workers are being forced to put up with truly awful behavior from the public

If you have the sense that we’re living in a ruder, more hostile world, you’re not alone. Some of that hostility has gotten a lot of attention—like the aggression directed toward flight attendants for enforcing mask mandates or the rise in assaults on health care workers—but what’s gotten less attention is that workers in nearly every sector say they’ve experienced a dramatic increase in abusive behavior from the public.

At Slate today, I wrote about the rise in rudeness from the public, and how it’s affecting the people whose job it is to deal with them. You can read it here.

{ 412 comments… read them below }

  1. Sloanicota*

    I feel terrible for people in customer facing roles having to deal with this. Beyond what the article identified, all of which resonated, I also think there’s a compounding frustration effect for consumers coming from the pinching of the pandemic – wait lines are longer, staff is less well trained or stretched too thin, supplies are short, customer support lines are not being answered, emails going unreturned, etc. This makes you more irritable by the time you finally reach someone who may in theory be able to help, and then is in fact a teenager who started yesterday (or even if they are great, you have several frustrating hours behind you before you got into their hands). I can only hope if we emerge from the pandemic and solve the supply line snarls … and inflation … and no other wars come up, maybe things can cool down …

    1. Loulou*

      Definitely, and staff are just as frustrated by the same factors that lead to poor customer service experiences! That’s what I was thinking about when I read this: “I literally had a customer yell at me that COVID had been going on for 18 months at that point and we should have figured this out by now.” That’s exactly what my coworkers and I were saying to each other when Omicron caused complete chaos for us AND our library patrons in the winter: how was there not a plan to deal with this already in place? Instead, we were changing policies on a daily basis, leading to a huge amount of stress for frontline staff (who are not the ones with the power to change these policies).

      1. Hopeful Ex Librarian*

        I do get the frustration of the public – but at the same time, like you said, I wish said public would realize that not all staff have the authority/power to change things like policies, and yelling at us doesn’t change that.

        1. All The Words*

          Of course the public realizes it. Some people just see customer facing staff as convenient targets for their general rage.

          1. Mockingjay*

            For anyone working in government agencies, unfortunately it’s the “My taxes pay your salary” mindset. People, paying taxes doesn’t make you the boss of every public servant. They do NOT have to do as you tell them.

            1. Highered Escapee*

              In my first library job, when I was a high school student, a fellow student used that line on me. My immediate and unapologetic response was, “And someday my tax dollars will pay for your prison cell.” This guy was a bully and didn’t know what to do with himself when he’s just been embarrassed by a nerd in front of a couple of his friends.

              Decades later and many service industry and customer facing jobs later, the attitude remains/has worsened, it’s just how I and my colleagues handle it that is different.

        2. Vio*

          it’s the same thing customer services staff have had to deal with even before the pandemic. something goes wrong, customers phone to complain and sadly a lot of them act as if the problem is the fault of the poor worker on the other end of the phone who’s paid minimum wage (or less in some cases!) and a stressful job dealing with people who rant and vent

          often there isn’t a specific person at fault but even when there is, it’s unlikely they’ll be the one taking any of the complaints

          1. nobadcats*

            Often the lot of customer service or retail. Nevermind how many times you held a gigantic diamond ring in your pocket for a customer who lost it. Nope, the cashier was always in the wrong.

            The customer is always right is probably the worst meme that ever happened.

            I remember the exact moment, when I was working for Waldenbooks, the customer didn’t like the Kitty Kelley Frank Sinatra biography she’d purchased. We cashiers were all, “nope, store policy is that we don’t do returns,” and then our manager came out of the back room and said, “Give her the credit.”

            This was in the late 80s. Nothing has been the same since then.

            1. nobadcats*

              Gigantic diamond ring is a true story. I was working at a European grocery, and the customer took off her ring in the washroom. I found it, put it in my pocket (actually, on my finger), and when they called an hour later, near closing time, I said, “Ma’am, I have your ring right here. It’s safe, we’re closing in half an hour, I’ll be here for you.” It took them an hour to drive back from the suburbs, but my boss and I sat around til they got there.

              Her husband pressed a $50 into my hand, $$ which I sorely needed. No one knew I had found the gaudy ring, but my grandma would’ve rolled over in her urn if I tried to turn it to my own advantage. And hey, I got to wear a gaudy diamond ring for a few hours. (Yeah, it wasn’t in my pocket and slipped of my finger but was secure. I’m not stupid, I trusted my hand more than my apron pockets.)

            2. nobadcats*

              When I worked in CS at a bank, I often likened it to, “your boss just shat on you, you got cut off in traffic, or whatever, but you need to feel some control, so you shat on someone below you.” Who better than a CSR? Frustration bleeds out on everyone, and it’s not ever fair. (And seriously, if you were talking to me, your account was seriously effed up, I was your Obi Wan.)

              If only we didn’t have this dynamic where customers and retail workers were constantly at odds. It’s endemic. “The customer is always right!” or “I’m a customer/taxpayer, I pay your wages to service me.”

              It’s like a lord vs serf situation.

          2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I feel like part of the problem (which is not one the customer service worker can solve) is that you really CAN’T contact the person or group actually responsible for the decision that’s frustrating you when you’re dealing with a large company. None of the people you are able to actually interact with have any say in policy, and the people who make decisions keep themselves well-insulated from actual customers. This leaves you with no actually-productive outlet for complaints.

            Most of my interactions with, say, Comcast, are legitimately terrible and frustrating! There are deliberate choices being made that make things worse, and I would like to complain vigorously at the person or person(s) responsible for them! I just can keep the needed level of separation required to understand that the person who decided to go with the Terrible Phone Tree That Doesn’t List My Problem is not the person in the wrong department who eventually picks up the phone when I fall off whatever branch of the Terrible Phone Tree after a great deal of my time has been wasted on hold. (I use this time spent on hold to check and see if the local municipal fiber is live in my neighborhood yet, usually. Sometime in the next five years, supposedly, I will be able to trade Comcast internet for a locally-run internet service that might possibly have an interest in behaving like a proper “this needs to work reliably” utility like water and power rather than something “optional” like television.)

            1. EugeneBaeLeaf*

              This THIS this THIS this this THIIIIIIIS ^ (this). As someone now out of the service industry long enough, what I want to say to front line workers at larger is like…can we all agree on a day where all you, ALL OF YOU (so you don’t alll get fired) step aside and motion backwards with your hands to the horrible senior level team that is making us miserable, and place the call on speaker phone, and excuse yourself from the room? Please let’s as a nation agree to remove the barriers that ineffectual, low empathy Vogons have placed between themselves and the consumers and have one 24 hour Karen moment.

              I think France did it once with guillotines and pitchforks but I’m just proposing lots of shouting down the phone line and over the counter.

              1. bryeny*

                I love this idea.

                Came here to say that a good deal of the frustration I have with the companies and agencies I deal with comes down to the poor quality of the automation they force customers to interact with. Many systems don’t allow for the possibility that customers will have questions that their Terrible Phone Tree doesn’t answer. I get that they’re trying to reduce costs and I do try to find answers to my questions on web sites and by walking the damn tree or talking to the damn robot.

                Once I’ve wasted time doing that, and often run into glitches in their system, I’m admittedly a bit cranky. So when I finally get a person on the phone, I almost always start by complaining about the failings of their website/phone tree/bot. I’m not rude about it, I always make it clear I’m not blaming the person on the phone, and I always ask them to pass my complaints up the chain to someone who can do something about them. But it can’t be fun to listen to complaints like that. And I suspect other customers get nasty about it.

                Tl;dr: we need to add bad customer service automation to the list of things that are making us hostile.

        3. Alexis Rosay*

          People realize it but don’t care. It’s what bullies always do—target people who have less power and can’t fight back.

        4. Aggresuko*

          No, but it makes the yeller feel better to take it out on someone who can’t fight back :/

      2. Sloanicota*

        Yes absolutely! The staff is just as frustrated that they’re out of things, don’t know the answers, or have long lines, and as ever it’s usually not the fault of the people who have to hear about it :(

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Here in NY libraries were instructed to write policies and procedures for whatever type of pandemic came next. This was a bit mind-bending, how does one figure out the talking points about a pandemic that is UNknown.
        We used covid guidelines to start to think about this. As many of the points would transfer well to a new situation. Did we write something comprehensive, heck NO. We can’t know what it is we don’t know. The policy is calendarized for periodic reviews and updates.

        I wonder why the customer did not figure out their own personal plan by now./s Can’t say that though. Can the patron be encouraged to speak to the director or to a board member? This is actually a board level question.

        1. Jora Malli*

          I’m in libraries, and I think there are ways that a future pandemic plan could be useful even if you don’t know the particulars of what the illness is or how it spreads. Things like, what is the minimum number of staff required in the building in order for us to open to the public? What steps should the person in charge follow on a day when so many people are sick that we don’t have that minimum staff number? Are we pulling people from other locations, or are we closing the building? Are there other delivery options for services that we can create and have on standby to activate them when we need them? As customer interactions become more volitile, what options are available to us in terms of hiring and training security staff?

          And honestly, most importantly, how will administration/higher management be a part of implementing these procedures? I recently left my job at a library system where management staff were working from home or from their staff-only offices, and when there were staffing shortages and branches were hurting, those upper management leaders were not volunteering to fill the gap. They were leaving staff to fend for themselves and sending out periodic emails about how hard we’re all working and how much that’s appreciated. And that didn’t cut it for me, so I left. Now I’m in a library system where region managers and deputy directors are willing to go out to the branches and work at the service desks when we’re short staffed. It makes a whole world of difference.

          Like, yes, customers are still yelling at me for things I have no control of (I am not remote-control driving the delivery truck that’s carrying the DVD this person wants to check out, it’s going to get here when it gets here and I can’t change that), but my boss’s boss’s boss is here in the trenches with me seeing what’s happening and trying to make plans to protect us.

          1. Loulou*

            The type of stuff you’re talking about is exactly what my library (or at least my location, not sure about other branches) seemingly had NOT thought about before the omicron surge, to our great detriment. I think now we have a workable service plan that we can use in the future, though hopefully we won’t have to…but man, it would have been nice not to come up with it all on the fly.

          2. MarsJenkar*

            Eisenhower had a phrase regarding military planning, which I think applies just as well to many types of emergency planning: “*Plans* are useless. *Planning* is indispensible.”

      4. Lora*

        I and many of my colleagues have the same question for some of the C-levels who seem to believe in their heart of hearts that All This (staff out sick with Covid, staff exposed to Covid and needing to quarantine, majority of staff working from home, SUPPLY CHAIN CHAOS BANANAS, inflation, power outages, all of the past 2.5 years, even I think pre-Covid tariffs) is just a passing fancy and any day now it’s going to be 2016 again. Every constraint on what they want to do that didn’t exist prior to 2016, they imagine is somehow…in time, never specified how much time, but in time…going to vanish. We’ll get reasonable politicians who understand the importance of Free Trade again, China will promptly jump back to manufacturing all our stuff, no business timeline will ever be affected by “our one permit-approving guy is out with Covid and we don’t know when he’ll be back,” and they’ll be able to hire loads of qualified people willing to work in-person for $25/hour. They really, really seem to believe in their wistful little souls that this is all just temporary and any day it will be The Good Old Days again. So no, they haven’t made any contingency plans, and they sometimes get angry when those of us in charge of operations (e.g., me) insist that we better have some backup plans and different vendors in place, and stick with vendors who will not be affected by port shutdowns / backups even if they’re more expensive, because the risk of time lost is worth more than a 10% upcharge.

        It’s not an age thing either, I’m post menopause and old enough that no wrinkle cream can help me now, and I see plenty of people much younger than me wishing for the Days Of Yore when we all went about with our naked faces hanging out and when folk could wander the earth freely with no regard to monkeypox. It’s more about adaptability and low expectations.

      5. Cj*

        18 months into the pandemic, Omicron wasn’t around yet, and fewer people had breakthrough infections. This company might have been able to head off having 75% of their workforce out with covid at one time by requiring vaccines.

    2. MusicWithRocksIn*

      In my area the biggest problems seem to be all wrapped up in staffing shortages. Every place I go seems to be moderately to severely understaffed, which leads to super long wait times. I’ve kind of given up on the restaurant experience for now because every time I’ve tried to go out post-pandemic the waitstaff was so overworked it was a miserable experience for us both. Though, the fact that they are so visibly understaffed helps me be compassionate when in pre-covid times I might have complained at the same service. Clearly it’s not mismanagement, there is just nothing that they can do if they don’t have enough people. Even when I’m rolling with frustration I try to be extra extra nice, just because I can see with my own eyes how bad things are. But it’s not something that can be fixed easily, in some ways the market is going to need to re-work itself. Maybe now is even the time to move away from tipping as the primary source of income for waitstaff.

      1. missy*

        I was talking to a friend who works at a restaurant and one huge issue they have is that corporate has started operating multiple “ghost kitchens” from their location. So, you order “Buddy’s Wings” thinking its a new restaurant but it is just the big chain operating the ghost kitchen. The chain now has way more orders they are making in the kitchen, which places delays on the food made for patrons in the restaurant (because corporate has placed priority on these ghost kitchen orders). The wait staff are getting angry customers and less tips. The kitchen staff are overworked and exhausted. Corporate is making more money, I guess. It was doable when people were eating out less but now people are back in restaurants and the corporate doesn’t want to abandon these revenue streams.

        And after everything everyone has been through over the last 2 years, it is understandable that wait staff just leaves for other jobs. And kitchen staff. Which just makes the whole thing worse because now new people are coming in and don’t have as much experience.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Wait — I’m going to explain this to myself like I’m five years old to see if I understand:

          So workers are employed in the kitchen of Local Restaurant where they are cooking for their physically present customers.

          Meanwhile, orders for multiple other shell restaurants are coming in online, and they have to cook and prep those, too? For take-out?

          So they and their in-house customers are SOL while the kitchen is slammed by these extraneous orders?

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Yes. This was workable during lockdown periods but is now creating aThe logic is that it costs money to open and operate the kitchen (utilities, staff wages etc) so if Buddy’s Wings didn’t receive enough orders they would actively lose money. However, if the same kitchen was also taking orders for Pete’s Pizza and Jake’s Burgers, it becomes more economical. This obviously worked best during lockdown periods when there were no customers physically present, and continuing now that they’re also trying to operate an actual sit-in restaurant leads to exactly the situation you describe.

            There are also ghost kitchens that are literally just kitchens operating out of industrial units (sometimes with many different brands using the same facilities), no restaurant attached at all. You might open up Deliveroo and place an order from Wagamama (for example, idk if they actually use ghost kitchens) but if they’re doing this then your meal isn’t prepared in any actual restaurant, it’s coming from one of these big units that exist purely for the delivery market. These have been around for a while and are also called dark kitchens. They’re quite an interesting and I think probably inevitable evolution of the market in response to food delivery services, but I think people often find it a bit unsettling to realise that their food is coming from a “restaurant” that doesn’t exist!

            1. Eff Walsingham*

              This phenomenon was highlighted pre-pandemic in the market where I live, because of A Rat. Said rodent achieved posthumous internet fame, and the resulting kitchen inspection shut down multiple local eateries, most of whose customers thought that they were eating food prepared on the premises where it was ordered. It led to a sort of “when is a restaurant not a restaurant?” debate in the media. Proprietors got publicly defensive, and I think two “restaurants” closed in the aftermath. Everyone knows restaurants run on very tight margins, but many patrons don’t like the thought of their fancy grub coming from the Secret Rat Kitchen. Personally, I like diners where you can see into the kitchen. “Order up!”

      2. Random Biter*

        One of the things I’ve noticed (and I roll my eyes A LOT) is that it seems like the same people who piss and moan about restaurant staff (“My order is taking forever.” “Little Snotnose has dropped his spoon for the umpteenth time and you haven’t immediately brought another.” “What do you mean the wait is an hour long?!” and on and on and on) seem to be the very same people who wonder (loud, long and nasty) about how no one wants to work anymore and why are there only 2 servers and where’s my food? Oh…and the tip? “Why should I have to subsidize your staff?!” And you have to know they’ll also be the first to whinge when prices go up at their favorite restaurant to make up for that lack of tipping (which, yes, should be abolished) and no one wants the job. Anyone who thinks waiting tables is a no-brainer is a freaking moron. I firmly believe everyone should have to work in some forward facing job (retail, restaurant, call center) for a year. /rant Yes, I was a server for many a year.

        1. Jellyfish*

          Recently I was waiting in a shop, and another customer asked about a worker who used to be there. The person at the desk said Former Employee quit because he got a better paying job elsewhere, and then they proceeded into a long rant about how people don’t want to work anymore.

          Um. Former Employee is still working. He didn’t quit to sit at home and play video games all day. It was a rather surreal moment for me, although I didn’t say anything. I think “doesn’t want to work” really equates to “won’t put up with my shit anymore” for a lot of people lacking in self awareness.

          1. Zephy*

            The dining staff all walked out en masse at the hospital my husband is interning at. He was telling his grandma about it and she started in with that “nobody wants to work” BS and I could not stop myself from saying “no one wants to work for what the hospital wants to pay. Everyone deserves a living wage.”

            1. Just Another Cog*

              I have a well-off relative who has been spouting this “no one wants to work anymore” shit for the last year or so. Also, said relative is a fairly liberal boomer. Perplexing.

              1. Overit*

                It is because they have been inconvenienced ny lack of staff somewhere. Principles mean nothing when one is inconvenienced in a customer service situation. Ask any retail or food service worker about the principles displayed after Sunday church ny “good church-going” people (as they will describe themselves while screaming at you) when they have to wait for somwrhing.

                1. tessa*

                  For me, one too many days suffering the mean-spirited after-church screechers drove me to the phone that very day to request a course catalog (pre-Internet) from a local liberal arts college.

                  I have never looked back, and tip very well.

        2. Artemesia*

          I worked retail, as a waiter and in an institution for seriously mentally disabled people while I was in college. And yeah — working jobs like that really does give you a perspective on the world of work that makes you more sensitive to how other people live. I also taught school for a few years before grad school — and no harder job exists than teaching 6 classes a day of hs students with no time to go to the bathroom, no private place to make a phone call to your gynecologist (pre-cell phone) and endless evenings and weekends of prep work and grading on a salary that means sad polyester and a car that may or may not start.

          Once you do retail or wait tables, you just cannot see the people who do that as appropriate targets for abuse.

        3. That One Person*

          I do feel like this should be a thing. Working retail definitely made me appreciate how much work goes into making something look good as well as stocking and the various scenarios of why you might not be able to find the “1” item supposedly stocked at a store (be it theft, misplacement, currently waiting to be put back, on hold, update delay after it was purchased, etc). The backroom also isn’t so mystical as some might lead a person to believe. It might not solve everything, but I do feel like it’d give more people an appreciation of the service jobs and subsequent frustrations – at least in part because it takes out some of the mystery of why things aren’t going perfectly.

      3. D*

        Well, the problem is we aren’t post-pandemic yet and people are still getting sick constantly.

        1. superduperhoopla*

          Many are getting voluntarily sick by refusing to be vaccinated or wear masks. These are often the same people who throw the biggest fits in public settings.

          1. Cj*

            That is true about many people that are getting sick, especially seriously ill. But now with omicron, there are a ton of breakthrough infections.

            Once vaccines were available, it used to be rare on this website for a commenter to post that they have covid. But it seems like I see more and more posts that people have tested positive. Granted, that’s still lots of times due to other people’s stupidity, like Alison’s post this morning about a co-worker that came to the office knowing they were infected.

            1. whingedrinking*

              It’s also a result of policy changes in some places. For example, a friend of mine recently came down with covid – bad enough to be actually sick, not just a positive test – and her husband has a public-facing job and can’t drive, so he has to take transit to work. His job would not allow him to take sick leave or WFH because he’s vaccinated, had no symptoms, and did not test positive.

              1. Aggretsuko*

                Yeah, I still had to come into the office despite being exposed recently. Same logic.

            2. April*

              I’m triple-vaccinated along with my partner, and we’re both home with Covid.

              95% sure I caught it at work (where masks have become optional, I was still wearing mine but have to eat and drink at some point) and gave it to my partner.

              (I’m feeling mostly better but still testing positive even after finishing a round of Paxlovid. Sigh.)

      4. TheRain'sSmallHands*

        We reinstituted date night and go out to dinner once, sometimes twice, a week. We know several of the restauranteurs in town, who are eager for the business….and we are having no problems with staffing. Staffing is ample, food comes promptly and is good, we’ve seen no bad behavior from the clientele. But I don’t think the restauranteurs we know would tolerate bad behavior, I suspect the patrons in the places we go tip well, and most pay a living wage – several have used the Minnesota Statute that automatically adds to the bill (it isn’t a tip as this article explains) We aren’t dining at places like TGI Fridays.

    3. Wintermute*

      for sure. COMPANIES are treating customers far, far worse, unfortunately that ends up with reasonable frustration being directed unreasonable ways at employees.

      1. bookworm*

        Exactly. It is so frustrating that there’s no way to actually get feedback to the real decisionmakers in companies or get any kind of human acknowledgement or explanation of why something is the way it is. That’s no excuse to take frustration out on employees who in all likelihood don’t have any more ability to provide feedback or get explanations than customers do, but it does help explain why it’s happening with such frequency these days.

    4. anonymous73*

      Is it frustrating…yes. Do I take that frustration out on innocent employees…no.

      1. Artemesia*

        One of the first things I do when I am dealing with incompetent service e.g. the appliance repair has made the third trip without fixing the problem, or the reservation is hopelessly screwed up (just had to make my fourth attempt to get an airline to remove the ‘unaccompanied minor’ designation from my reservation so I could check in on line)—- One of the first things I do, is tell the person I am dealing with that I know they didn’t create the problem, but I sure could use their help fixing it.

        I know lots of people like to abuse people making sales calls — but again awful as these things are, these are poor shlubs trying to make minimum wage not the evil business owners running the scam.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          “One of the first things I do, is tell the person I am dealing with that I know they didn’t create the problem, but I sure could use their help fixing it.”

          I got a variant of this the other day while subbing in at the scheduling desk, and thank you so much for this comment. Scheduling isn’t my normal duty station (medical records is), so it helps me to know your call may be a bit more complex/involved and let’s me be proactive in reaching out to get you help if I can’t fix what is wrong.

    5. Koalafied*

      Yes. It absolutely does not excuse rude behavior, but I’ve definitely experienced a major uptick over the past two years in how often I have to contact customer service, especially how often I have to make phone calls because there’s no online option for redress of the particular issue I have. It’s absolutely frustrating to me how often I find myself having to call and sit on hold for long periods of time just to get a business to correct something they should have done right in the first place. I’m still polite to everyone I speak to and don’t think agents are asking too much when they ask for basic respectful treatment. But I do think this partly explains the shift, even though it doesn’t justify it.

          1. Cj*

            They do not. You get a recording that says due to high call volume they are currently unable to take your call, and to please try again later. Sometimes you get this message right away, and sometimes it’s after you’ve been on hold for an hour or two.

            The rare times I’ve even been able to get a phone tree to select what I’m calling about, nine times out of 10 I get a recording saying no one handles that topic any longer, and you are referred to their website. Where I looked before I ever tried to call in the first place, and the answer is not there.

            If you send them a letter, in 60 days you get a letter saying that they will respond within 60 days. At which point you get another letter saying they will respond in 60 days. And so on to infinity.

            And no, the IRS isn’t after me. I’m a CPA.

          2. RabbitRabbit*

            No, they absolutely do. You may have to hit redial a lot – due to hitting some ‘high volume/unable to help right now please call back’ bottlenecks – but they are answering the phones and if you keep trying, you will get through.

            I accidentally paid my federal tax payment twice this year (ugh), having forgotten about setting up an automatic payment for 4/15 much earlier this year when I had my taxes prepared. When the second deduction auto-withdrew from my account that day, I called in and unfortunately since it was still pending in my account they couldn’t do anything.

            Waited three weeks because they have a hodgepodge of antiquated systems to work with, and when I got through that time, I was told that (after several systems checks by the agent and maximum 6 minute holds for her to be able to work on the lookup before being required to check back on me, by their own metrics apparently) the double-payment had been identified and it looked like a refund of some kind, electronic or paper, was in process, and I should check back if I haven’t seen it by the end of the first week of June.

            They are insanely busy, but they are working.

        1. Double A*

          Well, there is DELIBERATE underfunding of the IRS in order to sabotage it. Part of the sabatage is to make people hate the IRS more and blame it for doing a bad job, while the people who cause it to do a bad job suffer no consequences.

          1. nonegiven*

            More funding would allow them to go after more complicated cases owing more money. Now they can only do the bare minimum, low hanging fruit, which they were already 2-3 years behind on.

      1. Raboot*

        > It’s absolutely frustrating to me how often I find myself having to call and sit on hold for long periods of time just to get a business to correct something they should have done right in the first place.

        Yes and also in my case, there’s multiple sagas of sitting on hold until I finally get a person, and then having to do it again and again because the answers I get are not true and the timelines they say don’t materialize. Incredibly frustrating. Maybe it’s because of turnover, but as a consumer I’ve still gotten to the point of not believing anything I hear from a phone rep unless they’re willing to send me written confirmation because of multiple experiences with multiple companies in just the past few months.

        1. Koalafied*

          Yes, it’s never just one interaction. It’s having to proactively follow up a week later because the thing they said they were going to do never happened, and then having to follow up again a week after that because nobody returned your first follow-up call/email, and then finally getting a completely unhelpful response and having to fight again… a few months ago I had a brand new product die within a week of buying it. It had a manufacturer warranty and it took about 2 months and 12 or 13 emails, including weeks that would go by with no response to my emails, and at one point them sending me a confirmation email for a replacement being shipped to me, which included a link to track my order on their website that was actually broken, and two weeks later when I still hadn’t gotten the replacement and wrote back again to see when I could expect it, they told me the order had been canceled because the item was out of stock – they apparently didn’t see a need to notify me that it was canceled or put in an order for a different replacement instead.

          This happened back in January and I finally got the replacement delivered in March. Funny enough, just last week – in MAY – I received an email notifying me that the original replacement order had been canceled.

          And I’ve had a million experiences like that over the past two years. Something that you’d think would be a simple enough request to handle just requiring me to constantly check in and follow up proactively because if I don’t there’s a good chance it will just slip through the cracks and never get taken care of at all.

      2. Artemesia*

        spent over an hour on hold for United Airlines tonight to fix a problem I have tried to fix AT the airport 3 separate times but had to get done finally today. they always start these drills with ‘we are experiencing unusually heavy calling so it may take awhile’ — but we know this isn’t true. The fact is they have decided to automate everything and if you can’t do it on line then they are not staffed to help you in a timely fashion by phone. It is unusually heavy, it is calculatively understaffed.

        1. Pennyworth*

          I don’t know if this would be helpful another time, but I find that if I am getting no help by following the prompts to where I need to get to in the automated system I will try for something that will get me to a human, fast. In the case of my internet provider, which generally uses call centers in Asia, ”sales” gets me through immediately to someone here and they are always helpful.

    6. FrenchCusser*

      Which, to me, just underlines how privileged we’ve been.

      We’ve had it awfully good up until a couple of years ago. We really need to stop being so, ‘gimme, gimme’ and remember that the people we meet are more important than our stuff.

      1. Raboot*

        Actually when I’m calling about a medical invoice or a brokerage account or my cable bill, I don’t care about the person on the other end as much as I do about my problem. I’m not going to yell at them but neither am I going to try to make friends. I have a problem and only they can fix it. “People are more important than our stuff” is a weird angle for customer service interactions. There is nothing “gimme gimme” about wanting products and services to work correctly. Just because something isn’t the rep’s fault doesn’t mean it’s the caller’s fault for expecting better from the provider.

          1. Malarkey01*

            I think this is the disconnect though. Expecting things you buy or pay for to work isn’t “gimmie gimmie”, and politely and professionally seeking help is not disrespecting people.

            I think that’s the frustration. Absolutely no one should be yelling or rude to employees but absolutely no one should be told they are entitled when they expect a product or service to work assuming and being unhappy when they have to put forward extreme effort to get it fixed assuming they are providing some grace for “the world”.

    7. Jackie*

      Yes, staff everywhere seem to be very poorly trained. It’s like at least half of the professional interactions I’ve had with humans in the past 2 weeks (instead of say a bot or online shopping – which works much better than people at this point)- asking some document to be updated by a government office (they sent it back to the completely wrong address), scheduling a garden service (person couldn’t get the calendar dates right), getting a hotel room (room not ready 1h after checkin, getting moved to the wrong room twice). Seriously, customer service everywhere has definitely gotten much worse. No justification for yelling, but it’s not JUST that people are angrier in general. General competence of service people has gone down, it does feel like insufficient training.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I wonder if that has to do with the higher expectations for employees in the past decade – companies have cut down on workplace training as they’ve instituted higher and higher bars to hire (needing a college degree and 3-5 years experience for an entry level job, for example). Now that the labor pool has tightened and companies are having a harder time hiring and retaining their best workers, their choices are either to not hire and force the rest of the staff to try to cover the gaps, or hire less-trained employees but without the infrastructure of on-the-job training they need to be successful.

        1. pope suburban*

          Honestly, I’ve been wondering what the game plan was without training since well before covid. My whole working life, on-the-job training has been thin on the ground, and certainly can’t compare to what I’ve heard from people my parents’ age. I’m sure that people are just as capable of learning as they’ve ever been, but when no employers are investing in you, and the cost of trying to do it yourself (Which is shockingly wrong; this is something an employer 100% should pay for) is prohibitive even if the training program can be accessed as an individual, you just end up going without training. Eventually, that’s got to collapse, and I think we’re starting to see how bad an idea that is.

          1. whingedrinking*

            I worked briefly at a government-run liquor store, and it really highlighted for me how frustrating it is to be told that there’s no reason why retail employees need to be in a union and that government employees are all overpaid anyway. I had coworkers who had been there for years and knew everything about every product on the shelf. Shipments were broken down and shelves stocked like clockwork. Training was scheduled and administered regularly. My hiring paperwork may have felt like overkill, but my employer was damn determined to make sure I couldn’t claim I hadn’t been informed about anything important. And while there are many things one can say about my province’s government, they have a province-wide liquor distribution network that runs like a well-oiled machine.
            When I compare this with environments I’ve worked in as a private educator – good god, there have been places where I was recommended by a friend and had a phone call with an administrator. Two days later I would get some whiteboard markers and a photocopy of something calling itself a curriculum and vague reassurances that I would be able to sort things out.

      2. Artemesia*

        I am in a foreign country and just tried to book a cab for tomorrow which I have done many times with this same service. The staffer was so ditzy that I actually wondered if I might have called a pizza place by mistake and she was just pretending to take my order. I actually called back later to make sure I had something booked.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I’ve had reps on the phone who, after a bit of back-and-forth, I can tell that they aren’t able to help with my problem. Waiting a little while and getting in queue for a different rep has usually helped. I love when I get one who, after I succinctly describe my problem and the steps previously taken, is like — Aha! I know exactly what the problem is! And they either know how to fix it or they hand you off to exactly the right person

    8. ReTales Galore!*

      I work in a pharmacy on the retail end, and it’s absolutely insane how some people come in and behave toward me and my coworkers. I’ve had people yell at me because I ask for ID and they don’t have it with them, complain and swear because an item or two isn’t on sale or they refuse to accept that they misread the tag for it, get annoyed with me personally because we’re out of some items due to supply chain constraints, and overall demand everything from me and my coworkers when we can’t control everything. It feels like these past two years have caused a mass regression in social skills, kindness, and empathy, and I really want to ask people like this if it solves their issues or genuinely makes them feel better to scream at and unleash all their anger on a poor 19-year-old retail employee.

  2. Just another queer reader*

    I’d be curious to hear what businesses and managers can do about this. Certainly making sure they’re staffed adequately; what else is your business doing?

    1. Healthcare Manager*

      I work in Healthcare and thankfully supported to be positive role models and lead by example.

      So if someone is aggressive or abusive then all staff have the go ahead to terminate the communication. When people don’t get what they want, they change their behaviour.

      This behaviour cannot be rewarded.

      Empowering staff to do this and them knowing management have their back, really helps.

    2. Wintermute*

      a few things– first empowering staff (if legally possible, it isn’t always) to terminate calls with aggressive customers and having a uniform policy that all staff are expected to enforce. Frame it as “training the customer”, it is not a “if they use abusive language and you can’t handle it because you’re weak you can cut them off” but as “if they start to use abusive language to protect you, the company and your coworkers we EXPECT you to cut them off.” For physical locations getting real used to using your power to trespass people from the property and not being afraid to have someone remvoed by police if they won’t behave themselves.

      On top of that, it’s about setting a culture of support: fire problem customers if you legally can, let staff know you will support them if they file criminal complaints with whatever you can (whether that’s voluntarily providing CCTV, providing a witness statement or allowing them time off to testify in court if charges are filed).

      But support can come in lesser ways too, especially if you’re not high enough in the organization to make those other decisions, including bending metrics as much as you can to allow people time to decompress and recover from stressful interactions, having a policy where as a manager you will step in to handle problem customers or hostile interactions, and taking any steps you can to make sure people can realistically use their PTO and get downtime.

      1. Telecom anon*

        This! This! This!

        If you don’t fire abusive customers, or let your team hang up after abusive customers, you’re teaching that this is acceptable

        1. Lydia*

          100% this. I worked for a company that would absolutely not give our customer service/call center folk the power to hang up on abusive callers. Luckily, the screamers wouldn’t call in often, but when they did, I wished the people working would just hang up from the call.

        2. Elizabeth Bennett*

          When I lived in Abu Dhabi, UAE, 20 years ago, rude behavior was simply not tolerated in public. If you raised your voice or yelled or insulted, whomever was serving you could cut you off and their manager would back them up. I overheard a waitress get yelled at because a customer received the wrong drink, or something where the customer was super impatient, and the manager went to their table and escorted them out. It was glorious to see!

          1. pancakes*

            This doesn’t sound glorious to me, knowing how workers are treated there. The European Parliament called for a boycott of the last Expo in the UAE on account of its “inhumane practices against foreign workers.”

            1. Wintermute*

              It’s a mixed bag, the UAE is hardly a paragon for worker’s rights, and it’s quite easy to land yourself in something akin to indentured servitude, not to mention the fact becoming unemployed can lead to being deported, BUT that doesn’t mean they don’t get anything right ever.

              There is a different culture of treatment of hospitality staff, and that part can be commendable even while they treat construction workers and physical laborers deplorably.

              1. pancakes*

                I haven’t worked there myself and don’t intend to, but my understanding is that the hospitality sector is notably brutal as well. There’s a recent report out on it from this org:

                “The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) invited 17 hotel companies, representing 68 hotel brands with more than 200 properties across Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, to participate in a survey on their approach to safeguarding migrant workers’ rights in these countries. Seven
                of the 17 companies responded: Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), Marriott, Radisson, and Whitbread. This briefing analyses their responses, along with all 17 companies’ publicly available human rights and labour rights policies, and compares it to testimony from migrants working in the hotel sector in Qatar and the UAE. It reveals a stark contrast between hotel chains’ public commitments and policies and how these are enforced on the ground.”

                Their findings were not good. And consistent with everything else I’ve read on the subject.

            2. Batgirl*

              Poor policies and practices towards workers doesn’t necessarily mean they tolerate rudeness from the customers though. Even if they generally do, this one instance is quite glorious.

              1. pancakes*

                It seems paternalistic to me in context, but reasonable minds can disagree on this one.

                1. Batgirl*

                  Oh now I see where you’re coming from; no I just read it simply as an incident insisting on manners was glorious.

                2. pancakes*

                  My understanding is that a lot of the time, the employers hold the passports of workers. Shooing away openly hostile customers is the least they can do if they’re keeping them captive.

      2. Nameless in Customer Service*

        This is my dream, though I increasingly despair of seeing it in reality. Just knowing my supervisor would do something besides punish me for cutting off an abusive customer would go such a long way.

        1. anon e mouse*

          At my first job (convenience store/gas station) ~20 years ago, there was a woman who was SURE we had shortchanged her. She didn’t notice until after she had left and came back later to complain. There was no way to know for sure, but the drawer was correct, so my manager took my coworker’s side and refused to give her the $10. That really stuck with me, even at 17 or however old I was.

      3. Anon for this*

        It can be hard if the local police won’t/can’t enforce the no trespass order. My son works at McDonalds and the abuse the employees get there is breathtaking. They call the police and the police won’t do anything.
        High school students (both male and female) go into the bathrooms and smear feces all over the walls.
        And we are in a supposedly “nice” area.

        1. Jora Malli*

          In the last six months there have been a handful of times when we’ve called the police to have an abusive customer removed from the building. I can think of one instance when they actually showed up, and even then it was three hours after the event we called them about. And I’m in another department of the same city government! I can’t imagine how much harder it must be for retail and food service.

      4. SadieMae*

        In my 20s I worked at a call center where we were never, ever allowed to hang up on anybody. One guy would call routinely and yell at us and call us names when we wouldn’t give him refunds against company policy. I truly think he just wanted to take out his general anger on someone and knew we would be a captive audience.

        One day he called and leveled at me not only the “b” word (as per usual) but the “c” word. And I was furious, but I couldn’t say anything back. I was so mad, I was clenching my jaw and the blood was rushing in my ears. Then I fainted. Literally fainted. Slid out of my chair onto the floor. He thought I’d hung up on him, so he called back and got escalated to my manager (and then yelled at her about how unprofessional it was for me to hang up on him). Meanwhile I woke up on the floor with concerned coworkers huddled around me.

        It turned out I was a few weeks pregnant and didn’t know it yet – hence the fainting! Interestingly, during the rest of the time I worked there, he was somewhat more restrained with me on the phone (even though I never told him what had really happened). Maybe he figured I would hang up on him again if he cussed? I don’t know…

    3. Art3mis*

      I agree with the others, fire customers where possible, allow reps to hang up on, escort out, etc. abusive customers. Managers need to back up the front line workers. The customer is NOT always right, never has been. Employers and managers need to not cowtow to abusive customers when the employee is out of earshot just to keep a customer happy when they are being jerks. Abusive customers are not worth it.
      Additionally, I’d say as the public, if we see this kind of behavior from other people, tell them to knock it off.

    4. HannahS*

      I’m a healthcare worker, and it’s different depending on the situation:
      1. De-escalating the situation, getting support from someone higher in the hierarchy.
      2. Not rewarding the behaviour. Just because someone yells doesn’t mean they get attention sooner.
      3. Limiting who cares for them; we might only send in one more senior person, to keep trainees safer.
      4. We might call hospital security just to have them present; sometimes that helps people realize how unreasonable they’re being, and our security guards have a lot of training in de-escalation.
      5. If someone is not experiencing a medical emergency, we might just ask them to leave and have security escort them out. No one likes it and it feels pretty awful to do it, but safety is priority one.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        As a companion to this the hospital system I work for has additional things that can be done for the patients we can’t fire (for various health related reasons)*.
        – mandating that you can only be seen in the main campus offices, and not at a satellite office
        – requiring a “ticket to ride” be obtained from the main campus security office before coming in for medical appointments.
        -requiring escort from the security office when you are on campus for medical appointments
        -mandatory switch to tele-health visits only (I’ve only seen this done once)

        *all of this goes out of the window for emergency situations, then you get the care you need until you reach the point of stability, then the normal rules apply to you again.

    5. Library Lady*

      I’m a mid level manager at a public library – we’re doing training with staff on deescalation techniques, as well as empowering them to end abusive conversations with patrons in multiple ways. The last part is the hardest – there’s a LOT of unlearning to do that allows you to set boundaries with patrons. I’ve told staff explicitly multiple times over the 3+ years I’ve been here that I never expect them to put up with abusive behavior, and I’ve led multiple training sessions/discussions with staff on this topic, but some staff still don’t feel like they have permission to tell a patron when their behavior is out of bounds. So the training continues.

      One of my staff came to me recently about a rude patron because she was afraid she may have had a rushed tone of voice that set him off bc she was in the middle
      of like 3 different things, and even though I wasn’t there for the interaction, I told her, “You always provide great service. It doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong. That guy was just being a d*ck.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. It comes from the top down. Boards/upper management have to draw the line and support employees when the line is crossed. It helps to articulate what is not acceptable- swearing at a person, raised voice and other behaviors can actually be named and are well-recognized.

        In a town around here, certain people were recognized as being difficult. One by one, most businesses banned these people because they were reliably difficult. My own boss (company owner) told one person, “We will ring you up for whatever you want. We will NOT wait on you or serve you in anyway. Bring your selections to the register and we will accept your payment.” Another person had a widely familiar name in my area. The mere mention of this second person’s name brought out STORIES. I got off easy- she only told me, “You are a lowly blue collar worker, how dare you speak to me like that!” I had asked her to move her car closer to the items she purchased and I would load her car for her. This was back in the 80s.
        I learned a lot from that boss/owner about what business people could actually do.

    6. Tuna Casserole*

      At the beginning of the lockdowns, my boss had the whole library staff take a course on ZOOM about how to handle difficult people. It really did help a lot. We now have tools to de-escalate and re-direct anger. We still have to ban people occasionally.

    7. Ursula*

      This is almost entirely the fault of businesses and managers. They’re been purposefully understaffing and underpaying for decades. They over-promise to customers and let the blowback fall on line workers who they refuse to empower to actually fix problems.

      Businesses need to respect their employees and treat (and pay) them well, empower them to be able to solve problems and kick people out who are being disrespectful. Stop promising things that are hard to deliver, like short delivery times, and actually make it up to customers instead of screwing them over. Actually make tough decisions – if you don’t have enough people to get projects done, stop taking projects! Businesses take every opportunity to screw both employees and customers over that they can, and that behavior has finally created a breaking point for people.

      1. Artemesia*

        One thing that can happen with this training is that poorly functioning employees can then frame perfectly reasonable frustration as abusive when it is frustration with their incompetence. All complaints are not abusive — sometimes better customer service is the answer.

        1. MustardPillow*

          Sure, and that’s the responsibility of the management to hire the right people and provide the right training. If they don’t want to do that, then they can deal with the consequences of a person framing frustration as abuse rather than punish those who can differentiate between abuse and frustrations and create a lazy blanket policy of no disconnects.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I think the “stop promising things” is key in so many areas. If you can’t hire enough staff to run your restaurant as-is without long wait times, simplify the menu so that the kitchen can get orders for the remaining items out quicker, or seat fewer tables, or cut off online orders once things get to a certain point of backed-up, or otherwise adjust how you’re running your business to reflect the current reality rather than just shrug when you can’t get enough workers to actually staff things as you used to. Don’t just keep promising the old experience to each customer that comes in and let them sit there and get crankier and crankier when you can’t deliver it. This may mean actually re-configuring things, investing money in changing things around on the backend, and accepting that next month is probably also going to look like this and you shouldn’t bet that it’ll look like it used to six months from now either.

      3. Avid Knitter*

        I work in a health care clinic. I’ve gotten yelled at about the mask mandate. I’ve been called some vary rude words for enforcing the mask mandate. I had to file a patient behavior report for being called a N*zi. First time in 8 years I’ve had to file a report. Had another patient blow a gasket when I told him we couldn’t provide the exact product he wanted. (This is the equivalent of a person demanding a Coke and I keep repeating we have Pepsi products.) Yes, what you want is made, no we don’t carry it. I’d just gotten a call that my dad, who’s in hospice, was in the beginning stages of kidney failure and husband had also called to tell me he had Covid symptoms and was going for a test. This could affect my ability to be at work, understandable, ours kid’s ability to go to prom, also understandable, and my ability to see my dad again before he dies, very understandable. But good grief, I was getting hit by too much stuff and I understand, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with all at once. I didn’t handle it as well as I should have. And I’m sorry if he didn’t like the selection we have, but I don’t have ANY control over it. For extra fun, I was pushing up against my five hour mandatory lunch break in California and I didn’t have time to hear him complain about what it cost last time, especially because it’s now covered at 100%. I did call after lunch and apologized. I got the voice mail and left a message. Not ideal, but I didn’t know what else I should do.

  3. Hopeful Ex Librarian*

    Thank you for this, Alison! I feel like a lot of people on this website have 9-5 office jobs, but that’s not the case for everyone and I appreciate articles that acknowledge jobs that aren’t the typical “office jobs.”

    Honestly, the negative behavior from the public, especially during the pandemic, is part of the reason why I’m looking to leave.

    Over the past 2+ years, things have changed a lot (I live and work in the Midwest). Admin (at least at the library I work at now) makes decisions with the safety of staff and the public in mind, like in terms of which computers we have open at a time, or even things like our opening hours. People have gotten really upset with us, especially as the “COVID is over” vibe is going around and we’re still limiting what we do. Since the mask mandate has been lifted, we’re not the Mask Police the way we were, but during that time, people would fight us or complain about having to wear it correctly. It’s not a free-for-all (again, at the library I work at now), but I know some patrons wish it were.

    It is exhausting and mentally draining.

    1. Sloanicota*

      This is what’s really tough right now I think. The stuff in my first comment (supply chain issues and staffing shortages) is a whole separate issue from the key frustration that a certain segment of the country believes the pandemic is over and there should be no restrictions, and a different segment is still trying to enforce precautions. It’s so, so unfortunate that it came to this and it didn’t have to be this way.

    2. superduperhoopla*

      My partner works security at a public library and it’s been horrifying. Spat on, death threats, followed to their car after work, etc. People lose their shit when someone from the ‘servant class’ dares to speak up.

    3. HS Teacher*

      I probably don’t need to mention this, but the way students and parents are treating teachers right now is horrific. We have graduation this week, and I have a lot of students who are trying to finish their requirements to graduate. The problem is, they screwed around all year and now expect me to drop everything on a Saturday or Sunday, or late a night, to grade their work. Often times, if I don’t answer the student, I’ll get a call or email from a parent, demanding I respond. It is absolutely insane.

      1. HS History*

        Preach it! High school teacher here as well. Students have forgotten how to interact as human beings and I am afraid they’re learning their parents’ horrible manners. The idea that I don’t drop everything to grade their late work is inconceivable to them.

        1. just a random teacher*

          Here, district admin have also gotten the “equitable grading” bug and aren’t letting us enforce any kind of boundaries on late/make-up work or incentivize attendance/turning things in on time, either, which is not helping. A lot of students who discovered that this year they could always put assignments off until “later” are discovering that teachers aren’t paid to work any later than a certain day in June, and that we plan to turn in semester grades before we leave. (Students will apparently be allowed to keep working on their own on missing assignments over the summer. I am fascinated by the idea that they will somehow be more successful at doing these assignments without being able to contact their teachers than they were when we set aside specific class time for them to work on them, but that is apparently what our district admin believes to be the case. Who shall grade these assignments over the summer is also currently unclear. Personally, I plan to be unreachable until my contract resumes in the fall.)

          I would at least like the ones emailing me asking me to give them directions on the very least they can turn in to pass to phrase their emails in such a way that I can believe they’ve read the syllabus. Or at least thought about my class specifically rather than sent the same email to all of their teachers, expecting us to do all of the cognitive lifting of figuring out a custom plan for how they, personally, can pass rather than them first considering any of the communication on that very subject I have been doing with them all term, or that very week, that should allow them to figure out the answer to that tricky puzzle themselves. (I didn’t assign any of that graded work recreationally, so all of it is in fact stuff I thought was important for them to do or I wouldn’t have put it in the online gradebook where you can check it as often as you want. The optional stuff is clearly marked “optional” and already not part of the grade. The most important is the stuff worth the most points and/or the highest percentage of their grade by category, as can be deduced by reading the syllabus or looking at the gradebook. That’s how you can tell what stuff you need to do to pass.)

    4. Jora Malli*

      Yeah, when our mask mandate expired I had a weird combination of dread and relief all at the same time. Because yes, I would feel safer if more people were wearing masks (especially with numbers back on the rise where I am). But I was so, so beaten down and exhausted by having to be the mask police. We even had one guy who knew we wouldn’t let him in without a mask so he stood just outside the front entrance shouting at the security guard and all the other people entering the library for over an hour and we couldn’t get him to leave. We called the police to have him escorted off the property but they never came. So I was incredibly relieved and incredibly afraid all at the same time and it’s just so exhausting.

  4. Bye Felicia*

    I just saw this lastnight. My husband and I went out for dinner, and the restaurant was packed. There was a woman at the table next to us who wanted the chocolate cake for dessert, but they had run out. She threw a temper tantrum. Demanded to see the manager, yelled, swore at him, etc etc. He calmly tried to explain that they’ve been busier than expected all weekend, and ran out of a few menu items. She yelled THEN IF IT’S OUT WHY IS IT ON THE MENU? He tried to explain they can’t reprint the menus (no QR code menus, this was a nice higher end place) every time an item runs out. But she wasn’t having it. He remained calm, but he wasn’t having it either, and told her as politely as possible that this is how things work and he can’t do anything about it. I was glad to see him actually hold his ground and be fine with the fact she’ll never come back. Employers need to start standing up for their employees and stop worrying so much about customers like her who obviously can’t be reasoned with.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      That poor manager!

      Also, has this woman never been in a restaurant before? Things sometimes run out, especially in nicer places where all the food is made from scratch & might even be locally sourced. I’m disappointed when a restaurant runs out of something I would like, but it would never occur to me that throwing a tantrum would help. (Also, I am not a 3YO.)

      1. KylieHR*

        To be fair, my 3 yo is better at expressing disappointment with a lack of chocolate cake than this customer.

    2. High Score!*

      I saw something similar when I met my family for brunch. The restaurant was busy and understaffed. They were letting everyone know this when they came in. This guy was so upset that he had to wait, he upset a waitress. The manager came out and tried to calm the guy down but they ended up calling the police. After they carried the volatile dude away (wife was horrified, kids crying, ugly), I expressed my sympathy to the manager and waitress. We waited over an hour for our food. They apologized to us for the wait and even brought us extra goodies.
      Shockingly, it did not hurt us at all to wait a little longer without grumbling at the staff. We survived. And left a large tip.
      And we wonder why no one wants to work.

      1. Help Us All*

        Restaurants should match seating capacity with staffing. Don’t pack out the place knowing there aren’t sufficient workers to provide decent service. Restaurants want the revenue and don’t think people should mind waiting forever for a table or server. We have seriously curtailed eating out because of this.

        That said, people should just leave if service is that slow or bad. That’s what we do. Being irritated is OK, acting an immature fool about it is not.

        1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          That’s so much easier said than done, though.

          Can you imagine walking into a restaurant, seeing half of the tables sitting empty, and being told “we have limited staff, you have to wait for a table”? Some people would understand but the vast majority would not.

          And sure, in theory lots of people would be happy to be allowed to then sit at one of those tables while they waited to actually be able to be served. But then imagine people sitting at a table, seeing a server rush around and take care of other people and time after time after time not even come over to say hello. A vast majority of the people who said they’d be happy to sit and wait would still get irritable at the idea of being sat without being taken care of.

          And so restaurants just do their best with what they have. People sitting at tables and attempting to be served at whatever pace the existing staff can manage.

          [I’m speaking from the experience of 15 years in the restaurant industry and having both scenarios play out dozens of times. There is no good solution]

          1. Me!*

            That is exactly what happened when my siblings and nephew and I went to dinner after Dad’s funeral; the restaurant was barely full but they said we would have to wait for an hour. The restaurant was mostly empty, but the hostess told us up front that they were short-handed. We just sat at the bar and shared an appetizer until they were ready. No point in getting angry about it. The situation would have been the same anywhere we went.

        2. Bye Felicia*

          If only it were so simple. Restaurants may know “we have X reservations tonight”, but it’s impossible for them to predict how many won’t show up (you’d be shocked at how many people make a reservation than don’t show), or who will make a last-minute reservation on OpenTable and walk in 3 minutes later angry a shiny clean table isn’t waiting for them, or to know how many walk-ins will show up. They can GUESS based on past numbers, but there are those strange nights that are deserted, and those strange nights that are packed, for no apparent reason. How on earth can they manage to buy the right amount of a perishable ingredient, and schedule the right number of employees in these unpredictable conditions? Restaurants can’t predict these things, just like when you buy a ticket for an outdoor event, they can’t predict whether it will rain. You just have to deal with it, and accept that’s the risk you took.

          It’s not that restaurants think people should accept “waiting forever” (that seems a bit overstated), it’s that restaurants can’t predict the future. Especially with the way things are now, I think a bit more patience and understanding is called for. Rarely have I experienced such terrible service that I felt I had to walk out. But hey, if your standards aren’t being met, then yes, curtail eating out.

          I find most businesses will try to make it right. In this case, the waitress was so relieved we were understanding, that she brought us each a free second glass of wine. And just today, we had a delivery order screwed up, and the manager drove to our house with the missing item, along with two cookies in apology. Usually if you’re understanding and just… nice… they’ll treat you right.

      2. Sam I Am*

        I have to pause a moment and say- people do want to work. This “people don’t want to work” thing is false. Childcare has not rebounded. People are being attacked in customer facing roles, so they get other jobs. People are out sick with COVID. We have allowed almost no immigration into the US, and lost one million citizens.
        The reasons places are understaffed isn’t because no one wants to work.

      3. Lily*

        Sounds like my dad. I feel for those kids. I can almost guarantee that he’s a nightmare to them as well.

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      I DO get frustrated when I get a menu at a restaurant that has multiple items that are unavailable…and the server doesn’t TELL me. Most places, they’ll hand you the dessert menu and say, “we’re out of the chocolate cake, but the rest is available.” That way you don’t spend time thinking, decide what you want, and then have to spend more time trying to figure out your second choice after you get disappointed. But you shouldn’t lose your s#!t over it even if the server doesn’t let you know when they give you the menu.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        And if it’s busy, the kitchen can run out before the server even knows the item is no longer available.

      2. Bye Felicia*

        Eh, yeah I’ve had that happen… really not that big a deal. Often an item will run out and the server hasn’t been told yet. And servers don’t want to have to make any more extra trips than necessary, so I’m sure if they know something’s out they’d tell you. It’s not THAT hard to decide what to order, is it? I mean… my husband wanted the lobster risotto, and they were out of that, so he ordered his second choice. No big deal.

        For me it all comes down to the perspective of being grateful that I’m actually able to eat out at decent places. They’re out of something, and didn’t tell me till after I ordered it? There are worst things in life. They’re probably more annoyed at having to make an extra trip to tell a possible rude/angry customer the bad news, who will then use that as a pretext for leaving a crap tip, than any annoyance we may have at having to pick a second choie.

        I’m a little shocked at the reactions of some of these comments…. no wonder so many people are getting out of jobs requiring working with the public!

        1. Batgirl*

          Yeah I feel like the kind of people who lose it over an unavailable item must be a strange combination of inexperience with restaurants, coupled with a lack of gratitude. It used to be that if you were new to eating out, or if you didn’t eat out much, you were just grateful to get the opportunity to order something! If you ate out a lot, you would have the experience to know that things run out and to have more than one choice in mind when ordering. I’m gluten intolerant, and I am so used to doing this in case they can’t make my first option work for me.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      Oh yeah, a friend just shared something similar from her family’s restaurant. Someone called for takeout shortly before closing, was furious they didn’t have one thing she wanted, said she would call back, and by the time she called back they were sold out of the other thing she wanted. Again, shortly before closing. So she posted an entire rant on social media trashing the restaurant. WTAF.

    5. 1-800BrownCow*

      This story and the outcome is kinda funny to me. On Mother’s Day 2 Sunday’s ago, we decided to visit a used book store we like to go to and afterwards, took our chances at a “new-to-us” nice sit-down restaurant in the nearby town. Not sure if we’d be able to get in on Mother’s Day, especially since they were obviously packed. The host let us know the only seating available to walk-ins was outside, which it was a chilly day (high 50s Fahrenheit), although they had outdoor heaters near the tables. We decided to go for it and immediately were seated and handed menus. However, after almost 20 minutes, no one had stopped by the table, not even for a drink order. Obviously we knew it’s the busiest day of the year for restaurants, however we hadn’t even been acknowledged that we were even sitting there. My husband calmly went inside to the host stand, politely mentioned that we thought someone had missed mentioning us to the wait staff and that no one had stopped by the table in the 15+ minutes we’d been there. The restaurant owner was at the host stand, apologized and said he would have someone sent out immediately. A couple minutes later, a super polite waiter came to our table and apologized for the wait. We order drinks and food right away (our 3 hungry kids were getting antsy). While waiting for our food and then 2 more times throughout our meal, the owner came out to check on us and see if there was anything more he could do, and each time apologizing for our initial wait. My husband and I both told him we understood things happen, especially on such a busy day, and it wasn’t that big of a deal. The owner told us that it was important to their restaurant to do things right, so he continued to apologize. At the end of the meal, our check was brought out and we were told our appetizer was comped for the inconvenience, which we thought was kind. Then, as we were leaving, the owner came out and handed us a $25 gift card, again for the inconvenience. We thanked him and let him know we’d be back. After we walked away, I told my husband that I bet if we had caused a scene (like the women in this story), they would have done the bare minimum to calm us down and nothing more. But because we handled the situation with grace and understanding, I honestly believe the owner went above and beyond because he wanted us to continue being his customer, unlike someone who would have thrown a tantrum, because who wants that person back?!?! Honestly, we’re all human and things happen, like running out of cake. I’m sure a higher end place doesn’t buy cheap, frozen cakes, they likely either make it in-house or get it from a bakery. So it’s not like they can pull another cake out of the freezer and thaw it out to serve customers. If they run out, they run out. Not much they can do. And how does throwing a tantrum like a toddler over A. PIECE. OF. CAKE. make the situation better? What a dumb think to react so poorly over.

      1. Accountress*

        We had something similar happen at a new pizza place! I had a coupon for a free pizza, so we went and ordered 2. My mom & Dad’s came out, but mine didn’t. The server went to the kitchen, and lo, the chefs had forgotten it.

        The server was so apologetic, but we were like, “It’s not your fault, we know you gave them the ticket because one of the pies was made, these things happen!” Then the manager came around to apologize and said my pie was on the house. “Actually, I was going to use a coupon, so it would be free anyway, but thanks anyway!”

        My pie came, it was amazing, they gave me a free slice of cheesecake too, and then the manager said he was comping our entire meal. “Wow, that’s amazing! So how much would it have been?” He didn’t understand why we wanted to know. “Our server was incredible, and the pizza thing wasn’t his fault, so we need to know what 20% of the bill should be.”

        We went to that place almost-weekly for years before I moved away, and we always got VIP-level treatment (hosts putting us at the top of waitlists, quiet tables, random desserts and appetizers when something new came on the menu, etc.), just for recognizing when something is out of someone’s control and wanting them to be compensated properly.

        1. Pennyworth*

          It’s amazing that so many people don’t realize that if you are nice you get much better service than if you scream and shout. I have been very mindful of the stress faced by anyone in customer service since Covid, being exposed to the risk of catching it every time they go to work and having to cope with people being aggressive about mask mandates and the like. I hope the term ‘essential workers’ remains with us, because they truly are.

          1. Me!*

            What’s that old saying nobody says anymore? You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

    6. Ally McBeal*

      I have mostly fond memories of my time waiting tables (I imagine this is somewhat like the amnesia experienced by those who give birth – it doesn’t seem so bad many years later), including the time we wrote “86 Table 2” about a particularly awful group of customers. Were we allowed to actually 86 them? No. But the staff solidarity helped morale a little, and management didn’t care if we treated rude customers with aloof politeness instead of mandatory joviality.

      Also, I truly can’t imagine walking into a crowded restaurant and deciding to stay. Not in 2022. That’s a “go back out to your car and place a pick-up order” scenario for me these days.

  5. Poffertjies!*

    I work in a greenhouse/nursery and the entitlement of people is insane. They get huffy when we’re out of something or the want a delivery that same day and we don’t have the man power to do it. And Pinterest and Southern Living magazine isn’t helping. They see these plants and we can’t always get them in stock so they get angry. We have to order plant seeds and plugs a year in advance and there’s really no guarantee we will even get what we order. It’s getting harder to not snap back at these people; especially since we sell wants and not needs.

    1. ZSD*

      Oh, it’s actually very helpful for me as a customer to have the context that you have to order your inventory a year in advance! I mean, I hope I wouldn’t snap at someone for not having the plants I wanted anyway, but it’s good to know that just because my Better Homes and Gardens featured witch hazel last month doesn’t mean you’re going to have six varieties of witch hazel available for me to peruse.

      1. Chirpy*

        Yup, in general for regular retail, it takes around six months to get a product from manufacturing to the sales floor. Even if my store already has an account with a vendor and decides to stock an item that’s already in production but just not currently carried at our store, the fastest I’ve ever seen it show up was 4 months. And that’s a pre-pandemic timeline, with no supply chain issues.

      2. Not So NewReader*


        Some nurseries buy plants from local people. So maybe they get in 10 peach trees. The peach tree grower is just some home owner who has too many peach trees. When they get a day off from their 60 hour work week and it’s not raining or 100 degrees they might dig more trees. Or not. Maybe the dog has pups that day and peach trees are forgotten.

        When I worked in a nursery it was always a big joke, what will BH&G or whoever feature in their mag DURING the season that we need to order 6 months earlier. It got to be a bit nerve wracking. The owner’s solution was to order things that actually grew in our area, not what some magazine “thought” would grow in our area. The owner aimed for reliable, sturdy plants. Buy it once and keep it forever. The company integrity was something to be proud of.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      At least half the fun of plant shopping is checking out what looks interesting at the greenhouse. I don’t think I’ve ever bothered to plan ahead, other than, “I’d like some tomato plants” and then go see which ones look good. Last week I came home with a mixed flat of flowers (unplanned) because the grower had tried some new zinnia varieties and the plants were too lush and beautiful for me to resist! I had gone in looking for marigolds, which they didn’t have, but it never would have occurred to me to complain.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      My granddad did some light greenhouse/nursery work in retirement (he had a green thumb and grew up on a farm, so it was fun for him), and his favorites were the people who got angry that they didn’t carry palm trees or other plants that were not appropriate to the climate. But they saw it in a magazine and it looked cool!

  6. singularity*

    Although education isn’t exactly a ‘customer service’ role, the same behavior has been increasing among students and their parents, especially in secondary school. I think it comes from a normalization of the behavior in other areas of life in addition to all the other stress being put upon people with rising costs, shortages and the continued pandemic.

    All this to say that students are being more disrespectful to school staff and teachers than they ever have been before, and I know of people in various campuses around my state who complain that administration and the higher ups at the district are so cowed by angry parents that they’d rather throw the teachers and staff to the wolves than stand up to them and demand that they be treated with respect.

    This is why teachers are quitting/retiring in droves and it’s a BIG reason driving the shortage. They’re following the advice they’ve been getting for so long – “If you don’t like your job, then quit!” Okay, and eventually your kids won’t be educated by qualified people, they’ll sit in a room on their phone all day while a babysitter with a diploma stares at their phone, doing absolutely NOTHING.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Education is really the front lines of several very bitter political debates right now. I feel terrible for the reasonable parents and teachers caught up in it.

      1. PostalMixup*

        In my friend’s kids’ school district, a parent got so irate that his unvaccinated kid had to miss a field trip because he had to quarantine (but the vaccinated kids didn’t) that he went to the school, zip tied the principal, performed a “citizen’s arrest” (wtf?), and live streamed the whole thing. Then he couldn’t believe it when he was charged with assault and kidnapping. Who thinks, “yeah, this is totally a proportional response to the situation”???

        1. Pascall*

          What an absolute nut job! If I were that principal, I would have quit after that.

        2. Starbuck*

          Holy shit, it’s a sign of how ridiculous things have gotten that despite following the news pretty closely, I haven’t even heard of this. That’s really frightening, especially that more and more…. figures… are basically encouraging terrorizing school staff to achieve certain ends. These things aren’t random.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          What the actual F? That’s horrifying.

          I hope he has the book thrown at him on the kidnapping and assault charges. Nice of his to live stream it for the prosecution.

        4. Lch*

          Wow. Would that guy really be ok with someone doing that to him? I do not believe he didn’t realize it was completely f—ed up.

        5. just a random teacher*

          Geez, and I thought it was bad (pre-pandemic) when a kid couldn’t go on a field trip because he was suspended (I think for fighting?) and his parents decided to take the day off work so they could take him to the same museum the school was going to on the field trip “as a family” that day and follow us around.

      2. Gary Patterson's Cat*

        Oh God! I can’t see any compelling reason to become a teacher nowadays.

    2. gmg22*

      One of my best friends is a middle school teacher and while parents here in our politically blue area are not that bad to deal with, what she’s said (and other teachers I know have confirmed) is that the uncertainty and unstructured time of the pandemic is unfortunately still coming at a cost, of off-the-charts behavior issues.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        A friend who is an elementary teacher has a theory that students are not used to there being consequences for their behavior any more, especially social consequences. Many of them were only playing with siblings during the pandemic, and siblings will always be there (during childhood) no matter how mean they are to each other. Kids come back into the classroom and don’t understand that they can’t treat everyone that way. These are young kids so they’re less mean to their teachers than HS students but she’s spending a lot of time teaching them how to be nice to their friends.

        1. Nikki*

          Yes, I’m definitely seeing this with my niece! She’s a sweet but willful kid, and she’s missed significant time with her classmates due to COVID. We had her fifth birthday recently with her and her cousins, and she just couldn’t handle the party games. You could tell that she had no frame of reference for turn-taking etc. The adults intervened but it was chaotic.

        2. Ally McBeal*

          I volunteer at an after-school program and this theory feels dead-on. We occasionally have to tell siblings that they can’t treat each other like that *in our building* – like, how you treat each other at home is your parents’ business, but we can’t have other kids seeing an adversarial sibling relationship play out at the program and thinking it’s okay to treat anyone that way. And most of them aren’t doing that great with regular interpersonal relationships either (with their peers or with teachers) – it’s been a devastating 2+ years for these kids, and it’s hard to see a way forward.

        3. Malarkey01*

          I think our kids have a ton of trauma. They were all of the sudden in a situation where their routine was yanked away overnight, people around them talked about this scary virus that may kill them (adults had trouble scaling and understanding this, kids had none of the experience or ability to parse through this), and were then subject to all the extreme stress of the upheaval (as parents we worked so hard to be conscious of this but we had full time remote jobs that we were juggling with a middle schooler and preschooler and were stressed and together 24\7, and we were the very lucky that had jobs that provided for it and had paychecks and weren’t dealing with insecurity or needing to leave young children alone every day). Kids were isolated, lost a lot of the releases of being at schools and around other adults, and lost their structure which most kids need…. We have just started scratching the surface of what this will do to long term development and I think it’s impossible to pin kids’ issues on any one part of the pandemic.

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      From the perspective of a former college student, I will say that even at a university that was reasonably well prepared (we had existing camera/video distribution infrastructure and had all been operating on a mostly-centralized Canvas system for 3 years at that point) the lack of organization and respect I received was equally frustrated. Mostly the admin. The professors overall were decent, but it really felt as if the admin could not get their messaging straight and I was getting constant mixed messages and constantly having to change my plans. Will I be in person for the final? Will it be virtual? Yes, you’ll be allowed to come in person. No you can’t! Yes you can. Actually, no you can’t. (paraphrasing an actual exchange that took place over 2 weeks, right before finals week, while I was trying to plan potential Covid tests and transport and parking in a heavily locked down city for a constantly shifting schedule of finals over 2 weeks and also studying for all these finals. It ended up being all online. After I got that email I nearly cried with rage). My classmates and I had to push back hard on one professor who was asking us to institute a very stringent exam-monitoring software on our personal devices, not because he was worried we would cheat, but because he was worried that we would steal his test questions and share them with next year’s class like the fraternities did (this in a Master’s class, for the law and ethics class. Really?)

      And yes, I understand that everyone was struggling and adapting and doing what they could, but it felt very much like we were getting the short and muddy end of the stick because we could control nothing, just wait and adapt to what our teachers, professors, and school administrators decided. I don’t in any way condone snapping and snarling and being cruel to any staff anywhere. It’s both unpleasant and unhelpful. But I’m not surprised by the pushback.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I’ve lucked out in having a college with disability services that would go to bat against godzilla to help the students, but some of the things I’ve heard from folks at other colleges has been actively horrifying.

        Frankly, if disability services wasn’t as good as they are, I probably would have had to drop out at the start of the pandemic. I’m not inclined to die for a degree, and far too many of my fellow immunocompromised students already have.

        1. Princess Xena*

          I’m not even immunocompromised! I’m in the absolute lowest risk category. The most frustrating part is that I was doing absolutely everything in my power to not be a risk to my fellow humans when going out in public and the systems I was working it were making it really challenging. I shudder to think how bad it would be if I was immunocompromised and I were in danger.

      2. superduperhoopla*

        There are a lot of moving parts in the back end of university business and some of those parts refuse to move with the others. Where I work faculty caused the most problems in refusing to pivot to remote teaching, no matter how many staff were allocated to hand-holding them through the process and no matter how many stipends they were offered (to do what staff had to do on the fly with no support because faculty are more important than anyone else in the world).
        University admin mostly worried about keeping students on the hook until it was too late for refunds.

    4. lb*

      I saw a TikTok that said that something like half of all ed positions will be unfilled for next year (based on resignation rates) and I don’t know for sure if that’s true, but it SOUNDS plausible. And of course if it it, the solution will be subs and larger classrooms, not trying to fix the issues & lure teachers back. Sigh.

      1. Pascall*

        I wouldn’t be surprised. I work in HRIS for a huge school district and the number of resignations we’ve seen come through this year is insane. Coupled with the heavy retirement numbers too of the teachers and other employees who have decided that they’re ready to step away from the workforce after two years of hell.

        School districts, to me, feel like they’re dying a slow and painful death because they refuse to adapt. I’m not sure what the alternative is though for everyone who can’t afford private or charter schools. School district will continue to crawl along the concrete to support the middle and lower class’s education while not providing any sort of standard of quality because they simply can’t afford to.

        It’s sad.

        1. Princess Xena*

          Homeschooling and pod schooling. A friend of a friend works in a homeschooling supplies store and back in March of 2020 said three families had already come through buying complete curricula because they saw how the wind was blowing

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Or those of us with children who private school won’t take – I have a kid with autism and ADHD that requires services we can only get through $45-75K/year private school (if you can get in) or an IEP in public school. Regular private schools cannot or will not provide them an appropriate education, and secular private school in my neck of the woods cost as much as public college does.

          We’re in one of the largest school districts in the country, and, for all the bitching people do about the school system, we still have strong academic programs and supports for students that are eligible for IEPs/504s. But I think a lot of the former is that it’s a highly-educated area, so the students they’re getting are primed for achievement and have parents who supplement.

      2. The Original K.*

        There’s a recruiter & resume-writer I follow on social media who says the number of times a teacher has reached out to him to say “get me out of this profession” is really troubling. I can believe we’ll see massive staffing shortages.

      3. Jora Malli*

        My teacher friend told me that one of the schools in her district only has four teachers returning for next year.

    5. Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?*

      I teach middle school science in a VERY red state and agree with all of this 100%. I have never been yelled at or experienced as much disrespect by students inside our building as I have this year. The emails, phone calls, and social media comments by parents have been out of control.

      I’m a 10 year veteran teacher seriously contemplating the future. I know I can’t do 20 more years of this.

    6. Dino*

      When the pandemic hit I was working as a Related Service Provider in the K-12 system. I left once I started hearing rumblings about forcing us back.

      Even before COVID I had admin and staff trying to force me to do multiple roles and recess duty despite my contract being very clear. I knew without a doubt that I’d be pulled in to supervise a full class once teachers started getting sick, which would have meant not being able to serve the student I was actually hired to provide services for.

      Anyone who could retire or leave education entirely will. I feel for all my old coworkers. You couldn’t pay me enough to do what they’ve been doing.

    7. Alex (they/them)*

      my mother is a teacher and has said it’s basically hell right now- primarily due to parents and admin, not students

  7. Not Your Whipping Kid*

    People love to blame the pandemic and the political climate of recent years–both of which definitely contributed to the rise of abusive behavior. But they didn’t create the broken system; they just revealed the cracks that already existed in how we conduct ourselves as a human society. When the first lockdown of 2020 was going on, I remember people mourning being stuck at home and how they hoped for things to “just go back to normal.” I wanted to shout at them, “‘Normal’ was TERRIBLE! You weren’t even happy then, and yet you want to go back to the previous state of society because you’re even less happy now? We should be fighting to change things to be significantly better and healthy all around, not begging for them to go back to the way they were!”

    No, the way we conduct human society in general (trade, interactions, etc.) was already broken, and now we’re being forced to acknowledge it. Unfortunately, I don’t have faith that any true lasting good will come of it. Most people are so overworked and tired, since long before the pandemic, that they can’t even think about fighting for something better, no matter how much happier they’d be in the end. And we can’t ignore that many people are in power BECAUSE they keep the rest of us too burned out to fight back, and are aware of this.

    I’ll keep fighting, but I don’t actually have any true belief that it will bear fruit anymore. I just fight back because I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t.

    Didn’t really have anywhere to go with this comment, just seemed like a relevant time and place to vent it out. What’s happening now is a symptom of a sick society afflicted with a longterm illness that we could totally treat, but ultimately won’t (or can’t, for those whose circumstances are such that fighting is physically/mentally/emotionally impossible). :/

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I have someone close to me in the hospital right now and you don’t really think about how broken our health care system is until you experience it.
      Doctors literally won’t see you unless you go to the ER, wait 15 hours in the ER waiting room, and then get admitted for dehydration and and infection due to complications from an outpatient surgery. All this could have been adverted with a home nurse visit once a day to manage the care, but instead it’s being managed via the emergency room as though it’s a trauma. The ER is not a good way to manage a chronic illness.

      1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

        I don’t want to enter a political discussion here, but I think the political climate does play a HUGE part though because when people see their elected “leaders” saying and doing awful things loudly, and in public, and at the highest levels of government (things that used to be beyond the pale for them to do because they were elected representatives) many average people take that as a cue and feel it is OK to act like that themselves. Especially towards people or groups they don’t agree with. It’s no different than children modeling their behavior on that of their parents.

      2. Not Your Whipping Kid*

        Yeah! This is one of the broken systems that we could fix…but probably won’t. :/ It’s frustrating and heartbreaking.

    2. Juniper breeze Bath and Body works*

      I personally am beyond fighting. I fought for years, and am almost $100,000 in debt for degrees that don’t matter, I still live in poverty, have no job, can’t find a job, can’t pay bills, am disabled but denied disability because I’m not disabled ENOUGH for some faceless person who probably didn’t even read my paperwork. I’m raising kids and barely able to feed them and am told by society it’s my fault I’m poor and I shouldn’t have had kids since I’m a horrible screw up (because I’m poor) I’m told by society I got the wrong degrees because I would be a millionaire with a great job if I had gotten the “right” degrees. I’m told by society that if I’m broke I should be willing to work fast food and I’m lazy if my broken down 40 year old arthritic and lupus ridden body can’t handle it anymore, even though when I did work fast food to make ends meet, I was told by society to “get a real job” and that I was still lazy and had “no ambition”. I’m also told by society that I’m awful and abusive for having my pets who help my kids and I survive and cope, and because I’m poor I should NEVER have any pets and all and how dare I ask for help feeding them if I’m in a rough spot, I CHOSE to have them and this is my problem. Funny I’m told the same thing if I ask for help feeding my kids.

      I’m looking at all the debt piling up around me, I’m weeks away from eviction, have no groceries, can’t drive (legally blind) everyone is “too busy” to drive me to the store and I should really “pull my bootstraps up” and figure it out myself. And the fact that my bootstraps broke 6 years ago and things just keep getting worse somehow doesn’t mean I need support and help, it means I’m the problem and I should be shunned and discarded and made to suffer until I “hit rock bottom” and I realize how selfish and dumb and lazy I am and stop asking others to “take care of my responsibilities” and “grow up” and do it myself.

      To me a society like this with so many people who think this of me and think it of the millions in positions like mine, isn’t a society worth fighting to change.

      1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

        I wish I had something more helpful to tell you other than I’m so sorry that you’re in your position, you’re right to be angry, and it’s not your fault. And because it annoys me when people tell me stuff I already know, I want to be clear that I’m just validating and supporting stuff I am sure you already know.

      2. Not Your Whipping Kid*

        Yes! This is exactly what I’m taking about. And I’m glad that I *can* still fight (even if I don’t think it’s gonna do any good) on behalf of those of you who just can’t anymore. It might only be screaming into the void, but it’s still making a ruckus.

      3. Me!*

        I can’t help you directly, but I promise, I will NOT give up fighting. Based on what I’m hearing elsewhere, I think we are approaching a very big reckoning. I’ve no doubt it will get worse before it gets better, but I do believe it will get better. Either way, I ain’t giving up. I’m going to keep pushing for you and me both.

    3. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      Thanks for this comment. I feel the same way. The ending of the article that things might get back to normal made me feel a little ways. Like I understand the desire and also crave to go back to something more familiar even though I logically know that the familiar was bad for me and much worse and more deadly for so many other people.

      It takes so much energy that I don’t have to not just feel utterly defeated all the time. But it helps to have stuff like this affirm that it’s not in my head and I’m not the crazy one. I’m not sure that should make me feel better, but it does.

      1. Not Your Whipping Kid*

        Thank you! I am also very glad to see your comment for the same reason: I sometimes feel like I’m the only one who *wants* positive change. I have seen too many people shrug and say, “Well, things sucked before, but not as bad as they do now, so we might as well go back to that.” And it’s just so…self-destructive. It makes me want to give up as well.

        1. Help Us All*

          I have given up. Nobody cares about anybody else in the US and it’s getting worse. Terrible.

      2. Starbuck*

        Yeah, the way people are mythologizing the past before COVID as if it was so great and we should be desperate to return to that… yikes! No thanks!

        1. Not Your Whipping Kid*

          “Mythologizing” is a really great way to put it! And I totally agree.

        2. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

          Mythologizing the past is never a good idea. I know a lot of people have this rosy idea of America in the 1950’s being so great like Happy Days.

          But according to my dad, there weren’t many jobs (entered the Marine Core because of that), jobs paid like $0.35 per hour, and women couldn’t even buy a car or get a loan! And it was far worse if you were a person of color.

    4. Lydia*

      I appreciate this so much. It’s exactly how I feel. The last two-and-a-half years have been stressful, but all it’s done is peeled back the very thin veneer we had put over the very broken structure underneath. Having to acknowledge how bad it is and how really powerless we are is a rough road. I think everyone, no matter politics, is feeling that, they’re just experiencing it differently.*

      *Note to add this isn’t a “can’t we all agree to disagree” thing, because no, we can’t. Your politics might suck.

    5. Candle Knight*

      Normal was awful!! Normal was not working, and was leaving millions in the dust of exploitation and insecurity, but there was JUST enough of a veneer over the top of it to say “maybe it’s not that bad, maybe we’re making progress!”

      I am trying so hard not to feel hollow and hopeless when I look at the world, but it’s tough. Comments like this really are helpful—at least we aren’t alone in the better world that we want, or in the fight. The great myth of capitalism is that we are all singular, lone beings with no power, but beats me when I’m exhausted and sad and terrible at public speaking what to actually do about that. Remembering that isn’t enough, but maybe saying over and over again that we aren’t willing to accept the past normal is at least a starting point?

      1. Not Your Whipping Kid*

        I agree–these responses have been really helpful to me. Just suggesting we could change things, the amount of pushback I’m getting IRL is depressing, by people who are determined to stay stuck in the ruts where they’re miserable. I get they’re exhausted, but it still hurts to be told I’m the unrealistic one for pointing out that things have gone wrong and are unsustainable.

    6. SoloKid*

      I could see wanting to go back to “normal” more as return to familiar routines. People do things they don’t like all the time, and changing to a more equitable structure is never easy.

      Lately I’ve been thinking of the saying “First they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” I feel like various social movements are in the “they fight you” stage – ultimately I feel like I am on the correct side of history when I support those movements.

  8. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    People, in general, have become so entitled and demanding. Ask them to wear a mask while shopping or getting on a plane and they scream their rights are being violated. Tell them they must be vaccinated to enter a health care facility, and they throw a tantrum claiming they’re being persecuted for their religion. A nurse or doctor tries to give medical treatment or advice, and they insist they know better “from the internet.” If something is out of stock at the store, they take it out on the associates. It’s just crazy.

    1. Help Us All*

      That’s a “Christian” nation for you. Selfish, unkind, and unloving. So much hypocrisy.

  9. Oakwood*

    There are entire forums on Reddit dedicated to abusive customers. There seems to be a subset of customers who really believe they can’t get anything done unless they abuse the staff.

    Having said that, I’ll admit that I lost it with a customer support person recently. I was cancelling one of the lines on my cell phone plan. You can’t do it online. You must call between 8:00 and 5:00 Monday-Friday. The customer rep you call can’t actually cancel the line. They have to refer you to another group, who can’t cancel the line without getting a manager involved. And on and on and on.

    After about 45 minutes of being transferred around and told why I really needed to keep the line I finally lost it.

    1. As per Elaine*

      Phone and internet providers especially seem to be awful — they put these horrible draconian systems in place to let you cancel anything, or sometimes even just get basic information. I’m sure their customer service people must be dealing with abuse literally ALL THE TIME, because even someone who started out chill and even-keel is quite likely at the end of their rope somewhere through the process.

      1. Me!*

        Oh man, do not get me started on Spectrum’s train wreck. When Kieran Culkin hosted SNL, they did a sketch about them. Google “Canceling Cable SNL.”

    2. bleh*

      You have identified one of the problems. Corporations make it difficult for humans to get things done, and block them from carrying out sensible business decisions, like cancelling a line. The anger and frustration is perfectly justified by the bad behavior on the corporation’s part, and they should get the feedback about how terrible their systems are. Yet, the poor customer service employees are the ones on the line, and are ill equipped and/or not allowed to carry that feedback. the actual decision makers are protected from the consequences of their bad behavior. It’s vicious.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I put a similar comment below in Phony Genius but, some companies and industries have been antagonizing their customers for a long time before the current events and I think it finally reached a boiling point for many — extra charges, overbooking for what they can actually deliver on (flights, rooms, tables, etc.), cancel with no warning and no refund only a voucher for the future, make people wait with no communication and sometimes no way to leave… a lot of this is a product of bad business policies. And then, Loud and Angry at the counter provokes a response because it gets attention–public attention, but quiet and polite on their “customer service” voicemail gets ignored…ok they’ve now trained people to get loud and then are shocked when they do.

      1. Starbuck*

        Right! For all the customers throwing temper tantrums over trivial things and raging totally out of proportion to an actual (or perceived wrong), there are also so many customers getting screwed over by intentionally shady business practices who can only get recourse by appealing to some kind of higher authority – having a social media rant go viral, for example. Lots of people have rightfully had to resort to some extreme behavior to get basic service that they really are entitled to, like refunds for services or products not delivered.

        I think for a lot of reasons it’s gotten easier for people to convince themselves they’re in that latter group when they’re actually the former.

      2. WellRed*

        My connecting flight was sold out from under me! While I was at the connecting airport.

    4. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Always makes me think of that movie The Rainmaker and Great Benefit: Deny All Claims.
      For internet, cable and comms providers the motto is: Don’t Let Them Cancel

    5. CommanderBanana*

      I had a complete and very out of character meltdown a few weeks ago after spending nine hours – NINE HOURS – in aggregate over one weekend trying to get our wifi, without which no one in my house can work – fixed. It took nearly a week and at one point a CSR asked me to call a number to activate a piece of equipment and he had literally given me the number of a phone sex line.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          The funny thing was, when I eventually got to a woman who could actually help me, and she was on the phone with me for TWO HOURS, she was an actual literal angel and was SO kind and patient, she was like yep, this company (which has a monopoly on wifi in my area, so I can’t even switch!) has a horrible, horrible phone tree system for trying to get any type of help.

          And the service techs who came out to do the labor who were also lovely were like, yep, company’s call center system sucks.

          Tl;dr, now I only use the app to communicate with them and I will never, ever call them again unless it is a literal last resort.

      1. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

        Late 2020 or early 2021, when my kids were virtual and husband and I were both working from home, we had a tree take out our internet line during a storm. For perspective, the power company (power line also went down) was here within hours, so this was not, like, “all hands on deck hurricane.” I get through to our internet provider’s customer service…it’s going to be 5 business days before they can get anyone out to me.

        Fine. Put me on the schedule. We’re in the middle of a global effing pandemic, this is what it is.

        Our appointment date and time rolls around.

        No. One. Shows. Up.

        Call to hopefully sort it out, reschedule, that bit. Listen, we’re working from home, we’ve been running two kids’ class sessions and our work laptops off our phone hotspots for a week, this is becoming a Very Serious Problem.

        “Oh, we’re sorry. We can’t get you back in until a week from Friday.” This was, by the way, Wednesday.

        Our former provider could have a brand new line up and running the next day. And did. My husband had that scheduled before I could get through to someone who would just freaking cancel my service. “Is there anything we can do to get you to stay?” “Yeah. You can have someone out here to reconnect my blasted internet line (which is outside the house and won’t require any contact whatsoever) within the next 48 hours so I can actually work while my children are attending class sessions, because my phone hotspot won’t support both.” “Oh, sorry. We can’t do that.” Then cancel my service. It still took four transfers. Maybe I should have tried yelling?

        I actively cackle when advertisements for their services come through the mail. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

        1. Support your local street cats.*

          Yep, I can see that happening. Power company probably came out so quick because it was a potential live wire down. The empty house next door had the service connection come down after a storm. It was down for a couple days so I called to report the house next door had a line down. Got the run around about how they couldn’t do anything since I wasn’t the owner. I simply said “There’s a LIVE WIRE down…does it really matter who reports it?” They were out within the hour.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            The power company is a regulated utility and is likely required by law to fix power outages immediately. Your ISP, not so much.

        2. Me!*

          I’ve had good luck when this happened on satellite TV with telling them it’s fine, and I’ll just be pro-rating my bill for the days where I didn’t have service. BOOM, got an appointment a lot sooner. Your mileage may vary, however.

    6. Hej*

      You yelled at someone who has 0% control over the situation and most likely struggles to make ends meet on a call center salary.

      Is that the type of person you are proud to be?

      I get that it’s a frustrating situation but abusing others is not the answer. There’s never an excuse for abuse.

      1. Lydia*

        Hi. Not really the place to be on a high horse for someone admitting they did a not great thing. Oakwood knows it; they aren’t bragging.

      2. Starbuck*

        This is cruel. Companies have created these *intentionally* enraging systems and conditions. They have the control to fix things but they don’t. Customers often have no choice but to deal with them anyway, for things like internet and phone service. It’s no surprise that people lose it in these conditions, we’re humans under the most stressful time most of us will ever live through. I’m glad that you have the unerring ability to keep your chill despite all this, but not everyone else can 100% of the time. No one on this thread is proud of that.

      3. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Others who enjoy tearing down customer service people will lash out at you, but I agree. For somewhat obvious reasons.

    7. Filosofickle*

      Recently I moved, and set up internet service at my new place without discontinuing at the old so there’d be overlap. When I went to cancel the old one — which of course can only be done during limited hours and only with a human — they couldn’t complete the closure, they had to transfer me to a “retention specialist” to finalize. I asked the rep — Why do I need to talk to customer retention when I’m obviously still a customer?! I just set up more service with you! Doesn’t make any sense. Because overall this had only taken two people and about 15 minutes it was just an eyeroll but if it involved more hold time and people I’d have been very annoyed.

    8. Help Us All*

      Comcast is the worst! None of the so-called customer service numbers will get you to a human, the IVR just sends you in an endless loop. You have to call the headquarters in Pennsylvania to get a human. Yes, these frustrating non-service encounters can leave you screaming.

    9. BBB*

      I have no sympathy for those people. All of those things you mentioned are policies they put in place deliberately, to make it as difficult as possible to cancel the service. It’s a scam and they know exactly what they are doing.

      If someone is genuinely trying to do their best job, and getting screamed at by an insane and unreasonable customer, the customer is at fault. But these people are actual scammers deliberately refusing to let the customer cancel their service. They deserve all the scorn you can throw at them.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Do you think the ones who set the policies are the ones answering the phones?

    10. AnonInCanada*

      And I know every single one of them: r/TalesFromRetail, r/TalesFromYourServer, r/TalesFromTechSupport, r/talesfromthefrontdesk etc. etc. etc. Heck, a lot of what you read on is taken from one of these subreddits.

      I spend a bit too much time on Reddit. Not enough time here :-P.

  10. Phony Genius*

    I trace the flight attendant thing back to the 2017 incident where a doctor was dragged off of a plane, resulting in a lot of bad publicity for the airline, among other consequences. The public opinion of this seemed to change from “they handled this incident badly” to “airline workers are always wrong, so stand up to them.” This eventually spread from airlines to all service industries.

    There’s also a “they chose to work for this company that has bad policies, so they deserve this treatment” sort of attitude. (Someone actually used this excuse with me when I saw them go off on somebody.) I think the myth that employees can now quit and get another job wherever they want may be fueling this.

    1. Wintermute*

      I think you’re right, at least in part. It’s unfortunate because the way corporations are treating people is wholly unacceptable, and it’s gotten worse. But the only accessible agents of the company are front-line workers who are just as much a victim of the same decisions being made 15 levels of management above them and they’re the ones catching the brunt of the anger. In many cases the people who could make the change are so insulated by yes-men they don’t even realize they’re causing people so much frustration they’re getting abusive with the frontline staff.

    2. Johanna Cabal*

      It’s funny. I was just thinking of this incident over the weekend and how it even became a meme for a hot second but now is almost never discussed.

    3. Just Another Zebra*

      I think that incident, followed by a string of other negative PR incidents for airlines have definitely had an effect. I agree that this mindset has sort of spread to the service industry in general, probably fueled a bit by pandemic stress, among other things.

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Even before that. The airlines (and some other businesses/industries) have been antagonizing their customers for a long time before the current events and I think it finally reached a boiling point for many — charge for a blanket, charge for luggage, overbook flights (or rooms, tables, etc.) and drag people off, cancel with no warning and no refund only a voucher for the future, make people sit on the runway for hours… a lot of this is a product of bad business policies. And then, Loud and Angry at the counter provokes a response because it gets attention–public attention, but quiet and polite on their customer service voicemail gets ignored…ok they’ve now trained people to get loud.

      1. Koalafied*

        This just reminded of something about the Pizza Hut I worked at back in the 90s. Our profit margin on 2 liter bottles of soda was something insane like 50%, so our managers had authorized all of the front-line order takers to give away free 2 liters as needed to pacify angry customers. No special manager authorization needed, just an evergreen coupon in the system we could apply to any order without restriction, even if the 2 liter was the only item in the order.

        The retail price of the bottles wasn’t expensive either, maybe $1.99? And I remember always being amazed at how effective this was as a customer service response strategy. $2 worth of soda was enough to make 90% of angry customers leave happy.

        I used to think – and to some extent still do – that it was the gesture they were responding to, the fact that we’d admitted wrongdoing and offered compensation, no matter how trivial the compensation was. They felt they’d been listened to and validated and that was enough for most.

        Now, though, as we’ve seen the sort of nickel-and-diming you talk about become more prevalent, I wonder if it isn’t also just about the fact that feeling comfortable undercuts the desire to make a stink about something. Pizza Hut had some pretty legendary cheap pizza deals back then – free kid pizzas through BookIt, $5 large carryouts, and they mailed out so many coupons that on the rare occasion someone called and didn’t have a coupon then – as long as they weren’t being a total jerk – we usually just found one in the system to apply for them, because we knew management was basically expecting every order to be using a coupon and never demanded the drivers turn over coupons to prove the customers had actually presented one. People were getting food they liked for a good price and maybe it’s just a little bit harder to get mad about a mistake in that scenario than when you’re getting a subpar product for more than you feel like you can really afford in the first place.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          In a way, what your Pizza Hut managers did was reinforce angry customers though…they got rewarded for being angry, but the polite/rational customers who got the same service/product and thought, “I can’t get angry at the driver over a $5 pizza” didn’t get anything. They didn’t empower you, the front line worker, they set you up as cannon fodder to angry customers. I think that is a large part of the behavior we are seeing today; businesses have trained customers to get angry at the front line workers. Call the company complaint phone number or high-level boss, get transferred a few times and then ignored — get angry at the cashier, get an instant discount/free product, right?

          1. pancakes*

            The polite customers did get something, though – they got to avoid making fools of themselves in public.

      2. Lydia*

        This is important. The antagonism has definitely played a role. There were a lot of times where airline employees arbitrarily enforced things because some of them were on power trips. Because air travel is so security conscious, flight attendants have a lot of leeway and a number of them abuse their power. Don’t assault them, but also don’t forget a lot of people on the ground weren’t making friends to begin with.

        1. BBB*

          100%. It’s one thing to talk about employees who have the best intentions, but airlines are NOTORIOUS for mistreating and exploiting their customers and they have been for years. And I think that’s something worth contemplating. Part of the reason people are snapping (IMHO) is that we have been told to tolerate mistreatment for a very long time and we are truly fed up.

    5. Help Us All*

      Working with the flying public was horrible long before Covid. I had a relative who did over 30 years with a major US airline before retiring and the stories they would tell.

  11. kaden*

    I’m a plaintiff’s attorney, and I’ve definitely noticed an increase in impatience and a decrease in civility from many of our clients. The clientele we serve are on the lower end of the income spectrum, and we try to keep in mind that the past couple of years have impacted them in a very real way, and their stress levels are probably through the roof. So are mine! But it’s hard when the first time I talk to someone, they’re screaming at me for something that is out of my control.

  12. MemyselfI*

    I’ve seen this both ways. Some people are meaner while there are many others who are going out of their way to be kinder.

    Likewise in the service industry in some cases are being rude and less helpful because they know they are harder to replace. Others continue to provide great service with a great attitude.

    Unfortunately this seems to be almost a political thing. The same people who seem to scream about not getting their way in the last election tend to be the same people who throw Tantrums because they don’t their way in a restaurant. A sense of entitlement spans the entire political spectrum but the worst reactions seem to be largely driven from one end of that Spectrum.

    1. Lurker Grrl*

      How can you know someone’s political affiliation based on how they act in a restaurant?

      1. Starbuck*

        Well, sometimes people like to wear hats or t-shirts that helpfully provide that information.

        I will also say, in my extremely blue area, I really have not been witnessing much bad customer behavior at all. My friends who also work in customer service positions have stories, sure, but nothing really like the most outrageous ones here nor anything happening so regularly. And when people in my community online spaces do complain about how no one wants to work anymore, their past posts and comments make their views obvious…

  13. MuseumNerd*

    I really want a way to fix this for my team. We’ve taken a few steps– we gave front line staff a substantial raise, made as many part time team members full time as wanted that so they could take advantage of health care (including mental health care) and PTO, encourage them to use their PTO to avoid burnout, overstaff in case people call out, make sure all policies are in writing and on our website, and make sure team members know they can hang up on rude guests and/or call security and have people escorted out. I’ve been as clear as I can be that once someone is rude to our team we don’t need their business and I’m never going to be mad that they were asked to leave. We also got panic buttons so staff can reach security without the guest realizing it (which often leads to escalation before backup is there), and I make sure to be on the floor when we’re rolling out new policies so I can deal with any pushback myself. But guests continue to be abusive and even if there’s recourse for staff by the time they get to that point their day is already ruined. The Director is talking about civility language on our website or a visitor code of conduct but I’m iffy about the idea that people who will scream at my 22-year-old front desk employees will be deterred by a sign asking them to be nice.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      I would certainly welcome discussion of techniques and policies to make this better. Maybe a Thursday Ask the Readers question?

      For my part, I’m planning to be a lot more explicit about acceptable classroom behavior in my upcoming in-person summer course. Better to say it and not have needed to than…

    2. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      These are all excellent steps and I just… don’t see how there are any further steps you can take. The only other thing we’ve been doing in our department is to have leadership work those front-facing roles periodically so they can really understand what’s going on and as a morale boost to the people bearing the worst of it, so they don’t feel alone and unappreciated. We’re all suffering together, I guess.

    3. Wintermute*

      You would actually be surprised how much just asking people to commit in advance can help! Setting expectations and telling people “this is the kind of space we are” can have a powerful impact.

      There are exceptions, there will ALWAYS be an exception, but your goal can’t be “no raging jerk ever abusing my staff” but rather that it happens less, it’s handled better when they do, and staff feel supported if someone does break the rules.

    4. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      For retail what would be super helpful is if you can actually look online to see if something is in stock.
      Many retailers do have this of course, but it does not always accurately reflect what’s happening in the store real-time on the shelves or stock room.
      I just find it super frustrating to see online that something I want is stocked, but then when I get to the store, you see something else shoved in the shelf space. More and more, I just end up ordering from Amazon because I don’t want to drive around to 3 stores and wasting time. It’s a big problem in retail right now.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Many stores will hold something for you if you call ahead & ask if they have it & will hold it for you.

        And those online lists often aren’t updated in anything like realtime.

      2. MuseumNerd*

        We’re a museum, not retail, but I agree that managing expectations helps a ton! For example, we never used to have our rules and policies in writing or on our website and that’s something I changed when I took over the department in November. People are generally happier if they don’t feel like they got bait and switched.

      3. Vintage Lydia*

        Often those totals may be updated once a day at most so they don’t take into account what was bought since then. You really are better off calling and asking them to hold it for you until you can get there (within a reasonable amount of time, like a few hours or end of business.)

    5. thestik*

      “The Director is talking about civility language on our website or a visitor code of conduct but I’m iffy about the idea that people who will scream at my 22-year-old front desk employees will be deterred by a sign asking them to be nice.”

      I wouldn’t be surprised if such a sign actually triggered even more anger, to be honest.

  14. gmg22*

    I’m just imagining the research the sociologists are going to be doing on the non-health effects of the pandemic in the years to come. It really just does feel like between the isolation, the stress of figuring out appropriate levels of caution/prudence around routine errands/tasks/time with your “people,” and of course the political/social divide over covid itself and the public response, we all find ourselves in fight or flight mode all the time.

  15. birder in the backyard*

    We went out to eat last Friday night. The restaurant was about 1/5 full so not very busy at all. From the start, it was clear that our server was really green and struggling with the basics. She just hadn’t been trained and the manager didn’t have time to shadow her. Server went home half-way through our dinner after several other patrons complained and she melted down. It was heartbreaking to see. We tried to be patient and appreciative and tipped well, but overall it was a lousy experience for everyone involved.

    1. Art3mis*

      A while back we went to a place we’re regulars at and there was a new server who was also struggling. The experienced server, who we’d had before and was doing her usual bang up job at chatting up her friends and not doing her job was of course letting her new coworker struggle. We told the new server she was doing a good job and gave her a good tip. Last weekend the new server was still there and doing a great job and the old one was no where to be seen. I hope she got fired now that they have better help.

    2. The Other Evil HR Lady*

      I’m having a similar problem. Called my health insurance company with a problem, the lady on the other line had it sorted within 5 minutes. I had the same problem this week, so I called and… I’ve been on the phone for 25 minutes (none of it was on hold waiting for someone to pick up). The guy who answered the call MUST be new. He’s asked me the same question 3 times. I’m trying to be patient… but I may just hang up and hope that when I call back I get the first lady that helped me. There has been so much turnover that the new people are struggling and there’s no one to help. Being evil and working HR doesn’t help when I’m actually trying to be a kind person…

      1. Loves libraries*

        I almost always write down the names of the customer service reps on the phone. That way I can ask for them again. Doesn’t mean I’ll always get the same one but it doesn’t hurt to try.

    3. Jackie*

      This sounds like my experiences. I’ve found a lot of service people to be poorly trained these days – if I think about it it’s not so surprising. These are jobs that probably laid off a lot of people – restaurants, entertainment, kids’ classes, tourism – and they must have re-hired to meet the exploding demand after we opened back up. So many of these new hires are both under-trained and overworked, they are not doing their jobs to the pre-pandemic level. I think this leads to more yelling by customers, which probably makes more people in the service industry quit, etc. Would not be surprised if we see a sharp increase in automation / self-service options for various businesses in the next few years.

      1. Middle Aged Lady*

        After 40 years of one group doing their best to discredit and dismantle public education, I am surprised at how well most things still function.

  16. OrigCassandra*

    Thank you for using your soapbox in this way, Alison. I really, really appreciate it.

  17. LavaLamp(she/her)*

    I’ve gotten multiple coupons for being nice to people in customer service positions lately. They literally say ‘thank you for not yelling at me’. Like, people from my phone company for routine billing questions are saying this.

    1. Johanna Cabal*

      Years ago, I was in the checkout line at a department store. Customer ahead of me had a complicated purchase that involved using two different types of credit cards, a debit card, and those oh-so-wonderful-coupons. That transaction took 15 minutes.

      Cashier gave me a discount for being patient. I sort of felt like I was being rewarded for practicing normal behavior, or doing what should be expected.

      1. Heffalump*

        Some years ago I was dating a woman whose ex had recently broken up with her. At that time I was living near the main campus of the major state university in my state, although I wasn’t a student. The campus bookstore is now open until 9 every night, but at that time it was open until 9 only on Thursdays. Hitting the remainder tables was virtually always part of my Thursday evenings, so off we went.

        I got a couple of books and thanked the cashier (who was probably a student) for ringing them up, and we left. My date said her ex had often treated customer-facing people like pieces of furniture, and she appreciated my thanking the cashier. I was glad she liked it, but it was a somewhat odd experience to be praised just for doing what I should have done.

      2. Chas*

        I recently melted the wire for the base part of a hot-chocolate maker by accidentally leaving it resting over my cooker hob while they were still hot. No biggee, it was just a small part of the machine so I figured it could be easily replaced. But I also I knew I didn’t have warranty, so I emailled them to say I’d messed up and broke the thing, and how could I get a replacement for just that small part, please?

        The email I got back was so apologetic about my sudden inability to make hot chocolate you’d think I’d have told them that the thing had spontaneously exploded and damaged half my kitchen with it! And then not only did they send me the replacement part free of charge, they included an £8 bag of their hot chocolate flakes in with it. I’d been putting the generous treatment down to them being a sort-of luxury brand, but now I’m wondering if this was just a thank-you for being polite about my mistake…

    2. AdequateArchaeologist*

      I worked in a copy shop during the pandemic and so many people got nasty at times that I would give unofficial discounts to the customers who were nice to me. I didn’t over-charge the mean ones, but I would find every discount and undercharge someone who wasn’t a complete asshole over ten color copies. It was absurd, because even the people who were printing important stuff (job applications, banking papers, etc) weren’t the rude ones!

    3. MsMaryMary*

      Something similar happened to me last week. I messed up a reservation for a work dinner (100% my fault, they don’t even accept reservations as early as I thought I’d booked it) and didn’t realize until they called to confirm day of. I was mortified and asked if there was anything they could do. We’d take any table, inside or out, or in the bar, even a slightly earlier reservation would be great, etc. The hostess put me on hold for a minute and somehow managed to arrange a great table at the time I needed. I really think it was because I was a decent person, acknowledged my mistake, and politely asked for help.

    4. Middle Aged Lady*

      I just got a deal on a beach house just for being nice in my email inquiry. What I think of as normal.

    5. Lydia*

      This reminds me of the time my friend and I were on an overnight flight the night Obama accepted the presidential nomination. The flight attendant was giving the safety presentation and, for whatever reason*, we paid attention, followed along in the safety pamphlet, and watched as she demonstrated the safety gear. She was so grateful, she gave us free television and we were able to watch the nomination. :D

      *I still pay attention because I have a weird fear I’ll forget something and it will be the ONE THING THAT COULD HAVE SAVED ME.

  18. Blue Moon*

    I live in a small town where half the restaurants are straight-up closed or operating on limited hours due to lack of staff. Yesterday my relative was griping about one restaurant now being closed on Sundays and I told him it’s not a big deal, just go to a different restaurant or eat at home. He snapped at me, “I don’t WANT to go somewhere else. I WANT to go to [closed restaurant] where I’ve been having Sunday brunch for years!” I think some people are seeking normalcy amid all the chaos we’ve endured but instead are finding more chaos and it’s putting them more on edge.

    1. Alice in Blunderland*

      I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head. I work in the restaurant industry and it was my theory, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, that people were freaking out at us because for so long restaurants and bars have been used by most (including myself!) as an escape from reality, as a distraction or diversion. But we couldn’t provide escape from the pandemic, especially pre-vaccine. I think a lot of the anger and frustration came from that subconscious longing to be in a space that the pandemic couldn’t touch, which of course doesn’t exist.

    2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Yeah, one of the hard things for me is that I’ve always been bad at being out in public, and pre-pandemic had specific coping strategies identified. One of the big ones for me historically was realizing when I was too hungry and overwhelmed to go someplace new or complicated, and which fast-food chain drive thrus would be simple enough interactions that I could still get food when it’s to the point where words are hard, decisions are hard, everything is too loud, and things need to just Follow The Script. I would then sit in my car in the parking lot and eat my food while I refilled my coping meter until I could deal with people again.

      I have my half of the “how not to be a jerk in a drive-thru” script down cold, but it only works if those places haven’t changed their menu, aren’t out of a ton of things, the person on the other end also has their end of the “how to take a drive-thru order” script down, and if the restaurant can actually put out the food I ordered in less than 10 or 15 minutes. (There are maybe three fast food places where what I want is not technically a special order but rather on the menu as-is, and it’s still unusual enough of an order that I have to make sure that they didn’t mishear it. It is SO STRESSFUL when the display showing my order is broken and they also don’t read it back to me, because lately prices have been changing so often that I can’t use “is it the correct price?” as a double-check against order mistakes.)

      I don’t scream at fast food workers, but it’s taking more and more of my coping skills to deal with what used to be simple interactions that refilled my coping meter so I could deal with the rest of my stressful errands. Nothing is simple anymore.

      1. Deborah*

        Yeah, I know it’s not their fault but the day Popeye’s was out of CHICKEN was a dark day for me.

  19. Hills to Die On*

    Having waited tables and spent plenty of time in retail, I go out of my way to be as nice and patient as I possibly can with everyone. I have been tipping more and trying to be more friendly when I interact with customer service people.
    Man oh man have I seen this spread to customer-facing staff though.
    Example: The pharmacist where I used to go was flat-out nasty for a good 10 years and managed to come out of COVID even meaner. I finally had enough and talked to her manager, who is the sweetest person you could ever hope to deal with. I showed her all of the negative online reviews about this one individual. She put the pharmacist in the back part of the pharmacy, then the pharmacist eventually quit a couple of months later.
    She was legendary in the neighborhood (in the bad way) and everyone is happier now that she is gone. I hope she is in a less stressful environment but ultimately I am just happy I never have to see her again.
    Fortunately people like that are NOT the norm. I hope it gets better.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      We have a woman who works at our neighborhood post office who has an entire NextDoor discussion thread dedicated to strategies to get her to actually post your packages! She’s NOTORIOUSLY vile.

      1. Help Us All*

        Pre-pandemic, one of the worst customer service encounters I had in my life was at a post office in metro Chicago. I was trying tp track a lost package, and asked for a supervisor. She was VILE, yelling at me to the point where other customers were asking what was wrong with her. I give as good as I get though, not proud that I cussed her out but I wrote a snail mail complaint about her and the entire issue (misrouted my package causing me to have to hunt for it). Never got a response. So many hard-working good people work for the Post Office but lots of aholes too, and it is horribly mismanaged. I have to pack my patience unless I’m going to the little quaint PO in my village where everyone is nice.

  20. Lady_Lessa*

    I’m on the other side, as a customer not a supplier. And I try to be both sympathetic and patient, but sometimes places make it hard to do.

    1st example: My apartment complex changed hands (again) and twice the old company took my rent out without me being able to stop them. First time, the apartment workers were able to mail it to me, in my supplied SASE. Minor irritation. Second time, I had to come to the office and pick it up personally. I work over an hour away, since I couldn’t get anything closer. The office hours are: 8 am to5 pm Monday to Friday; no Saturday hours at all. I understand the need to control their working hours, but couldn’t you do 2 half days, one on Saturday and the other on the historical slowest day?

    2nd example trying to get a routine MD’s appointment. Same problem except his last appointment is 3;30 pm. He has periodic Saturday morning hours, but the schedule is only known the week of, so trying to do an appointment then is not worth the potential hassle. But, don’t fuss at me, when I am trying to thing of the best of bad options. (I’m talking no more than a minute of silence)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I brought friend A to the ER. Friend A is male and 6′ tall and 58 y/o. Security asked him if he had come there to harm anyone.

        I brought friend B to the hospital because I now seem to be a taxi. Friend B is female, 5′ tall and 79 y/o. They never asked her if she planned on hurting anyone. (really?)

        Somehow, both friends walked out of there feeling like they had a terrible experience.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Doctors appointments have always been during working hours for the most part. That’s why ERs are so over-utilized. I think the expectation has always been you gotta take leave from work to see your doctor, unless you work swing shift or something.

  21. Ozzie*

    I’ve definitely noticed customers getting more and more rude, even over email – and even customers who I have had a long, positive working relationship with. I try to pass them off to my manager, but she’s as burnt out as I am… but also continues to work with these customers, and never really tells them that their behavior is not appropriate. Me and my colleague aren’t given the ok to stand up for ourselves, and it’s creating a bit of a toxic cycle that’s leaving everyone with a short fuse, especially when things go wrong. (and, shockingly, that is happening more, as we are all so tired)

    I understand why it happens – I’m guilty of it, though really, really, consciously try to keep it together. But being on the receiving end… makes me a lot less sympathetic to the why.

  22. Telecom anon*

    I have/do work in a call centre. People have become horrible, yelling and berating reps for things that are

    1) completely out of their reps control (you chose the cheapest internet package, it was not meant to have four computers on it all on video meetings. You want more you have to pay)

    2) customer driven (you called long distance. It doesn’t matter that you thought you used WhatsApp. It’s not our fault you called long distance and got a huge bill. We operate under the assumption that you are aware you’re calling a different country—and more importantly, we’re a phone company. We don’t stop you from calling people)

    3) just need to yell, scream, be racist (“I want to speak to a Canadian.” Everyone in our call centre is located in Canada.) sexually abusive (the number of reps who have been subject to sexual abuses/advances) or in general punch down.

    People have forgotten common decency and are just horrible

  23. Grand+Admiral+Thrawn+Is+Blue+Forevermore*

    I work for a property insurance company, and sometimes I am on the reception desk. I have to buzz people in, but no way to talk to them on the outside, so it really isn’t any good at security. People are ANGRY at denied/delayed claims, or handled in a manner they don’t like. I am very afraid of someone showing up here without intent to violence because of that, and being the one who let them in. It’s been threatened a few times.

    1. BBB*

      I’m going to be the Devil’s Advocate here, and point out a few things.

      We are seeing accounts of people being angry or unreasonable with airline staff, and some of this is clearly ludicrous (eg. anger over masks). But having said that, airlines are NOTORIOUS for treating customers like shit. Policies that make them money – like overbooking a flight and then demanding the passenger disembark – make sense financially but look INSANE to the customer who is being mistreated. And let’s not even get started on the TSA.

      We are seeing stories about people being overly demanding and hostile to healthcare workers. Our healthcare system is broken and it has been for a long time. Some places are better than others, but let’s not forget that this is a SEVERELY dysfunctional industry. People are fed up with being told our health is linked to our social status, forced to deal with “Chargemaster” billing that is literally fabricated out of thin air, and forced to submit to insurance companies whose entire business model incentivizes NOT doing their job. This system has been clearly broken for thirty years.

      We are seeing stories about people being hostile to educators. What did they expect? A lot of us remember what it was like to be a kid and what it was like to grow up in violent, hostile schools with teachers who were abusive or apathetic. Our public schools are, in many ways, practicing the worst possible models for one-size-fits-all education, and they are often DELIBERATELY under-resourced by the government. People are fed up dealing with incompetence and indifference every time we turn around and we’re tired of being told we have to tolerate a broken system.

      A lot of the posts here are talking about people being abused or insulted for things that are “beyond their control.” And at an individual level, I think that may be true. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that these problems are often things that CAN be fixed, or SHOULD have been fixed, but the industry (or government or whoever writes the checks) refuses to do so. And in some cases these problems are DELIBERATELY created because the business has perverse incentives to mistreat the customer.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        The Devil doesn’t need advocates, and on the day when an angry customer punches Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore I’m sure it will make it hurt less that you’ve said that customer is justified.

  24. Former Gremlin Herder*

    This was so helpful to read. I’m embarrassed to say I’m one of the customers who’s been more short with service employees in the last year or two, and even when I’m driving I notice I have far less patience. This is a good reminder that even though we’ve gotten used to the state of affairs, nothing is “normal”. But also, it’s not an excuse to be rude and I should be better about being kind when I’m out and about.

    I know the article doesn’t mention schools, but based on what I’ve heard from the teachers I know, this is true of students and parents as well. The things I’ve heard kids and parents doing this year are just….so beyond what I ever experienced in a classroom.

      1. bookworm*

        Drivers are absolutely out of control recently. My spouse and I were both rear-ended on separate occasions recently, within 2 weeks of one another. The person who rear-ended me (while I was being courteous to a pedestrian) proceeded to yell at me for stopping for the pedestrian since he was near the crosswalk rather than in it at the moment. We have had some horrific incidences in our city recently of pedestrians killed by cars operating blatantly illegally (one veered off the road, destroying a bus stop and killing a person waiting for the bus, another ran a red light and killed a cyclist in a crosswalk)

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yep. I’m a lifelong jaywalker (which I am happy to take some heat for but is very normal in my city) but I am very adherent to the walk signs now because cars will come blowing out of nowhere and mow people down. Even having the right of way doesn’t guarantee safety but at least I feel legally protected if something happens.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          We recently had a pedestrian killed by a Door dash driver. I think this encapsulates so much of the way things are going.

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      We’re probably all guilty at some point. I do try to be extra patient and polite with service employees. Like, I would never get irritated with them if it’s obviously something out of their control like long lines or being out of something, not knowing, or being unable to do something because of policy. Those things are not their fault and they’re doing the best they can. But I have once or twice been on the receiving end as a customer of some very jerky behavior from service staff too where it was quite obvious they were screwing around. Fortunately, those are much more rare instances.

      Aggressive Driving: Yeah, having to drive during rush hour again after WFH for a long time is gonna do that to people.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Now please explain the people who have moved their drag races to well-populated areas with a lot of pedestrians.

        1. Defining gravity*

          I swear, the majority of people who had COVID early on but survived with no major complications do all have one permanent symptom: they got really stupid at driving. Unfortunately this also happened to everyone else who didn’t get COVID during the early days.

    2. Middle Aged Lady*

      Realizing it is half the battle. We are all in this together. Good for you for the self-knowledge.

  25. NeedRain47*

    IMO part of the root of this problem is “lean” management practices that had everyplace on minimal staffing before the pandemic. There was zero tolerance built in for things like a pandemic. It was designed that way on purpose. There’s also an incredible surplus of jobs that don’t pay a living wage that are never going to have a stable base of employees, b/c everyone who works there is just trying to get something better.

    I don’t know how companies expect their customers to be calm and happy after they’ve, for instance, made three phone calls lasting a total of four hours on hold to try to solve a problem that shouldn’t have happened in the first place and seems to be baffling everyone who works there. It’s not the person on the phone’s fault but they’re the only avenue customers have to attempt to communicate.

    1. Moving on*

      Lean management –
      Definitely part of the problem and when you’re on the inside, you clearly see how corporate f*** you over as well, you might get some platitudes about your great team spirit but no substantive help, raise or additional time off to deal with the stressed customer. Btw. in the majority of the cases I was totally on the side of the customer who called in and had to disconnect calls thankfully only rarely. Still, I was loosing what little motivation I had towards the end and finally got out last autumn. Not a moment too soon if you ask me, because the nastiness was already ramping up then. I likely would have completely burned over winter had I stayed (or gotten Covid at work thanks to lack of enforcement around rules regarding prevention). While I certainly will be at my most patient as a customer myself rn and urge others to reach for kindness whenever they can more substantive change has to be demanded across the board regarding shitty business practices as others pointed out.

    2. Koalafied*

      Yes, this. Almost all the US’s economic gains of the past 25-30 years have attributed by economists to increased labor productivity – getting more work out of fewer workers. Corporations had a choice between efficiency and resiliency. They chose efficiency because it made them more money, and it worked until it didn’t, which was an entirely predictable outcome.

      The idea that you implement redundancy not because you always need it, but because even though you only need it sometimes there’s no question that you will need it at some point, is not a new idea or a difficult one to understand. But our economy incentivizes decision-makers to always prioritize short-term results over long-term health. Even if some individual decision maker in a company tries to a more long-term view and is willing to sacrifice some short-term profit to ensure long-term stability, in all likelihood that person is going to be passed over for jobs/promotions in favor of someone whose numbers look more impressive because they ran lean and efficient. The system disposes of people who try to change it from within.

    3. Nikki*

      This for sure. It makes me so angry that companies design their systems to take advantage of *both* customers and employees. The company makes a big mistake, and the only person I can talk to is a overworked, underpaid customer service rep who is powerless to help me fix it.

    4. MsMaryMary*

      I’ve been thinking about this recently. I tried to schedule a meeting with a client and one of their vendors because there have been service issues. The vendor was able to give me exactly one hour of availability this week, and then nothing until mid-June. Someone is on leave and someone else is going on vacation and they do not have backups. All progress on their work flow stops when they are not in the office. The client wasn’t available for their one hour so I guess we’ll talk in June?

      These are well paid, white collar jobs and of course people should be able to take PTO and go on leave. But they’re staffed so lean there is no give, anywhere. Oh, and their company is extremely profitable.

    5. Jamie Starr*


      The bank my company uses recently blocked online access to our account (for a completely unfounded reason, and they didn’t check with any signers before doing so). It literally took me 4.5 hours (4 separate calls) to get my access unlocked. Next day, the other signer’s access is locked inexplicably. The other signer goes to the bank. Next day, account access is locked again and when calling the 800 number we are told we have to go to the bank branch. Again. We go and it takes an hour – an hour! – for the banker to get the issue resolved, and even the banker was transferred to at least three different departments in the phone tree black hole of “customer service.” At the end of the call, the CSR told the banker “Thank you for being the best part of [Bank name]!” Like there was no independent thought process that the banker was not a customer and did not need to be read the script. And laughable to say that after the bank utterly wasted literal days of its customer’s time. AND! if you try to call the local branch’s number, your call is automatically routed to the 800 number — no way to actually call a local branch.

      So yeah, I’m a little short on patience when dealing with incompetent capitalist drones.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think that is the norm here (big city with mega banks I admittedly strongly dislike for other reasons). I find it quite easy to get in touch with a branch contact when I need one, and the people who work there all have business cards if you walk in. And that’s just as an individual, not as a business account. If you have even a moderate balance they aren’t poky about giving you access to the special downstairs area and the contact of a person who is basically your banker.

  26. Alex Rider*

    I think I have said before that I am working in unemployment for my state. Before that I spent almost 6 years in retail. Everyone is on edge and I wish that people would understand that the person answering the phone is not the person that set up your claim.

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Working in UI has be so bad. It’s a frustrating system to begin with, and unfortunately to many people UI benefits means surviving or becoming homeless.

      1. Alex Rider*

        Yes. And I feel empathy for the person but every single phone call is an incredibly irate person it’s incredibly draining.

  27. Ginge*

    I agree with a lot of what’s being said here. Our lives had been taken over by the pandemic and the horrendous deaths that occurred because of it. Lives have been turned upside down. People no longer want to be told what they can and can’t do anymore. Automated business messaging, when all you want to do is talk to a human being. We’ve been partly suffocated by restrictions and change. We will never go back to the way we were before the pandemic as it was just a pressure cooker about to give way.
    Communication is key, always has been, but people are forgetting how to do this effectively. Empathy and understanding is missing on both sides. Everyone has become over emotional resulting in angry words and irrational behaviour. I’ve worked in the sales service sector, but left due to my own mental health. Demanding and sometimes angry customers every working day. That’s not the reason I left, it was due to lack of managerial support at any stage. Now is the time for Managers to step up in support of their stressed out staff. Sadly, they too are struggling with retention and workloads.

  28. Nethwen*

    A side effect of this is that when management does empower their employees to put a stop on abusive behavior, the public, and often other colleagues, think that policy is unreasonable. That’s always been the case, but the current social climate just makes it worse. More than once, I’ve told my employees, “You did the right thing by declining to help that person in the way they wanted. They lost their right to your help beyond Y when they did X.”

    And so often, it feels like we’re the odd ones out. I hear professional colleagues talking and often their response seems to be, *shrug* “It stinks, but what can we (the leadership) due?” It gets exhausting supporting workers rights to boundaries, even basic human decency, when it seems like we’re the only ones who value doing that.

    1. Duck Soup*

      I think more businesses should refuse/turn away customers more. We need “no soup for you” to be heard a lot more often.

  29. Chirpy*

    I work in retail, and have definitely had people tell me I deserve to be screamed at because it’s “part of the job” or somehow that because I work in retail, I don’t deserve to live or make a living wage, and it’s my “own fault for not making better choices”. It’s not. I’m not less human for working here or being underpaid, and I can’t help any of the pandemic shortages or staffing issues. Screaming at me helps nothing. I’m not anyone’s therapist (and if I’m expected to be one, I should really be paid like one, and allowed to comment on their behavior!)

    It really shouldn’t matter that I do have a college degree and just can’t find a job in my field. I had to pay the rent somehow, and a job is a job. Many of my coworkers don’t have that option, or actually like working retail. They aren’t less deserving of being treated fairly, either. And honestly, the staffing issues are entirely because retail still doesn’t pay enough for even a single, childless person to live on, and nobody wants to spend their days getting screamed at or threatened with violence.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      This. It’s kind of horrifying to see commenters here excusing and defending terrible customer behavior and perpetuating the victim blaming.

      1. Eo*

        Yes! “I confess that I myself did this but…”As though there is anything that could come after that that would somehow make it OK. I mean, “my family member had died that day” would probably excuse it, but instead the excuses are just “I am stressed too,” or “the Company the person worked for did something that really inconvenienced me.”

  30. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

    I’m not in a customer facing role so don’t see it in my job. Even so, my job is hugely stressful trying to manage the changes. But….as a consumer, I’m burnt out on being understanding and gentle over crap service. Yesterday, I went to lunch with my mother and my daughter to a local pizza place that has always had excellent food and decent service. The service was still great but the food? The ‘lemonade’ was literally just water with a bit of lemon flavoring as their machine wasn’t working right. Ok, but instead of bringing me three glasses of lemon flavored water, why didn’t the wait staff come as us if we’d like a substitute? We were the only customers in the restaurant and there were 3 people working but it still took an hour to get two small pizzas and a salad. The pizzas were burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. The salad was literally a plate of lettuce drowned in balsamic vinegar dressing. There was a tiny cherry tomato on it but that was it. The wait person was proactive in removing the charges for the drinks and only charged us for a small side salad instead of the larger salad but still, the bill was over $50 and my daughter left a nice tip and a nice note for the woman who was serving us. But….I’m TIRED of being nice about this sort of thing. I get it. There are issues. But I’m tired of paying a premium price for crap. It’s everywhere I go. I try not to transact business when I’m feeling extra stressed because I don’t want to add to the mess but I’m tired too. I’m tired of sucking it up and being patient, and accepting poor quality goods or services. We are all tired and we are taking it out on each other.

    1. HelloFromNY*

      It’s not that you can’t request corrections or a refund or whatever. You can! But you can’t be screaming or using abusive language to make that refund happen. That’s the whole point here.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes. I’m not sure where this mindset came from that you can’t politely bring up an issue. That’s not an attack on you, Persephone – it’s a common thing for people to just grin and bear it. But you don’t have to! Don’t eat the bad pizza, just politely say “this really isn’t what I was hoping for, I’m going to get lunch somewhere else”.

        When I ask people about this kind of thing they often say they don’t want to make a scene or they’re not confrontational, but as long as you’re as polite as possible it really is fine. You’re paying for a good or service, you can decline it if it’s not acceptable quality.

      2. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

        I don’t think I made it clear: I’m not failing to request a refund or a new meal or whatever. It’s that every time I go out to run errands or get a meal or purchase something, I have to correct, change, get a refund. It’s exhausting. I’m tired of doing it. I’m tired of being nice when having to correct the fifth error that day. It gets harder. That crappy meal wasn’t the only thing that day. I had more things to do but that was my limit. I ended up going home, leaving several things undone which still need done because I was tired of dealing with it and having to be nice. So yeah, yelling, screaming, having a meltdown, not acceptable and I’m not going to be the one who does it. But I can also see how they get to that point. I remove myself from the public before I get to that point, but it really just pushes it out to another day and the cycle continues.

        1. Ali + Nino*

          “It’s that every time I go out to run errands or get a meal or purchase something, I have to correct, change, get a refund. It’s exhausting. I’m tired of doing it. I’m tired of being nice when having to correct the fifth error that day. It gets harder.”

          Yep – and that’s when it gets on our “last nerve.” Different family members who came to visit us within the past six months had similar experiences:
          – The closest hotel, known for being not great in the best of times, is absolutely dismal now. You have to make a special request for your room to be cleaned, 24+ hours in advance. One family member was not feeling well and his wife ordered room service for him – some tea and soup. It took staff TWO HOURS to bring the order up to his room. Oh, and this is when he was already in his THIRD ROOM for the night: The first didn’t have working heat (this was in the winter in a notoriously cold city), and the toilet in the second room wouldn’t flush. They had to twist management’s arm to get a discount off their stay, and even then it seemed like it wasn’t worth it. But when you’re the only game in town, you can get away with stuff like this.
          – Other family members ordered a pizza for pick-up, were told it would be ready at 6:15 pm, but were left waiting for it until 6:45 pm. Seriously?

        2. NeedRain47*

          This is it exactly, including the leaving things undone because I can’t cope with fixing another problem, which causes the problem to drag on. I absolutely loathe it.

          1. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

            I have a long laundry list of things that I need to take care of. Things that have either been put off because I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to continue to be ‘supportive, understanding, and kind’ or things that I’ve been trying to get corrected already and haven’t been successful with. When I go to deal with them, I’m already at a deficit in the ‘kind and understanding’ bucket. I have a headache and I’m tense just thinking about doing them. I don’t condone the major melt downs over seemingly stupid things like no chocolate cake but boy, I sure understand how that woman got to that point.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              Yeah, it’s that every single task I have to do has 1-5 extra things wrong with it, or is blocked by something else with 1-5 things wrong with it.

              Thus, I get fewer errands done per trip, because each individual errand takes up more of my patience and I was already short on patience. This in turn means that undone errands are building up and that various low-urgency things aren’t getting solved, which in turn means I’m working around those things and that uses up even MORE of my limited patience. There’s just no obvious exit strategy from the Suck Loop, and it’s been over 2 years of muddling through, which is also true of whoever in customer service is on the other end of the 1-5 extra things are wrong interaction, and so we’re both exhausted and less resilient as we hit whatever current wrong thing is happening.

  31. Pascall*

    I think a portion of it too is corporations and businesses unwilling to change certain predatory business practices and allowing customer frustration to spill out to their frontline hourly workers. Customers are so much less tolerant of terrible business policies and procedures that make them unable to get the services and goods that they need without unnecessary jumping through hoops, hitting walls, additional fees, or things like that because a lot of people simply don’t have the money to piddle away anymore after two years of the pandemic and the downturn into economic recession. So when they feel like they’ve been slighted, that anger can’t get taken out on the bigwigs who make the decisions (at least not easily), so the customer service associate who makes like $12/hour gets the brunt of it.

    1. pancakes*

      Yes, I think that’s a big part of it. A few people have written about this on a big-picture level, and observed that many companies trained consumers to feel entitled to various things, over a period of many years. I’ll link to a couple articles about this separately.

      1. Starbuck*

        “People aren’t accustomed to having to really think about the trade-offs they make for the economy to run how it does, and when they do have to think about it, they don’t like it. Consumer-centric culture has made it easier for us to be destructive in ways big and small — to workers, to the environment, and to each other. Corporations have manufactured our high expectations, and it’s hard to reverse course.”

        “We expect everything to work just like clockwork,” Kowalski explains. “Heaven forbid the internet goes out or we get stuck in a traffic jam and can’t go as fast as we want to, and that’s immediately going to trigger dissatisfaction.”

        Totally. I do think some of this comes from the top though – when I’m stressed that my internet goes out, it’s because my boss expects me to be working. When I’m stressed about being in traffic, again, that’s because I’m going to be late for work and unfortunately that has consequences… I really do like to extend grace and flexibility to people when it’s in my power to do so, but my power to change these systems as a customer is limited. I can refuse to shop at Amazon, but regardless it gets bigger and more evil by the day.

  32. The Jerk Store*

    I’m a lead for a phone/chat support team for a software company and the entitlement of some of the people reaching out to us for help is off the charts. A woman chatted in this morning asking how a process would go for a hypothetical situation and because it’s highly specialized and specific we told them we would have that team reach out to them directly by phone as soon as someone was available (these wait times are typically not long, a few min maybe). And instead of being like “Great, thanks!” they replied, “Please give me a direct line to dial instead, we’re the ones paying for this service and I’m not waiting on hold forever so please give me a direct number”.

    That’s not how any of this works, ma’am.

    1. Temperance*

      So …. she wanted to call in herself because she was not interested in waiting for help and being on hold … instead of waiting for an available person to call her. I would have struggled not to point that out.

    2. Ruby*

      I kinda see her point on this one. The number of times I’ve actually been called back when customer service said they’d call back is zero. So you will inevitably need to wait through hold music hell again.

      1. Jora Malli*

        Right. The Jerk Store knew for certain that it wouldn’t be more than a few minutes, but their customer would just have to take it on faith that this was true when it’s really not with some companies.

      2. Dragon*

        My ISP and a newspaper game me a scheduled callback option, and both worked fine. Maybe that’s becoming a trend.

    3. Wintermute*

      After being outright lied to over and over, I no longer trust I will ever be called back. In fact I swear, despite the fact I’m being polite and calm, that they tell me that a specialist will call me back and then hang up on me just so they can hit their call time metrics, when actually solving my issue would take long enough it would eat into their calls/hour requirements.

      So I don’t blame her one little bit. We’ve trained customers to be this way by abusing their trust. If It’s not in writing I assume it will never happen, and I automatically assume if I try to collect on a promise later I’ll be told there’s no record of it and I can go pound sand.

    4. Generic Name*

      I’m having a hard time seeing how asking for a direct number to call rather than being on hold for an indefinite amount of time is entitled. Sure, maybe that’s not how it works at your company because you’ve set it up that way, but that doesn’t seem all that entitled to me?

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think it is, but I suspect it’s also often at odds with the company’s workflow. If they use a ticketing system for certain types of reps, for example, it would be much better to speak to someone on a different team rather than try to jump into that queue, and they may or may not have policies about giving customers direct numbers to that other team as well.

        Sometimes it helps to look online for direct numbers or code flowcharts (“press 0 to speak to an operator,” for example).

  33. mimi*

    I work in a public library, and at the end of last year I was physically assaulted because someone didn’t want to put on a mask (luckily I was able to take advantage of our state PFML and have some time off). While physical violence thankfully wasn’t a regular occurrence, verbal abuse and just general crappiness were while the mask mandate was active.

    1. mimi*

      All that said, I can understand frustration at low staffing causing massive inconvenience, and I wouldn’t be surprised if employees are starting to burn out and half-ass things. Everyone’s traumatized and exhausted and feeling a little hopeless!

    2. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      Our town staff send incident reports of being physically assaulted by the public a few times a month. Last week we had downtown maintenance staff who start work before 5am get physically assaulted and threatened by some unhoused folks. A couple weeks ago a transit driver was attacked by two different riders (who were not unhoused, despite what everyone assumes at first). A patron threw a shoe at a lifeguard. It’s just unbelievable.

    3. Alice in Blunderland*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’ve worked in the restaurant business for 12 years now and until the pandemic had NEVER been threatened with physical assault, but it became routine. I had men old enough to be my father looming over me and threatening me with violence. In the summer of 2020 I was spit on by a woman when I asked her to put on a mask. It’s utterly terrifying.

  34. HelloFromNY*

    I wanted to add that if you are a customer in a public place, you have the power to help. Employees are limited to how much they can stand up from themselves. But customers can freely call out other customers. If you see another customer being inappropriate/abusive, you can say something (if you feel comfortable doing so). More then once I’ve seen a person bring a cashier or clerk to tears. I’ve flatly looked them in the eye and said “You sir, are an ass.” The offender is usually so flabbergasted that they walk away. Good riddance. Another option is to notify management that you witnessed an employee being harassed. Indicate that the employee handled it well. Support good workers!

    1. Chirpy*

      This! I as a retail worker can’t say anything, or if I do, might just get a customer who laughs it off or gets more aggressive, or who might complain to corporate (where they won’t ask my side). But if their fellow customers call them out, they’re more likely to back off.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I want to just caution that sometimes this makes the situation worse and a lot of workers would prefer you don’t do this. Read the room as best you can.

    3. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      Yes! Perfect advice.

      Would like to add that the police often do more harm than good in these situations and people should keep that in mind. I know you didn’t even mention them, but people keep bringing up calling the cops on unhinged customers so.

    4. Foila*

      I once was in a liquor store and the customer at the counter was giving the clerk a hard time (more whiny than aggressive, but also unmasked). I watched another customer do a *masterful* intervention – “SO sorry to interrupt, but I need your help finding something in the cold case. See, it’s usually in location A, but I’ve looked there, and…”
      Just this solid wall of words that the annoying customer couldn’t get through, plus an invitation for the employee to walk away with her. It didn’t turn out to be necessary, but I was impressed.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I have, in the past, deliberately dropped stuff behind people going off and then launched into a babble of OH NOOOOO I’ve DROPPED ME CHEESE I’m so CLUMSY can you help me pick it up oh my POOR CHEESE I’m such a klutz oh nyyyyyyyyyew no now I’ve dropped my purse oh nooooooo and distracted them into helping the neighborhood batty old lady pick up her tricky cheese.

    5. bookworm*

      Highly recommend doing a bystander intervention training — “Right to Be” (formerly Hollaback) is one organization that does them and uses a “5 Ds” model to outline different/complementary strategies for intervening in a situation– the Ds are: Distract (do something disruptive like dropping something to interrupt the situation), Document (videotape, write up what you saw, being sure to let the victim control how that documentation gets used), Delay (check in with the person afterward), Direct (directly intervene like HelloFromNY describes), and Delegate (go get someone with more authority like a manager and/or organize other bystanders to respond using several of the above tactics)

  35. HungryLawyer*

    It feels like everyone is emotionally dysregulated these days. The trauma of the pandemic, combined with wars, climate change effects, and everything else going on in our lives, has become too much to cope with. Obviously, being traumatized is not a valid reason to lash out and be a jerk. It feels like everyone out in the world is dealing with a fight or flight response because we’re truly living in life or death circumstances.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      We really need to talk about this more, because this is trauma we’re going to carry with us for a long time.

    2. superduperhoopla*

      It’s absolutely traumatic waiting for my rights & status as a legally recognized human being in America to be stripped away. As war rages. As the climate collapses. Etc.

    3. LKW*

      Emotionally disregulated is a very nice way of saying “behaving abysmally”

      And most of the stories here are not life and death circumstances. Having a temper tantrum over chocolate cake or items out of stock are not life and death decisions. People are frustrated and anxious about the things they can’t control but they choose to punch down.

      1. Jora Malli*

        I’m a trauma survivor and as a result I can have control issues. There are a lot of things that are not under my control, so sometimes when I’m not particularly healthy, I can get really intense about really small and unimportant things, because they feel like the only thing I have control over in an overwhelming and terrifying world.

        I say that not to dismiss the poor behavior or to deny that some people are assholes just because they want to be, but there is an element of trauma in some of these interactions. Not all, but some. We as a society have gone through some serious collective trauma in recent years and very few of us are actually receiving proper treatment or care. So, yeah, sometimes people are jerks to customer service staff because they can and because they feel entitled to. But also sometimes a person is overreacting to something incredibly minor because it feels like the only thing they have control over right now.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Do you also overreact toward people who have equal or greater power than you in the situation? Toward your boss? Your doctor (not their receptionist)? Toward security guards or police officers?

          I mean, some people do – that’s why they get duct-taped to the seat on airplanes, dragged out of stores, and thrown in jail. But if a person only gets intense about small and unimportant things with those who have even less control than they do, perhaps we should consider how much agency and choice they are actually exercising.

          We as a society have gone through collective trauma, yes. And yet some people are continuing to re-traumatize others, and doing so very selectively so that they don’t get major consequences for it. People who have enough impulse control to carefully pick their targets could also choose not to target anyone.

          1. Jora Malli*

            My comment was in response to someone who was denying that people’s poor behavior could have anything to do with their trauma or their mental health, and I was pointing out that there is nuance here. It’s more complicated than “all people who are rude to customer service staff are being rude because they are awful people who like to be mean to people they think of as below them.”

            I don’t think there is a single person in this comment section who could honestly say that they’ve never hit a breaking point and been accidentally rude to a stranger. Most of us are not rude jackasses who enjoy being mean to other people, we are human beings with limits and baggage and sometimes things happen.

            Are there people in the world who are mean to service workers because they enjoy it? Yes. There are. But as a person who is frequently on the receiving end of that rudeness, I also understand that there are times when it’s not intentional and that the person is upset about more than just their interaction with me.

            1. RagingADHD*

              That…doesn’t pertain at all to what I said. It has nothing to do with whether the harsh/raging/aggressive person “enjoys it.” If you (or anyone) has a pattern where they lose control of themselves in situations where they will suffer no consequences but maintain control quite well in situations where they do, then control is not actually the issue, and it isn’t happening by accident.

              It’s the same dynamic as people who make excuses for creeps or sexual harassers who supposedly “don’t understand social norms” but nevertheless manage to have good jobs and avoid being arrested. They don’t ogle their boss, grope police officers, or expose themselves to authority figures. They understand social norms just fine, because they understand what they can and can’t get away with.

              Telling oneself otherwise (aka denial) simply perpetuates the pattern. People don’t heal by abdicating responsibility for themselves.

        2. ostentia*

          I don’t care *why* someone is treating me poorly. At the end of the day, I flat-out refuse to tolerate being treated poorly, especially over incredibly minor things.

  36. Jake*

    My wife is a nurse, and the general downturn happened last summer for her. She thinks it is because there was so much talk of there being enough vaccines available that we were done with the pandemic, so now instead of just dealing with jerks that are pissed off they have to have a covid test before surgery and wear a mask because covid isn’t real, now you still have those people, but also the people that are generally pissed because they feel that if everybody would just follow the guidelines they wouldn’t have to jump through hoops like… getting a covid test before surgery and wearing a mask.

    I feel for her because she internalizes the stress from unreasonable patients and it manifests in ways that impact her outside of just work. The frustrating part is that even the people who recognize that it wasn’t okay to be rude to her don’t realize the level of impact they are having on her and her family outside of work.

    1. ThatNeuroNurse*

      Is your wife me? Because I had a horrific night and as soon as I can I’m venting yo my husband.

      I was in a patients room recently- not even my patient either- trying to calm them down enough to get back into bed/the chair and not stomping around trying to leave/fall. I’d relieved another nurse because this had been going on for a while. This patient was confused so I didn’t take it personally when they said horrible things and called us names, or when they hit us.

      What I did take personally was my patient in the next room over I could hear YELLING THROUGH THE WALL at a new nurse I just finished orienting. I had someone else take over for me in the first room, calmed down my patient, and apologized to my coworker for the patient. Same patient when they were calmer, told me in the same sentence to “apologize to that other nurse for me but tell him to grow some thicker skin because there’s always going to be people like me.” Why was this patient yelling? They’d already gotten all their pain medication avaliable and we had to call the doctor for more. Idc how bad the pain is, if we can hear you through a wall/door- which are designed to keep rooms as quiet as possible- you’re out of line.

  37. Anon (and on and on)*

    I got surprisingly emotional while reading this. Like – tearing up at my desk at work – emotional. Those admissions from people who knew they lost they cool really got to me. We’re all in so much pain, so scared, and feel so incredibly helpless. It’s never okay to lash out at another person, but lord, do we ever need some compassion and, more than that, some HELP.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The deep dark secret is we ARE each other’s help. No, we can’t fix it all, and that is oh-so-true. But each of us has 1 square inch of this planet and we can do our best to make sure our one square inch is going as well as possible. And we can look for ways to use our one square inch to help lighten someone else’s load. It’s okay to assume that everyone is carrying some burden.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Yeah. I’ve gotten to the point where I carry candy with me and when I start feeling like I’m going to lose it I just shove a bunch of caramel into my mouth. Sadly, it works in the same way soothing a toddler’s booboo with a lollipop works.

    3. BurnOutCandidate*

      A couple of days after New Year’s 2020 — before the pandemic hit North America, though I was very aware of what was happening in Wuhan and what was likely to happen — I had to pick up a prescription at the local pharmacy.

      There were issues relating to insurance, and, I admit, I got hostile with the pharmacy tech. It wasn’t her fault that insurance wouldn’t cover the refill — my prescription insurance wouldn’t cover less than a 90 day prescription — and they didn’t recognize my primary care. But I also didn’t want to possibly stroke out and die, and I left without the prescription, quite upset. I sat in the parking lot of CVS and stewed. Then as I drove home, I was mad with myself for taking it out on the pharmacy tech. It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her fault.

      It took about two weeks to resolve with my primary care, and I had to go two weeks without that and other prescriptions that the pharmacy simply wouldn’t fill. It was a frustrating time.

      In July of 2020, I was in the pharmacy, picking up some refills. I recognized the pharmacy tech from January. I wasn’t sure if she recognized me. And after she gave me my meds, I apologized for being an awful person at New Year’s. “It wasn’t your fault, you hadn’t done anything to warrant my hostility, you were trying to help me, and I was taking out on you.” It was coming from a deep place. I’d been living with this for six months, and I felt genuinely bad about it. She said none of that was necessary. Meanwhile another pharmacy tech was listening to all of this and going, “Awww.”

      I’ve not seen her in about nine months, but after then when I did see her, she’d call me “my friend.”

      Even though I apologized, I still feel bad for having been an awful person. I knew better. I knew better.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        This was really good of you to say something, however much later. I definitely make a mental note of customers who have been belligerent and being able to take someone off that list because they were gracious and kind would be an incredible relief.

  38. Mgt_in_training*

    My 16 year old is starting his first job working as a life guard for the summer and I felt bad having to explain to him that his dad and I would back him 100% if he walked off a job if he was being harassed by a customer. I never had to have that conversation with his brother 6 years ago for the same job.

    1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      It’s a real concern. I do Parks & Rec admin and we struggled with this before the pandemic, but it’s so much worse now. Patrons are more demanding and our services are more limited, and our leadership has always caved and given patrons who complain whatever they want. One patron who has been put on time out like a dozen times for making other patrons cry and making staff cry and going on racist tirades keeps getting more chances because she escalates directly to the mayor, which gets our department director in trouble. It’s a nightmare, and we get told we can’t treat them like normal customers because we’re a municipality and they’re tax paying citizens.

      1. Mgt_in_training*

        I hate that we reward those people who behave like this. I work in government too (IT) but thankfully I have good management that backs us when staff try to give us crap. But the people we serve….. yeah….. sometimes you gotta eat it. Sucks.

        1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

          Sure does. Our supervisors and division leads really go to bat for our staff, but that’s as high as it goes. I think even putting patrons on temporary suspensions is a compromise our director scored from the manager’s office.

      2. Middle Aged Lady*

        Yeah but so are the many people this one person is bothering. Arrgghh. So frustrating.

    2. QA Peon*

      I was telling a coworker the other day that I’m sure part of the staffing shortages at retail and restaurants is the lack of teenagers working – if my son was old enough, I wouldn’t want him to get a job right now! When the pandemic first started, I wouldn’t have wanted him to put his health at risk for minimum wage and now it would be because of how awful behavior has become.

      He’s only 9 and I really hope things get better in the next 7 years, because I think there’s a lot of value in teenagers doing at least one job in the service sector – I feel like it gave me some good customer service skills and confidence interacting with a lot of people and juggling multiple tasks, and also taught me to appreciate the people who do those jobs and how much power they likely do/don’t have when I ask for something.

      1. Mgt_in_training*

        We discussed lots of different job opportunities and thought life guarding would be the one with the least obnoxious customers, such was what we have seen at grocery store and resturants.

        1. Qa peon*

          Definitely, people should be more relaxed in that setting, I’d hope. My friends who life guarded always enjoyed it. More than I did Long John Silvers for sure.

          1. pancakes*

            I think they will be. I go to our local public pool in the summer and always think it seems like a great summer job, and the teens doing it seem to be having a good time. The pay is pretty good, too – I just checked and it’s $16/hr.

  39. Temperance*

    I work in pro bono legal services and have noticed that many of our clients have become extremely entitled and quite rude. There has always been a contingent who acts entitled, rude, and pushy because they think that’s how you’re supposed to treat lawyers, but it’s gotten exponentially worse.

    They all want more time, and face time, at that. And no, of course they don’t want to tell you if they’re vaccinated, if they spend time with unvaxxed people, and oh yeah, they won’t come to our office, either (because you need to show a vaccine card) so they demand we drive out to their homes instead. I refuse and I just tell them that they’re not getting help through us.

    I am lucky in that I can pick and choose my clients and the work that I do and promote. Putting my family at risk to deal with rude-ass people is not going to happen. It’s a plus in that I’m doing things I genuinely care about instead.

    1. J*

      Just jumped ship from pro bono legal myself. Part of it was a lack of support by management (they decided April was a good time to bring us back to the office, drop all Covid precautions for workers and clientele including vaccination and masks and told us we couldn’t request others mask in our presence). And on top of it, clients were worse. And I was working not in the worst of people’s issues like unemployment or benefits but rather a group that was just there to proactively create community development.

      I get it, half of my clients had an immediate family member die but so did I. I just couldn’t handle the hostility from clients and the complete lack of support internally while also risking my life daily since I’m high risk. I’ve worked BigLaw and I’m used to abuse but at least they would pay me more to suffer.

      1. Temperance*

        I work in law form pro bono which is a nice balance between dealing with client nonsense and big law nonsense.

        I am glad you got out of there. I couldn’t do direct services, especially now.

  40. Eldritch Office Worker*

    It’s definitely happening on both sides. The people who deliver my amazon packages are going out of their way to leave the packages on my neighbor’s porch, despite me reaching out and telling them I’m disabled and it’s hard for me to get to them when they’re misdelivered (after I filed a complaint they started stacking them right up against her door). I had to change dog groomers because of a couple really unsettling interactions. Some customer facing folks I’ve dealt with just straight up tell me how awful their day has been. They sound exhausted.

    I try REALLY hard not to take my frustration out on people who can’t control the situation, and even if it is someone who controls the situation I try to keep conversations productive, but I feel my patience thinning as the months go on. I’ve started sending my husband to deal with conversations I think are going to be negative because I just don’t trust myself.

    I don’t know what the solution is. We’re all highly strung right now, a lot of us have seen or heard or read a lot of things that make us really distrustful of others. I am certainly struggling with the concept of assuming the best intentions of people. I know that employers have a lot of power here and workers should never have to feel unsafe at work, and I hope an increasing number will set boundaries. I hope workers will demand those boundaries, seeing the power they have in the market right now. But I think there’s a real human-to-human problem that I don’t know how to solve and certainly feel complicit in.

  41. Bunny Girl*

    I left VetMed last year because people were terrible. Not just a couple, not just one bad one every day – but a vast majority of the time I was screamed at, talked down to, dismissed, had things thrown at me, was accused of letting people’s animals die because we just cared about money, along with getting things thrown at me. All while being paid less than a fast food worker. The manager wasn’t willing to fire clients. But I see his point – we wouldn’t have had more than three left.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m so, so sorry. I have noticed my vets being way more hesitant to give us bad news (like “pup has a parasite he gave himself by eating weird poop” bad not “pet is dying” bad) than they used to. We used to get lectures if any little thing was wrong and now it feels like they’re apologizing to us for things they have no control over. I miss the lectures! They make me better!

      I keep hearing stories like this and I totally understand why the vibe has changed – especially with so many new pandemic pets people weren’t ready for. I really appreciate you and the difficult job you were doing.

    2. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      I think this is an important piece. Our inability to work collectively as a society is part of the fundamental issue here. If one place takes steps to protect its employees from abuse and another doesn’t, their business will suffer. But if all the places offering one product/service collectively agreed not to put up with bullshit, people would have to figure out how to act if they wanted any goods or services at all.

      I know that’s a pie in the sky dream, but I just don’t see enough discussion of how our cultural values of short-term profit above all else and our allergy to collective action is impacting this situation.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        I agree. I think entitled people have been able to be entitled for too long and no one is shutting them down and in fact are just catering to them. I’m planning on opening a business in the future and if you act like an idiot to my staff I will put you out on your ear and yeah you will cry.

      2. Nethwen*

        This dynamic is what prompted my comment earlier. When not everyone is willing to create and enforce boundaries, the organizations that do get a reputation for bad customer service.

  42. BradC*

    My teenage and college-age kids are looking for summer work, and this is a MAJOR fear for them in their job search right now.

    When you’re searching for (true) entry-level work your options can be limited, but they are definitely looking more into non-customer facing roles.

  43. Not So NewReader*

    My friend does contractor work. What an eye opening experience to see the inside of this. Contractors all talk to each other. Not only do they know who does what work well, they also know how customers treat people. They all tell each other, “Sue Smith does not pay” or “Johnny Jones is a nasty, mean person”.

    I see people having a hard time getting contractors to show up. And I privately know that *sometimes* (not always) there is a reason that is happening.

    Sadly around here getting people to mow or to plow is getting harder and harder. Machines break more and more readily, parts are more expensive and the contractor cannot break even, never mind a profit. If a customer is not nice then they lessen their chances of finding contractor help.

    OTOH, as a widow on my own, if I call for help with something I know I have to be kind and pay promptly. And even then, some people do not even call back. But just like the contractor’s have a circle of friends so do women on their own. And I found other women on their own who are more than willing to share who is trustworthy and who is not. It pays for the customer and for the contractor to have basic decency in place.

    1. AdequateArchaeologist*

      I didn’t think about the equipment breakdown portion of things. And with supply chain issues and back orders, even if you get the part ordered will it even come in time to be worth the cost?

  44. HannahS*

    Honestly, it’s a big problem. And the truth is, I feel like the pandemic made me a worse person. I’m less patient, less willing to excuse bad behaviour. I don’t think I ever spoke rudely to anyone in public, ever, until I started snapping at people to put their masks on when we had a mandate. I contain myself when I interact with customer service and retail workers, but I do notice that inwardly, I feel a lot more frustrated than I would in the past. My judgements of other peoples’ motives are less generous; I’m more likely to assume malice (or selfishness or whatever) instead of inexperience or naivete. And when people are themselves in survival mode, they aren’t as motivated to do a good job. Multiply that by everyone around me who feels the same way…we’re all on edge.

    1. June*

      I believe in masks. I also know it’s not my job to police people. That is left to the establishment you are visiting. Snipping and aggressive behavior on both sides makes it worse for all.

      1. HannahS*

        I disagree, actually, because I think that safety outweighs manners, and I’m not willing to let someone in my apartment building put me and my immunocompromised baby at risk. You do you.

      2. Temperance*

        There’s no “both sides”. There are people putting the general public at risk.

  45. JustMe!*

    OMGosh! I’m on the phone with my customer’s reading AAM (grin – helps – honestly) and I realized my comment was used in the article!! I don’t know why but it really makes me feel better – I love my customers – I love my job – but honestly – lately its like the world has lost their mind! Thanks A for listening :)

  46. Aphrodite*

    I have, thankfully, never gotten impatient or nasty with any one in a customer service / public position in these last several years. But my patience and determined kindness don’t feel like enough. I have decided to take action that while it cannot affect the whole world can make some people in my corner of it feel better.

    The other day I ordered 1000 business cards that say “Thank you! I wanted to let you know that I think you are doing wonderfully at your job. Please always remember that it is only your actions and your thoughts that matter in your life. And you are doing great today!” (I included an image of a bouquet of red roses next to “Thank you!”)

    I intend to attach a piece of Werther’s candy to each card and hand them out to those poor people whose companies are forcing them to deal with this instead of firing their nasty customers. I can’t change the latter but I can make a difference to the former.

    What was that older bumper sticker about “We Must Be The Change We Wish to See in The World.” Yup. I agree.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      You have chosen your username well because you are truly a goddess. This is exponentially, logarithmically better than people in other threads proudly crowing about how they yelled at customer service staff because This thing Justified it.

  47. in a fog*

    Not long ago, I walked into one of those big-box office supply stores to see (and hear) someone berating the staff at the copy center counter. I later ended up at the cash register after the abusive customer had left and after security had ushered the shaken staff member to her car, when someone else came in and started huffing and puffing that there was no one at the copy center to help her. The cashier was graciously trying to finish up with me so she could go over and help this person, but I just looked the complainer right in the eye and said, “There’s no one to help you right now because someone was just screaming at the staff member there and they left to collect themselves.” That shut them up right quick.

  48. Aitch Arr*

    I just called the Customer Service line of a large metropolitan US newspaper to cancel my online subscription.

    The On Hold message – in addition to saying the usual “your call may be monitored for quality assurance or training purposes” – also said “we will not tolerate verbal abuse of our customer service representatives, including slurs based on race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”

    Holy cannoli. Imagine what crap these CSRs had to deal with in order for that message to have been put in place.

    1. Heffalump*

      This. Even if the CSR has genuinely messed up, stick to the merits of the case.

  49. June*

    I’m done with being verbally abused and threatened. Front line healthcare. You want to go down that route after an attempt to de-escalate? You can talk to security or the cops.

  50. LiptonTea4Me*

    I have had issues with this lately as well, I find myself angry at the drop of a hat. It is really, really hard to dial it back when I am frustrated with the serious lack of common sense in many of the service industries. I ordered a stove/oven and then misread the delivery date and missed the delivery…I admit it, it was on me. But I had to call the company to reschedule, I was hung up on twice, sent to the third party to reschedule who in turn redirected me back to the store three times. I was told in no uncertain terms that the date for delivery was now set up, they no showed! I was transferred to the appliance department and finally reached someone in receiving who took it upon himself to fix the issue, only to have the wrong address placed on my order. I was beyond angry at this point. Finally the stove was delivered, the driver stated he would take the extra range cord back to the store and refund me…12 days later it still hasn’t appeared in my credit card. I get the supply chain issues, I get being understaffed, but if I have to do your job myself, then I seriously am not going to be happy. And that frustrates me beyond belief!

    1. BBB*

      …And when you finally get angry about it, the story turns up on Reddit. Some worker bee is like, “I had a customer call about his oven delivery and he was so mean to me for no reason!” They won’t acknowledge the chain of bad decisions, inept bureaucracy, and total incompetence that led to you becoming angry in the first place because they are only concerned about their own tiny piece of the puzzle.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        How dare we not know our place and instead discommode our self-declared superiors by having opinions.

      2. pancakes*

        That doesn’t seem like a problem to me. Those workers are often treated terribly. If they want to anonymously blow off steam online, fine by me. Why should they acknowledge corp. management decisions way above their pay grade when they do? And if you’ve identified these places, why keep going back expecting things to have dramatically changed for the better? It’s snide to call them “worker bees,” too.

  51. WS*

    I work in healthcare. In the previous 20 years we had banned a grand total of 2 customers for abusing staff. Since the pandemic started, we have banned about one a month, including two incidents that escalated to arrests and jail time. Yes, it’s stressful that we have to change brands on your medication (or occasionally can’t get it at all) but we’re doing our absolute best and abusing or attacking us doesn’t solve the supply chain problem!

  52. Neddy Seagoon*

    I used to work in a doctor’s surgery – not as a GP or a nurse, but as the guy who handled incoming calls and pointed them to the right person. And it was maddening – the people I spoke to were already cranky and ill (or worried for their families, who were ill ) and had been on hold for a long time before they finally got to me and on hold again before they spoke to the admins or the nurse. They took a lot of their frustration out on me and the rest of the team – we were told to be patient, if possible, because NO ONE rings the doctor to have a pleasant few words. (And if they did, ten minutes listening to awful music ruined it.)

    I kind of get it, but we had absolutely NO power to fix the system.

  53. Mim*

    I feel like the reaction I get to what I consider polite common courtesy in interactions with service workers, call center staff, etc., is met more often with pleasant surprise than it used to be. Sometimes with a touch of visible or audible relief.

    My current job doesn’t involve interacting with the public, for which I am grateful right now. I have noticed that the sense of… entitlement? Selfishness? Whatever is at play seems to be bleeding out into things like how people drive, too. I don’t drive as much as I used to, so I had to check in with my spouse to figure out if maybe I was just more sensitive than before. But he has experienced the same thing — people driving more recklessly, doing things like pulling out of driveways without looking, passing when there isn’t space to do so safely, etc. I feel really bad for anyone whose job involves driving or regular commutes. Whatever is happening, it’s happening on the roads, too. And that is really scary.

  54. Affiche*

    It’s a difficult situation all around, as we’ve seen in the article.

    I started working with clients at the beginning of this year, and I’ve had a terrible time. I have been job hunting for a role that will be more internal-facing. One reason is that I don’t feel I’ve been sufficiently trained to handle clients. The other big reason is that I haven’t liked working with clients. Not all of is covid-related, some of it is just the regular working culture pains. But I’ve had enough of a taste to understand that customer-facing workers are dealing with the worst possible scenarios right now.

    I think I have some level of social anxiety. I used to be in a customer-facing role at my old job, and I guess I learned to be okay at it. In recent years, my social anxiety exacerbated because of the time I’ve spent working remotely, and because my current job didn’t involve much client-facing time (until recently). So I admit that I put off phone calls or video calls. I don’t feel confident that I have the knowledge to respond to a client instantly (because of lack of training). I much prefer emails where I can think about what to write and ask for advice before I get back to clients. And I feel that written communication protects me from rude behaviour (because of email etiquette and the fact that people have to put things down in writing).

    I think extended WFH has made me want to be nicer to customer service workers though. I do miss nice mundane interactions. When I work with clients, I’m always anxious that I’ll try to be nice but they’ll just yell at me. With customer service workers, I can be sure that as long as I’m nice to them, they’ll be nice back to me too and we can figure things out together. And I know for a fact that they have things much worse than I do, they deserve kindness.

  55. Maltypass*

    Late to commenting but being quoted in this is legit my proudest moment on the internet and possibly in life even if its for a non pleasant reason!

  56. thestik*

    Honestly, the thing that sends me over the edge in this regard is when I’m wslking in a stire and there’s an announcement reminding customers to be kind. I feel like such a move will in fact have the opposite effect. I know for myself that after having witnessed multiple acts of violence that reminders to “be kind” are triggers, because the people that I’ve seen say that on social media have been among the first to dismiss my trauma (and even actively try to invalidate my feelings). So for me, it’s little trappings like this that send me over the edge (as I’ve been able to cope with inflation, media issues and the like; I’ve actively worked on tackling those kinds of issues since 2011).

    1. pancakes*

      I don’t think those announcements are quite that intense for many people to hear. They’re pretty generic. Social media is often not a good place to look for validation, but that’s another matter – I’m not sure it’s quite fair to say that people should avoid reminding others to be kind anywhere else on account of some people behaving very unkindly online.

      1. thestik*

        I should note that the people saying this on social media are people I know offline and hace spent time with in person prior to tge pandemic. One of them (an old friend of my husband’s) ended up blocking me some time in the summer of 2020 not too long after making a comment along the lines of “Be kind”, and my husband has been reluctant to speak to her since then. This one example of a situation I’ve encountered multiple times, which is why “Be kind” has become a hot button phrase for me.

        1. pancakes*

          Wow, that seems like a disproportionate response for her to have blocked you. It’s probably for the best to back away from a friend or acquaintance who is that erratic and unsupportive, though, assuming there isn’t something else going on. I mean, the interaction there seems like it went from zero to 60 very quickly, so it seems like there might be.

  57. SadieMae*

    I was once the very rude customer. I’d bought something that turned out to be substandard, and when the checkout person refused to refund my money, I raised my voice to her and used some choice words (not directed at her personally, just phrasing like “This thing is a piece of ****”), even though she was obviously following company policy.

    I had spent all that day in the hospital with my dying grandfather, and the next day, I realized I had taken out my exhaustion and grief on this poor checker and that it was unkind. I went back to the store that evening, found her, and apologized to her.

    I still feel bad about my tirade when I think of it! Can’t imagine the mindset of the kind of person who yells and cusses at servicepeople regularly. While it doesn’t excuse the behavior, I think people like that must be deeply unhappy in general.

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