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It’s time for some customer etiquette

People working in the service industry deserve respect.


We are all maintaining our new year's resolutions around this time. This year, what if we resolve to treat people better? Let's start with those who work in the service industry---the people whose primary job is to serve you as the customer, so places like retail and the food industry.

You should work in customer service once in your life, serving others with no possible way of defending yourself when people start yelling at you or calling you names. I was forced back into the service industry after five years of successfully escaping it. During my time away I got a university degree and I am currently working on my second. But no matter how old I get, I always keep in mind that I was raised to be respectful of everyone.

Here's some advice to those of you out there who assume, since you aren't the one working a minimum wage job in the service industry, that you are somehow above those who do.

Stores advertise what's on sale, through fliers and signs, to actually make sure it sells. So really, if there is no sign, 98 percent of time it won't be on sale. It is all stores' policy not to give you a sale if there isn't one. Stuff gets moved and mixed with other things. If it looks like it doesn't belong, it probably doesn't. And if you thought it was on sale and it isn't, suck it up. Employees keep the store clean, but other customers don't feel it's their job.

Before you buy anything, the product isn't yours. I've seen a lot of people mishandle merchandise just because they feel they can; taking things out of their packaging, leaving clothes on the floor, even deliberately throwing items on the floor as soon as they were done with them.

Cleaning up a little after you're finished in the area is greatly appreciated and just a sign that there is still good people in the world. One employee compared a dirty fitting room to an unflushed toilet---we find it that disgusting. It may take an extra two seconds to hang up clothes or throw away a burger box but it could make someone's day.

Service people understand that some shopping experiences can be frustrating but customers decide to take "the customer is always right" doctrine too far. They don't seem to understand they also have to play by a certain set of rules. Through training and working at a place for years on end, staff learn to understand the policies and what is acceptable. Coming in for a half-hour does not make you an expert on the store's policy. Please don't tell them how to do their job.

Anyone who has to deal with a couple hundred people a week and still have a smile on their face by Saturday deserves respect. You don't have to love them but you sure as hell better respect them.

Management isn't the only ones that deserve civility. My co-worker was being full-out yelled at for sticking to our store's policy, and a manager was called in. After the manager diffused the situation, the customer was all apologetic about his behaviour, to the manager. Not once did he apologize to my co-worker, who had received all of his anger and name-calling. Everyone who I've met in customer service has had an experience or two like this, and most of the time they do not deserve the treatment that they receive from an angry customer.

Even if retail workers make a mistake, they are only human. Don't swear at them or call them names just because you are frustrated by your shopping experience. They especially don't deserve to have your anger thrust upon them when they are trying to make your shopping experience a good one and you can't see that.

Just because people work for minimum wage serving you doesn't mean that they don't deserve respect. Just because you are honouring them with your presence in their workplace doesn't mean that you can treat them as an inferior. Staff may even go beyond just giving pleasant service if you are pleasant to them.

  • Shannon MacDonald

Rebecca Zimmer was born and bred a Saskatchewan farm girl, moved to Halifax in September for the one-year journalism program at King’s. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Saskatchewan in June and her 2014 New Year’s resolution is to actually get a grown-up job. Follow her @bex_zim.

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