This is a shout out to everyone whose never worked in customer service. Having worked almost exclusively in retail and food service, it’s gotten really easy to spot you. You’re the person who’s sulking over there about not having the right nut butter, or tricolored quinoa, or $12 maca chocolate bar in stock. Or you’re the one complaining to me about the price of produce, or having to wait in line like I’m responsible for droughts that cause price fluctuation, or like I forced you to come shopping at two in the afternoon on a Sunday.
I understand that it’s inconvenient when you expected to only visit one store, but now you have to visit two. I know that paying for food is annoying. However, let me remind you that I am still a human being and not your verbal punching bag, friend, or therapist. I’m just at work, and unfortunately, part of my job is deflecting your micro (or major) aggressions. I am literally not allowed to defend myself, even when you are blatantly rude or hostile. I would be fired. If you hissed at me on the street that way you do at the cash register, believe me, I would let you know that you’ve overstepped your boundaries.
The expectation that people working in customer service put aside those boundaries is ridiculous. The labor that we do is not reflected in our wages, and for customers to treat us like we should be grateful for our jobs, or like we’re brand ambassadors, is unrealistic and unfair. I do enjoy my job, I adore my coworkers, and I like working with food. I even like assisting shoppers and making them feel good, but I don’t like when people assume that my entire identity is comprised of my work. I don’t like being guilt tripped for things not being the way that others expect, especially because I have absolutely zero say in how the company I work for is run.
At my last job, a woman threw her groceries at me while I was checking out someone else. I was called disgusting. I had dozens of women recommend teas, high fiber breads, and cleansing potions for weight loss. Plenty of people would talk down to me, with the assumption that folks who work in retail do so because they’re too stupid for “real jobs”. Plenty of men would call me inappropriate pet names, or talk about how I look, or antagonize me over my tattoos and facial piercing. I mean it when I say that it would happen every single day. That was just at a tiny health food store.
Consumers, please pay more attention to how you behave when you’re shopping. Please feel free to speak up when you see another customer abusing a worker. Be mindful. Realize when you’re speaking inappropriately to someone who is trapped, and who is forced to be nice to you because of the looming threat of losing their job.