We were walking out of the Modesto Trader Joe’s when the cashier — apparently deciding she had to get a snarky zinger in — raised her voice that had a cheery yet sarcastic twinge and offered “I hope you have a better weekend.”
The remark wasn’t directed at me. It was aimed at the lady I was with.
Just minutes before we had stepped up to her cash register where she was engaged with another employee chatting about someone’s pregnancy.
There was not an acknowledgement of either of us as the two continued chatting while the cashier grabbed two items and scanned them. At some point just before my companion swiped her ATM card the cashier finally talked to her — the paying customer — asking whether she wanted a bag.
By this time she was a tad irked and made a comment that it was nice that she was finally acknowledged. Seconds later as she walked away the cashier got her shot in.
I was about halfway to the car when I decided not to let this one pass.
There are a lot of great clerks and wait staff out there. And the two Trader Joe’s clerks that were chatting away while basically ignoring us seemed pleasant enough. But I wasn’t about to let the snarky remark go.
I do not insist that someone kiss my feet as a customer. Nor am I a huge stickler for what Emily Post would call standards of decorum when it comes to expectations when I shop or dine out. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned to go with the flow. If I’m honest with myself, getting worked up about shoddy treatment from people whose job it is essentially to take money from me is usually not worth being irked.
In such cases for all I know the clerk could have been having a bad day or not properly trained.
At any rate, I turned around and walked back into the store to ask for the manager.
I explained to the manager what had transpired noting the lady I was with was a tad under the weather and not feeling well so she wasn’t exactly smiling when the clerk finally acknowledged her right before completing the transaction. I also made it clear I didn’t want the clerk to get into trouble. What I wanted her to know the snarky remark shot our way was not acceptable.
The manager apologized and added that the clerk in question was “her best” and that she usually got compliments about her.
I took the manager at her word as to her assessment of her employee. She would know best.
I wished, though, I had just kept walking to my car and kept my mouth shut.
If the best a store can offer are clerks that don’t acknowledge customers while they are ringing them up — there’s an archaic term — and taking their payment and find it more important not to interrupt their conversation about a personal subject with a fellow employee and then top it off with a snarky remark you’d expect someone to post on a blog, I really have to start re-evaluating my decision to eschew shopping online.
I get it. I’ve done my share of waiting on people at a mom and pop fast food drive-in. Some people can be rude. Some can be demanding. And after eight hours your feet can kill you.
And if you really want to get a taste of how irked people can be I can share encounters I’ve had while officiating basketball games, serving on a school board, and listening to people who weren’t appreciative of the fact we ran a story of their 28-year-old son being arrested for violating conditions of his parole as a registered sex offender.
I’m not saying I’ve never lost my cool but I can safely say it is fairly rare. Most of the time I understand people are frustrated, letting off steam, or just want to vent their anger. The best you can do is listen and then address whatever concerns they have to the best of your ability. There is absolutely no percentage in upping the ante by matching them word for word or pouring jet fuel on the fire by being condescending.
What I found disheartening about my exchange with the store manager wasn’t her balanced effort to defend her employee and trying to appease me at the same time. It was the realization that condescending behavior when one’s world and views are challenged has been the new norm for years without my realizing it.
As transgressions go, telling a customer “I hope you have a better weekend” in a condescending manner doesn’t even register on today’s social engagement Richter scale where the out-of-control guests on a Jerry Springer show wouldn’t even move the needle.
All you need to do is look at how people indiscriminately let loose with insults and condescending remarks while making points on social media platforms or — more precisely — tearing others down.
People get “likes” for coming up with zinging put downs.
What made me think that anyone in this age off rat-a-tat social media shots and dissecting people in 144 characters is immune from succumbing to the lowest common denominator in actual face-to-face encounters?
It is what you expect in a world of high profile people whether they are powerful politicians that refuse to shake an extended hand or resort to ripping things apart so they can get slams in or celebrities who believe they must comment on everything and do so in a manner that will get them large followers.
Exchanges based on words designed to engage people to see your point of view while at the same time you willingly explore there’s doesn’t get you a million followers. Snarky, crude, outrageous and vicious commentary are the rage.
Even though we may think otherwise most of us act these days as if we are channeling Don Rickles when we really should be trying to emulate people like Martin Luther King.
King was no saint. None of us are. We are humans and as such we have failings. But King worked at putting his best foot forward and encouraging others to do likewise.
We no longer as a society seem to want to listen to carefully chosen words, let alone utter them.
I really don’t believe the clerk intended malice. That’s why I regret talking to the manager. Taking the manager at her word I realized civilized behavior today is subservient to getting that Tweet out there post haste that’s more knee jerk than thoughtful just so we can get score points by racking up “likes”, “views”, or to reaffirm a self-centered sense of superiority.
How could I be so naive to believe that the same interactions with strangers done in person would be different now that Mark Zuckerberg et al have made instantaneous interactions the bitcoin standard.