Do You Let Customers And Clients Verbally Abuse You?
How to define your “red line” and develop a response system
I was twenty-three and terrified of losing my job. I was working at the front desk of a hotel, a famous one. We were busy. The lines were long, and people were impatient.
A guest walks up to the counter and calls me an asshole. Instead of defending myself, I ignored it, pretended I didn’t hear it. I asked, “can I help you?”
He then pulled the power move. He threatened my livelihood. “How would you like it if I called your GM and told him what an asshole you were? My company spends over $100,000 a year here.”
He then mumbled some other insults I don’t remember. I ignored him until he finally mentioned the reason for his visit.
To this day, that incident kills me. I work myself up into a frenzy just thinking about it. Why didn’t I stand up for myself? I was young. His threat to complain to the GM felt real. I convinced myself that I took it like a man and protected my job.
But there’s a bright side
The memory and shame of that incident reanimate in my mind every time I find myself on the receiving end of that type of behavior.
I regret my actions that day at the front desk. I wish I would have stood up for myself. But in another sense, I feel lucky for the experience. It set the stage for how I would respond to such events in the future.
It also made me sensitive to when others dish out abuse and expect their status as a valued customer to shield them from the consequences of offensive behavior.
Do you have that friend who’s rude to their servers? They think they’re the customer, it gives them the right to let off a little steam.
The muffin incident
I was at a group brunch in New York City. A former friend of mine ordered a muffin, cut in half and toasted with each open side buttered. The cook hadn’t toasted according to her specifications, or something ridiculous like that. She exploded at the server. It was the kind of verbal tirade that triggered the “wanna get away” thought from those old Snickers commercials.