Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yelling & Synthetic-Sorrows

When I was just a tadpole, I liked this revoltingly-juvenile celebrity magazine, mostly because I liked the posters that came with it. One day all those years ago, I was out shopping with my father and I saw that the new issue included a thing of lip gloss. So I asked 'Please, please, Dad, can I get it?' And I bet he thought 'what the hell? It's a dumb magazine', but he gave me the money anyway. I only wish that I was gay so that this would be my coming out post, but alas, no. On the contrary actually, I was going to give it to a girl I dug and, in the process of buying her affection, add some posters to the wall. So, I walked up to the docile Asian man working the newsagency, no doubt the owner, I handed him the magazine and a fifty dollar note (because that's how much magazines cost) and I politely asked for my lip gloss. Now before I go any further, understand that in my days of walking on the child side, I was a sweet, shy, polite little boy, which I still very much am, only difference is that I hadn't quite discovered the delectable art of profanity and sarcasm just yet. This is where the newsagent informed me that he had none left. Dismayed and confused, I timidly accepted that for three reasons: 1) I was shy, 2) I couldn't see why he would be lying, and 3) I didn't want to add insult to injury by drawing further attention to the fact that I was a boy making a fuss about strawberry lip gloss. So I walked away with the magazine in hand, disappointment in heart and no lip gloss.

I went back to my dad to tell him and he didn't buy a fucking word of it! He walked, no, he stormed up to the guy, asked for the lip gloss, the man repeated what he had told me a few minutes earlier and dad lost his shit! Yelling! Swearing! Demanding for the lip gloss! He even threatened to 'tip the shop over' if we didn’t get it - an exact quote that I use to this day. So, there I was, twelve years old, endeavouring to keep my non-gay identity intact and then my dad comes along yelling 'my son was nothing but polite and you still won't give him his lip gloss!' Customers were watching. His co-workers were watching, and the newsagent knew they were watching too. I literally saw fear in his eyes and sweat break from his flushed face. But it was the sweat and fear of a liar! Because just as he could take no more of my old man's abuse, he handed over a thing of lip gloss as it was advertised on the front of that stupid magazine I was holding in my hand.
So, putting aside the fact that it is now clear to you why I am the way I am, and also putting aside the mystery of how my father was so unequivocally certain that this man was just a fraud in news-wrangler's clothing, the reason I tell you this little tale is to demonstrate what has since blossomed into what is now a culture of yelling and, thusly, a culture of synthetic-apologies.

Culture of Yelling
The general consensus among most customer-servicemen is 'get me through this day with as little bullshit as possible'. So when some nut walks up to one of them and starts yelling because the store won't give shit away for free or whatever their issue is, there are two things that can be done: one is the correct way, and the other is the incorrect but quicker, and therefore, more appealing way.
For instance, Dick walks into a store looking for a refund (his name's actually Richard, but we're calling him 'Dick' because he is one). Unfortunately, the staff can't give him a refund because according to their policy, it's impossible. The store-assistant politely explains this to him, actually using the word 'impossible'. Then Dick starts yelling. They explain that they won't tolerate quasi-primate-behaviour (I'm paraphrasing of course), but he continues making a scene anyway because Dick is a gentlemen. So they call security or their local police station and they escort him out or Taser his testicles or whatever's socially-acceptable now with this state's Police department.
On another day, Norman goes in looking for the same refund (we're calling this one 'Norman' because it sounds like 'normal'). Once again, the shop-assistant informs Norman about the policy that makes that type of refund impossible. He enquires further, calmly speaks to the manager whom simply reinforces what the assistant said and everybody leaves a little dismayed, but no psychological-scarring.

That's what should happen, here's what's actually happening.

Dick yells and the world is his oyster! Take the fucking keys to the city, because he is God! He is Kong! And of course, the assistant is like 'sorry, sorry, sorry! Yes, you are the best.' They won’t only give him a refund, they'll give him refunds for shit that didn't even come from that company! Meanwhile, Norman wouldn't get the refund. Why? Because he didn't yell; the fool! That's his punishment. How dare he not frighten or humiliate anyone? The manager is like 'You know what, that fuckhead's not getting a refund if he's going to act that way!'
That's a pretty sad message. To a customer, what does that say to me? If I yell, I'll get whatever I want regardless of the rules? If I yell, they'll roll out the red carpet, but if I'm polite and calm, I'm only disadvantaging myself? How is that a thing?

That's why I chuckle now whenever somebody explains a rule to me or gives me some list of cans and cannots, because in this culture we've built, bosses wipe their asses with them everyday! I bet if I said 'Yeah, okay. Now show me the rules for customers that yell', they'd just tear up the rule book right in front of me, scream that there aren't any, rip off their shirt, run away while performing numbers from Annie and check themselves into the closest psychiatric ward! Rules are like a gay guy in Russia the moment a customer starts making a scene: means nothing
Also, in a culture of yelling, in which we are, you not only observe behavioural-dissent among customers, but among staff too. The message sent to customers that yelling is beneficial is two-pronged, because it also sends the message to staff that they're stupid for following the rules in the first place. Think about it. The staff are berated for saying 'No, this is the policy. No, no, it's written in stone'. But then their weak, piece of shit boss scurries out and makes them look and feel like insignificant pigs-asses by giving the customer the refund anyway! After a person has just been treated like a scratching-post, rallying on the side of a policy they were made to believe is iron-clad, for a superior to then rally against it is, in my opinion, the greatest and most humiliating token of disrespect.

To those that I'm talking about: that’s also a double-edged sword. It's not only to the detriment of your team in the short-term, it's to the detriment of your fellow customer servicemen. You remember them, don't you? You're fuckin' partners battling with you on the front line!

But it's very simple why shop assistants and bosses do this; there's no mystery here: it's in keeping with the 'get me through the day' attitude that I mentioned before. Giving an unruly customer what they want gets them away the fastest, while calling the bacon or security will take time and probably just make them angrier. That's why we hand the money over when we're being burgled, it's the 'get me through the day without being shot!' motto that us humans live by. So, they opt for the 'take what you want' solution, but it's not so much a solution than it is a big, selfish band-aid! By doing this, this customer learns two things: that this behaviour is tolerated and this behaviour is what works. So the next time they have some problem with a place, they'll pack their bag, load their yelling-shotgun and do the exact same thing. They could be back to the same store since it's now a sure-thing, and the boss will just have to give more to get rid. Then more and more people will catch on, and thus, a culture of yelling is born. Hell! Maybe us dudes can eventually get some sex out of this! "I will not leave this store unless your casual removes her fucking clothes" and of course the boss will be like "Why don't I just blow you instead? Will that be satisfactory?" Because you know, whatever gets them away the fastest.

Yelling is rewarded, manners are not, and that's really at odds with what my parents used to tell me. Whatever happened to kicking people out? Is that old-hat now or something? Can you even be old-fashioned at twenty-three? I don't think I know any other fashions.

Anyway, that brings me to my next point...

Culture of Synthetic-Apologies
Whenever I'm buying something and the assistant says the word 'sorry' to me, I'm like 'Egh! Bring me a fucking bucket!' Don't apologise to me if you don't mean it, or to anybody else for that matter. "Beep-boop-I'm-sorry-beep-boop", that's all I hear really. Mean the things you say, please! I think I'd prefer it if these people just stabbed me in the side of the neck with a pair of scissors! At least I'd know that it came from somewhere real!

You see, in a culture of yelling, you will always discover a sub-culture of synthetic-apologies. Try it out for yourself: one day soon, get a little stern with somebody serving you, someone who seems like they're spirit hasn't quite died yet, and they'll immediately start filling their underwear with the physical-embodiment of fear, and they'll then take it and start spewing it forth in copious amounts verbally to prevent any yelling to occur. Just a verbal-rainbow of perfunctory bullshit like 'sorry', 'my apologies' and 'I like this job'. Bleeerg! And people think that they aren't owned by anyone? Please!
Once I was in a store and I didn't realise that it was that time of the week when I should be selling my body for food, and the card machine read 'insufficient funds', and the girl apologised to me, and I thought to myself, 'Why the hell do you care, lady? Net banking never apologises to me! So if the web dun give a shit, then why would you!’
My question is: When a person starts saying 'sorry' for everything to everyone, all day, everyday, then what does that word mean in the end? To me, in this case the concept of an apology has gone from grief to prevention. From reactive to pre-emptive. When they go home at night and say sorry to their parents, husband, wives, kids, housemates, what sort of gesture is it if they've been saying it all day to people they'd sell for cigarettes? Nothing. It's like a hooker banging her husband.
I know that every time I say sorry to someone - a real sorry that you have to dig deep for - a weight gets lifted from my shoulders. It's like a B12 shot to my soul. But whenever I've said it even a little bit begrudgingly, which was beginning to happen at work, I'd feel like I'd need a shower, but not just any shower, the type of shower you have after going near a Japanese power plant!

For my own sanity, I'm starting to limit myself to only saying sorry to things that I'm sorry about, which as I write this I realise is basically nothing at a customer-service job. Also from now on, I'll breathe when I start to turn blue and blink when my eyes begin to crust over; just mentioning obvious things for humour, you see. I'll admit though, it's hard to abstain from the word completely, so I've replaced it with 'unfortunately', 'I'm afraid to say' and, for special occasions, 'I'm sorry to say'. Why? Because I refuse to become one of those people that just mechanically says shit, like a knee-jerk reaction. Yell, 'sorry!', yell, 'sorry!'. Like some puppet! Or a robot! Take your pick.

No, you know what, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that you feel that you have to tip toe around and choose your words carefully like we're living under Stalin! I'm sorry that somebody is yelling at you right now because either your weak-ass boss or every other boss not unlike yours was too much of a pussy - yeah that's right I said it! - pussy to do what was necessary and make a managerial decision! I'm sorry, but there will come a time when all of this over-tolerance and cock-massaging abolishes the weight that those of us in customer service put behind our rules and regulations, and it will be chaos. Unfortunately, the pony has to shit sometime, I'm sorry to say.

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