‘Tis the Season of Entitlement

If you work in the hospitality or retail industry, you’re probably dealing with the worst humans on Earth right now. First of all, my heart — and respect — goes out to all of you this season. I truly mean that since I will be fighting in the same trenches as you throughout December. (In addition to working as a freelance theatre artist, I work part-time at a restaurant. This will be my second holiday season as an employee there.)

Naturally, in customer service, we encounter difficult people all the time, but for some reason the winter holiday season invites the worst of humanity into restaurants and stores across America. Patrons walk into establishments with an enormous sense of entitlement (more so than usual), expecting us to meet their absurd demands and become impatient when we can’t meet their petty needs.

You may be standing behind the cash register, the front desk, or one of your tables taking an order, feeling the last ounce of your soul oozing through your pores as you try alleviating the unwarrented wrath of customers. I’m writing this essay to remind you all (and myself) to stay strong. Don’t let those deplorable humans rattle you. Customers who unleash their unjustified anger want to upset you, and make you feel small. I know you may feel powerless as an employee at the bottom of the corporate food chain, but you can retain your power over especially rude people. So long as you stay calm and speak with reason while the customer looses their shit, you hold the power over the customer while maintaining control of the situation.

And of course, never take a customer’s rude comments personally. If that advice feels about as helpful as telling someone with depression to ignore their sad thoughts, try finding humor in infuriating situations. While I was working a few days ago, I spoke to a customer who yelled at me over the phone for not ringing in bread with his to-go order even though I didn’t take his order in the first place. All I could think of in that moment was that 42.2 million Americans will go to bed hungry tonight, but gee, I’m sorry we forgot to put in an order of bread in with your lobster salad. (Working in customer service has given me a cynical sense of humor.)

As you all go into work this holiday season, remember you can maintain your power of angry customers by keeping calm and working on. Never take anything that anyone says personally. And finally, don’t let them get to you, instead let them humor you. Keep on keepin’ on, friends!

Now if you do not work in customer service, but you read this essay anyway, good for you! Pass this essay on to other people you know who don’t work in customer service, and please remember: this is the busiest time of year for people working in the hospitality and retail industries. When you go out to eat or shop at the mall this holiday season, be patient and kind to the employees. Their doing their best, and chances are they’re probably having a really shitty day. Let’s all try to actually make this the season of good tidings and cheer by passing along a little kindness to each other.