Keeping Even Temper in a Tough Situation

Today I blew it. Screwed the pooch. Crashed and burned. Cheesed the weasel.

Okay. Maybe not the last one.

Working a customer service position is difficult for a guy like me. It’s why I keep posting about it I guess.  I’m constantly neurotic about making somebody mad, and losing a customer.

Well, I may have lost two last night in the space of a couple hours.

The first one was a regular customer. In my workweek, I generally see him every other day, and sometimes twice.

While I was helping a family, and with a couple other customers waiting in line, this guy shouted “Hey Brian! What’s the new drink like?”


Now the people I was currently helping was having a little trouble with English. No big deal. I’ll still get them whatever they need. But I had to pry myself from my conversation with her and say “Well the new drink is pretty good. A little strong. I’ll be with you in a second, but first I have others who need my help.”

Maybe it showed on my face that I was a little disgusted with his “I’m a regular so help me now” tactics. Maybe he walked out because I looked as annoyed as I felt. But, as Homey D. Clown used to say: “I don’t think so… Homey don’t play that.”

I didn’t see him later. Maybe I was misjudging the situation and he was just in a hurry. But I suspect that I pissed him off.

The next customer sent her daughter to our store at 8:57, three minutes before we closed, with the express intention of keeping us open until she got there. She even told me so. “My mom is next door and she wants to order these drinks, so she sent me to make sure you don’t close before she gets here and pays.”

Let me tell you, that takes some kind of brass balls.

We filled her order as quickly as possible and had it up and ready by 9. Mom walked in and then found her credit card. I slid the card. Paid. It was 9:02.

“Oh, sir– I also want this…” She held up a packet of candy.

Ma’am we’re actually closed you know. I have to shut down the cash registers.

“Well, this cash register is still open isn’t it?”

Yes. I suppose it is. but it SHOULDN’T be.

closed sign
It does, you know.

I quickly ended her transaction and hollered at the guy in the corner (“Hey Bernie, we’re closed!”). He’s perennially the last one in our store, and he would have been gone if I’d been freed to do my job of closing. I might have slammed her merchandise onto the counter a bit harder than I intended but I was in a hurry. It was 9:05. The setback at this critical time got me out of the store 20 minutes late (something that really annoys my superiors if it happens too much).

This sort of thing happens a little more often than I like. Not annoying people. I suspect they’re only annoying because I let them be. What happens is I let my sense of “how things should go” get in the way of being kind. The first guy barged in line. The little family jiggered the system so they could get what they want despite the rules. Is this such a big deal?

I suppose it is, or I wouldn’t be obsessing over it 14 hours later. What happens too much is that chemical reaction inside me… deep down, I feel my face flush, and my brows crease. I want to tell off the linehopper, or the customer with their foot in the door. But dang it, I should be able to control myself. I should be able to operate with grace, preferably without even a facial tic to betray my feelings of impropriety.

Why can’t I be a nice guy without solid, meditative control of my environment? Maybe I should just take some Kaopectate and get over it (PeptoBismol makes me throw up).

I’m not going to get that in a customer service setting. Chaos is normal. What’s not normal is everything going smoothly.


2 thoughts on “Keeping Even Temper in a Tough Situation”

  1. I’m with you. I keep this calm public service face and then, with no warning, I just lose my cool and yell at the union president. And cringe for the next several years. On the up-side, it keeps me humble (ever so much!) and makes me ridiculously grateful for the small and large mercies I receive every day. Hang in there, Brian.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think maybe the guy who yelled to you could have been just making conversation. I would have taken it as a “Norm!” moment. People want to belong. The other family…well, that’s different. I wish your superiors weren’t so set on getting people out the door. Their policies are the problem. The pressure gets translated to you.


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