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Don’t Call It A Meltdown

August 30, 2013
Don't be this person. Seriously. Just don't.

Don’t be this person. Seriously. Just don’t.


I work in the service industry. So does Dave Chappelle. I mean, not on the same scale, obviously in that Dave can hie off to Africa and still have a career while I incessantly check my schedule even on my days off because I am terrified that I’ll get my work days confused or be late for something. But the basic premise is the same, you pay us, we do or make something in return and as a part of that process, we have to interact.

It’s in that interaction where the problems arise. Sometimes it’s hecklers, sometimes it’s people screaming about ketchup, sometimes it’s people throwing steaming hot coffee at their barista. That hasn’t happened to me since I moved to Minnesota. The people here are almost unnaturally nice, even when you give them the wrong drink. But still, it’s a valid example and it’s happened to me.

For some reason, people think that that act of paying for a drink or a hamburger or a show, gives them the right to abuse the person making their food or performing. I’m not sure where the rational disconnect between, paying your 99¢ to $2.00 for food or $50.00 to $100 for tickets and acting like decent human being is, but it happens.

If your brain just dredged up the phrase “The customer is always right,” you are probably a part of the problem. Also, you’ve clearly never worked customer service in any form.

Being “right,” which cannot happen if you’re asking for a Big Mac at Burger King, or alcohol at most coffee shops, or demanding a skit from a now defunct television show at a live performance, is a state of acting right. As a general rule, if you are screaming at someone who is trying to give you something, you are not acting right. If you’re not acting right, the service you are receiving? It isn’t the problem. Your giant sense of entitlement? Most likely the problem.

Further, the service provider, whether they be a wage slave or a multimillionaire performer, expressing a perfectly calm, rational refusal to help you act not right does not constitute a “meltdown,” of any kind. No one, not even Dave Chappelle gets paid enough to take abuse for a living. And according to people who were there and don’t have a vested interest in writing a sensationalist story about him, abuse is exactly what was happening. He was being heckled and screamed at and generally treated with no respect and he decided he was done with that and left. The end.

This shouldn’t even be a story, except it is so incredibly rare for a person who provides a service for a living to simply refuse to accept the crap behavior of some customers, especially in so large and public an arena, that is boggles most people’s minds.

If your mind is not boggled, congratulations, you’re a decent human being.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2013 1:21 AM

    I hope you will forgive me for quoting Dumbledore, however as someone who has worked in retail/customer service for years certain words of wisdom are constantly poignant.

    “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

    And yet people feel entirely justified in their behavior. For my experience the abuse was also fruitless, customers berate the sales associates for unsatisfactory products. I once had a woman call me every name in he book because she bought a bug zapper which shocked you when you stuck your finger in it, never mind that the warning sticker was still on it advising against that very action.
    And these very individuals blindly blame the service people for the world’s problems.
    I appreciate that you call it abuse. The moral of many workplaces would probably improve if employees were allowed to acknowledge that.

  2. September 5, 2013 10:35 AM

    A small element of this is the passing along of abuse; my boss has vexed me all day, and since I can’t kick the boss I’ll lay some measure of misery onto someone in a position of servitude relative to me. This doesn’t excuse (nor completely explain) the behaviour, and your thoughts on right action are exactly correct. We’d be a step nearer Utopia if more people would think about what they’re doing before it’s actually done.

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