When You Shouldn’t Have a Customer Oriented Job

At the ripe age of 63, I feel that I’ve earned the right to lecture a little bit and pass on some of my “worldly wisdom.” I’ve had good and bad service over the years, as I know many of you have experienced yourselves. I’ll admit I’ve also been difficult myself more than once and kudos to those retail and service people who take it in stride and carry on. It takes grace to de-escalate someone’s bad mood rather than to create more chaos. I had a most frustrating experience at the Moore, OK CVS Pharmacy this morning and there was no reason for the incident other than the clerk’s bad mood.

It takes a certain skillset, a thick skin, and a pleasant character to be that clerk that customers remember when they leave the store with a smile on their face, even if they had a disappointing shopping experience or couldn’t get a service issue resolved. I wish everyone could be like this because I certainly appreciate it when a stranger says, “Yes, I understand you have a problem. What can I do to help?” rather than blaming others or hitting me in the face with their bad mood.

I was looking for one item and didn’t want to go to Walmart. I tried Dollar General first. They had a few things I grabbed but not that one item I came for. Next up the road was a CVS Pharmacy and right next door a Walgreen’s. I’ve been to this Walgreen’s to pick up prescriptions and you can’t walk through there without being greeted by at least two or three employees, asking how you’re doing and if they can help. Always a pleasant experience.

Then there’s CVS. Maybe they have bad management or horrible working conditions, I don’t know. But something was definitely off and it wasn’t me. I grabbed the item I needed and went to the front to check out. It appeared abandoned but I wasn’t in a hurry so I looked around a bit, searched for a bell on the counter, looked around some more. Finally, a supply stocker who was leaving saw me and shouted to someone in the back. As the clerk rounded the corner, she mentioned that she couldn’t see me. I joked that there are small people in the world and maybe they should get a bell. From that moment on, it was the transaction from hell.

I got an earful about how she was the only one working, and then one rude comment after another. I mentioned that I was used to clerks saying, “Yes, ma’am,” and agreeing with me when I made conversation not arguing with me. I had just left a very pleasant experience at the Dollar General with a personable young clerk and was in a good mood. To my benefit, I remained calm and kept my tone at a conversational level, mostly because I felt sorry for her, more than anything else. Something was going on and it wasn’t something I started.

I’m not a saint. I’ve been a very difficult customer in the past, defensive, self-righteous, and angry. Someone who works with the public should never take their personal feelings out on the customer, no matter how difficult the customer is. That’s one reason I never seriously considered a career working with the public. It’s not my forte. But this time, I gave her no reason to treat me the way she did.

After throwing the money at me without counting out the change, I calmly said to her that there will always be difficult people in the world, those with mental health challenges, those with addictions, and just angry people. As a customer service representative, she should be able to remain pleasant and not get defensive. I’m sure my little “speech” just went right over her head. I can’t imagine working in a job you hate and are not suited to, no matter how hard times are.

We have to be the best we can be no matter the chaos around us. I’m proud of myself for learning to let things roll off and almost always leaving a store with a smile on my face in my senior years. Maybe I’ve left someone else with a smile too more often than not. I hope so.