Sometimes the customer is wrong. Yes, everyone knows this. However, we’re not allowed to admit this. We’re expected to treat the customer as if their shit don’t stink. Any mistake or transgression they make is no fault of their own, but ours…somehow… Bosses love saying “the customer is always right,” but, of course, they rarely have to confront the consequences of this. They never enter the trenches. What they don’t realize (or rather, they don’t care,) is that if customers believe they can never be wrong, they’re going to act like assholes, their behaviors getting worse and worse. You cultivate a culture of entitlement.
When I was in my 20s, I was still living at home, a small island. There weren’t many opportunities. Most people my age worked at the call center. The call center was owned by the same crew that owned the island. Greedy motherfuckers who believed that the customer is never wrong. Anyway, I’ve spent a good chunk of my life listening to the world’s most entitled people complaining about this or that product or service and I had to sit there, smile, and pretend what they talked about was the end of the world. Because, well, they were never wrong. And I was their servant. I was subhuman. Their bicycle, their app, their whatever, was more important than my mental well-being. I knew it was wrong, but I did not have the language to articulate my feelings. And even if I had I probably wouldn’t do anything. Again, there were no other opportunities.
I wish I could tell you that I had quit, but I didn’t. I was laid-off. We all were. They decided to close the call center and move operations to a different island. And now you had an island filled with a bunch of 20-somethings wandering around with nothing to do surrounded by endless ocean. Eventually I left home. I had to.
But, I had come to realize that the rest of the world wasn’t much different. I ended-up working jobs where I was regularly abused by others. Customers. Management. People you weren’t allowed to let them know how wrong they were. Sometimes, I was wrong. But the difference was, everyone would let me know it. And I would torture myself too. Despite everything, I would still feel bad if I did something wrong that potentially harmed the company, even if I hated said company.
Eventually, I had no choice but to work, once again, at a call center. I had avoided working for another call center for obvious reasons, but, well, there wasn’t much else I could do.
Sometimes I wonder if things are supposed to be the way they are. What if human history had shifted just slightly so that there weren’t call centers, or “philosophies” such as “the customer is always right.” Would the world be a better place? Would we still be able to function? Of course we would! But, we’re led to believe that things are the way they are for a reason: because this is the best way of doing things. The alternative? Living in the muck with broken shoes.
Maybe I should start a business. Have an office where I lean back in my chair, cigar in mouth, and tell anyone who abuses my employees to fuck straight-off. But that’s never going to happen. And maybe it’s better that way. Because, who knows? If I was in such a position, would I end-up being any different. Once you step away from the trenches, your perspective, your priorities change, and maybe you want to stop identifying yourself with those who have no choice but to squirm in the mud. You’re not that. Not anymore.
Written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday.