chain clothing stores workers. The posters are often funny while they vent.

Scarredonmyarm writes about cashiering at a clothing store:

C1: *walks up to my counter and stands there, wordlessly*
ME: Hi...can I help you?
C1: GIFT CARD.
ME: Okay. And how much would you like on it?
C1: FORTY.
ME: *does the gift card thing* Your total is $40.
C1: *says nothing, swipes card*
ME: Credit or debit for you today?
C1: DEBIT.
ME: *bags, etc.* Okay, here you go, enjoy your day!
C1: *meanders off into the sunset*

I was not aware I was the 10 Words or Less Lane. I was actually pretty impressed. He finished his transaction in 4 words.

In a similar vein, but specific to restaurant workers is Waiting Tables. WT is a community for venting and where new servers ask for advice. I thought this was an interesting post by one member:

i had part of a student tour group last night, comprised of students and chaperones. They were great, very polite...One table (4 girls) left what i can only describe as a "tip sculpture" comprised of ones folded kinda like paper aeroplanes and put together in a tent/pyramid shaped fashion.

i truly felt bad having to take it all apart, unfold the ones and put them in my wallet when it looked like the girls had taken such time and effort on it...

Another friend/co-worker one night (a few weeks ago) got a $20 bill as a tip, folded origami-style into the shape of an elephant.

One of my absolutely favorite blogs ever is by one writer, a dispatcher for a Virginia taxicab company, called The Blank Top Chronicles. I have gone back through the archive and read all the way through. Brian, the writer, speaks to what seems like the absolute dregs of humanity, and gives it back as good as he gets it. Most of them are written transcript-style, like this entry from October 7, 2005:

GUY: Look, I know you are very busy right now, but you can't keep me waiting for a cab like everyone else.
ME: Why?
GUY: I work for the government.
ME: Buddy, this is Washington D.C. EVERYBODY works for the government.
GUY (very condescendingly): Ah, you don't.
ME: I can't. I'm a convicted felon.
GUY: Oh.

Okay, so you can't do your holiday shopping there (I think?) but strip clubs have customers, too. I find the Stripperweb forums to be an amazing look into a world I know hardly anything about. Strippers ask questions, share information, and engage in off-topic chat. There are male members, but it is really geared towards women, which is cool, and there are sections on money, politics, and "body business" such as plastic surgery. Members talk frankly about customers and share techniques.

Overheard at the Library is a community of librarians who share things they hear in the stacks. Overall the tone is more cheerful than some of the customer service blogs, and has a heavy focus on funny comments.

Cheshire_c shares an experience with a patron:

A patron comes up to me and requests stuff for himself. He then says, "Oh yeah, my mother-in-law wanted a book. Love and Diarrhea." Pause. I say, "That's an interesting title." He says, "Yeah, it's an Oprah book she said." Pause. I say, "Could it be Love in the Time of Cholera?"

There is also a whole community devoted to Barnes and Noble booksellers. Makes sense, right, as each store is pretty much as big as a barn(es)? I never really thought about it before, but there are probably 15-20 people on the clock there all the time. Anyway, this community shares customer service stories, tips, and funny anecdotes, like this one from poor thisdaydreamer:

So, I was locked in my store tonight. How was your day?....No one told me that the managers were ready for us to leave! The manager types have gotten out of the habit of using the PA system to tell everyone to clock out.

Luckily, they heard me yelling across the parking lot.

Whoops!

In the holiday season, customer service workers see more crazy in an afternoon than most people see all year. So remember, as you are stuck on the phone or in a long, winding line, be nice. Happy reading!

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