Some observations by Misty Lambrecht, Eddyville
Recently I have been a witness to, in more than one situation, the horrid behavior toward some very vulnerable people. In news stories and on social media sites such as Youtube, the rude and outrageous outbreaks of customers toward employees have become something of a form of entertainment and pride among the abusers.
Employees at Walmart, McDonalds and many other minimum wage jobs are being attacked by outraged customers over simple things like speed of service or the amount of ketchup on a burger. Others brag and tell their friends how they filed a complaint and the employee is no more because some simple mistake.
Videos of such events are played over and over and laughed at by viewers with almost no concern for the employee on the other end of the attack.
On the other side of the coin we complain and protest the treatment, wages and lack of benefits that prevent the same employees from feeding their families, buying health insurance and paying rent. This, of course, is blamed on the big corporations that are not treating their employees humanely while the customers are screaming insults and curses at the ones who have these jobs.
Recently on a trip to pick up a prescription at RiteAid, I witnessed a lady screaming and threatening to file a complaint against an employee because she had waited a whole hour for her prescription to be filled. The employee tried in vain to apologize and explain to the screaming women that two employees had called in sick that day, they were understaffed and were working as fast as they could. The lady insisted on getting his name to “call the manager for this unacceptable service.”
I would like to ask these screaming complainers what they know about these employees they complain about and if they are aware of the possible repercussions of these petty complaints. The RiteAid Pharmacy starting wage is around $10-$12 per hour and is part time. McDonalds employees average $10 per hour, Walmart employees average $10, postal workers average $12, bus drivers average $12, baggers at most grocery stores average $10. Many of these are part time jobs. A large portion of these workers are single parents, young new parents, students on their first job, disabled veterans unable to find other work, senior citizens that can’t live on their social security, divorced/widowed or single older people who must now live on a single income, people with a mental, physical or emotional disability, and young adults without any parental support. Losing their employment can have devastating results, such as becoming homeless, not being able to feed their children, not being able to buy required medication and not being able to find other work, to name only a few.
Have any of these complainers ever sat down and thought about the result their complaint can have on the person they are complaining about? Have they asked themselves if complaining about the hour wait is worth this person losing their home, their livelihood, their possibility of college money, not having their prescription medication, or their child missing a
meal. This person they will affect is not working everyday just because they have nothing better to do, they need the job they have. They are working to have the very things the complainer wants or already has. These are not highly educated lawyers, doctors or therapists with training in hostile negotiations. There is almost no training given to these people on how to remove themselves from dangerous and abusive customers. There are inadequate guidelines in place for how to respond to swearing, threatening customers. They are given only cursory directions if any on how to respond when handling a call from an abusive, swearing customer.
So, complainer, was your behavior abusive and possibly created a reason for the employee to leave the scene, or hang up the phone, in protection of themselves, as nothing they said or did would satisfy you? Are they now going to lose their job over a simple petty mistake that they might not even have had any control over, that you enhanced by your inappropriate behavior? Is your complaint going to include a play by play with all the insults, swear words and threats you made to the employee? Or are you going to play this as the innocent, sweet victim of a horrid intentional overload of ketchup on your burger?
Instead of complaining about someone, why not tip your grocery store bagger, praise the employee you can see is struggling, give flowers to your child’s bus driver, thank your postal carrier, write a letter praising the work of an employee and give it to their manager? Please, if you do nothing else, stop giving praise or attention to the people who are destroying other people’s lives by complaining about the most petty, unimportant things. If a mistake is made, please try to find a kind and understanding way to address the problem and treat the person like you would like to be treated when you make a mistake. We are all human and make mistakes.
Misty Lambrecht Eddyville Oregon