10 Things to Learn About Service Workers (or, “SHUT UP!”)

problem clients

To all those who have ever worked in the service industry, my hat’s off to you. To those who have not, SHUT UP!!

My wife helped me write this post because she and I have both worked in the service industry at various times. She has worked as a tech/front desk person at an Optometrist office. I have worked in fast food, retail, and healthcare. We’ve seen our fair share of jerks.

The man who screams at the front desk clerk. The woman who bosses around the waiter and leaves no tip. The guy who threatens to  get someone fired. They intimidate, bully, and harrass. I’ve heard it said before that people should work a mandatory 6 months in the service industry just to see how hard it is. We’re not going to talk about that, mostly because it’s been said.

Instead, here are ten things everyone should learn about dealing with service workers of any sort.

10. Don’t Tick Off the Gatekeeper

All images: Google
All images: Google

Do you know where your medical records are? Do you have the lawyer’s phone number? Do you understand the system’s database? Do you know how to check yourself into a hospital?

No? Then don’t tick off the person who does. That person at the front desk can make your life very hard, and guess what, they may get away with it! You need something, they have it. If you EVER need ANYTHING from ANYBODY, making them angry is NOT going to work. Work with them and you’ll be amazed at the speed of your service.

This goes double in the food industry. You don’t want to know what they do.

9. Don’t Assume Everyone Knows Everything about Everything

I worked for Dept. A, but I also checked people in for Dept B. One day, some people needed medical records from Dept. B, but their staff had already gone home. Apparently, this was the last straw in a very long and understandably frustrating ordeal. They yelled at me, even threatened me. Suddenly, I was filled with the full knowledge of Department B’s workings. Oh, wait!

In this same argument, the patient even demanded I the President of the hospital. Let’s assume for a minute that I actually have his number. Let’s assume he’s available and patient. Do you REALLY think he knows the ins and outs of this particular department?

Everybody has their own work to do and everyone’s job has a lot of details. No one person knows how to work every facet of every job unless it’s a very small company. Don’t be mad if the contact lens guy doesn’t know jack about glasses. That’s not why he’s here!

8. Sign the Stupid Form!

No, we’re not trying to steal your money. No, we’re not trying to sell you identity. No, we don’t want to broadcast your colonoscopy pictures all over Facebook. Please sign the form so we can move on.

I had so much trouble with this in regard to medical release forms so we can or cannot tell so-and-so a patient’s medical data. This is a tricky area, but I’ve had plenty of people who flew into a rage because we wanted to share the information with other doctors if necessary. We’re not going to look at photos of you and laugh; we just want to tell the Emergency Room doctor why you’re suddenly bleeding to death!

I understand everybody is scared and legal forms do nothing to help. But when you assume your company is full of crooks, don’t be surprised when they don’t want to help you.

7. You Snooze, You Lose

My wife and I worked for companies that had a similar rule: if you cancel your appointment several times in a row, you go to the back of the line. I had people on waiting lists that would continuously refuse the time slots that became available. I once had a woman miss her appointment and reschedule several times, then she asked for an ASAP slot. We had one, I didn’t give it to her. Why not? We couldn’t trust her with it, and we had a lot of other patients to help.

Your time is not as valuable as you think it is; people don’t just bend to your schedule all the time. There are a hundred thousand other patients/customers out there who all need attention. If you abuse the time/attention you’re given, don’t expect any more. If you don’t pick up your pizza, it WILL be thrown away. And throwing away a pizza is a federal crime, you know.

6. Your Outrageous Threats Aren’t Scary; They’re Funny.

i dare you

I once had an irate customer who was stuck in a rough situation trying to get medical records and took it out on me. That happens, but then he said that if the situation wasn’t fixed to his specifications, “I’m coming for YOU!” I literally laughed. What was he going to do, beat me til I started coughing up his records? This same guy demanded that I get the records NOW and that he would stay in the waiting room all night if he had to. I almost said it out loud: “Well, I’m not. I’m going home at 4:30, and I’m locking up when I leave. Have fun sleeping on the couch.”

Most threats are paper-thin and the service people can see right through. If you actually tried what you were threatening, you wouldn’t get anywhere, and that makes us laugh. Stop trying to scare people; it isn’t working. Especially when…

5. There’s Nothing We can do, so SHUT UP!

In the example above, I had done everything possible, even  calling people at home. But when it was all said and done, I didn’t have the records. I didn’t know where they were. Even if I had, I didn’t have access to them. And yet, this customer thought he could scare them into existence.

Let’s say you go to McDonald’s and they’re out of burgers. It’s outrageous! You’re hungry! You worked 62 and 1/2 hours today and you want a burger! You brought your whole family, including your sick grandma who only wanted a Big Mac before she died. So you rake the cashier across the coals, throw the cash register across the lobby, and beat up three of the workers.

And yet…you have no burgers.

Sometimes, even the most diligent and flexible service workers hit a brick wall. Your threats, your demands, your insults won’t get you anything because it’s not in their power. It’s not in anybody’s power. Tough luck; pull up your big boy pants and get over it.

4. You’re Not Smarter Than Us

smart phone

Where do people get this ridiculous idea that they know more about any line of work than the people who work in it? I blame the internet and the information age that has us all thinking that a few hours on Googling state laws amounts to the same thing as being a lawyer. I lost track of how many people thought they know my computer system better than I did. My wife had a patient who thought he could get contact lenses without a prescription. That’s like demanding blue jeans without telling anybody your size.

Doctors really get the shaft with this one. So many people think that they can look up their symptoms on WebMD and get a better diagnosis than the person who studied medicine for years. You don’t. The people at these jobs have experience in every angle of your situation, and they have a much broader scope than you do. Please stop treating them like idiots.

3. We Serve By CHOICE

This relates back to number 10. The service industry owes you nothing. You do not own the waiter; they serve you because they want to. They’re here because they willingly signed up for the job and they can walk out any time they like.

We live in a convenient generation and that leads to entitlement. Well, it’s time to wake up. Nobody owes you anything. They do this because they care. In fact…

2. Serving Makes US better than YOU. 

Where would you be without the service industry? No coffee on demand, nobody to answer your calls, nobody to cater to your every need, much less your every want. The service industry is a necessary one, and a great one. It’s full of people who work hard for quite little, and guess what, they’re everywhere.

The president has an assistant. CEOs can’t greet all their customers. You’re too busy to make your own coffee? Well, here, let me brew one up for you in no time flat.

If you think you’re important because you make some money or because you have some status, let me ask you this question: Do you want to do your own plumbing? No? Then bow down to the guy who does.

1. You’re Not as Important As You Think You Are

not important

It all comes down to this.  You scream, you yell, you demand, you are rude, you are cruel, you step on people, you belittle, you harass, you are thankless, all because you think you’re somebody important and you deserve everything. Some of you are big, some of you are important. Most of you are nobody.

You aren’t the super-awesome customer we’ve been waiting on. You’ll get your food when it’s ready and we will be happy to serve it nice and hot and top off your drink whenever you’re empty.

You aren’t the magic patient. The doctor has told you everything he can, now follow his instructions so you can get better.

You are not the exception; the rules apply to you.

The service industry is hard. Show kindness to the little guy who shines your shoes and I guarantee nobody else will ever shine them better than he will. Make your waiter smile and they will go out of their way to make sure you are taken care of. Avoid exerting your rights and you’ll save yourself a lot of wasted time. Humble yourself enough to admit you need something and you’ll find it a lot faster.

In short, if you really want to be better than the guy who works in the service industry, then serve him.

2 thoughts on “10 Things to Learn About Service Workers (or, “SHUT UP!”)

  1. Great post. Anyone who has worked with and waited on the “public” has experienced this. What you soon come to realize is that the people who treat you this way treat everyone this way. From the gas station, grocery store, lumber yard to whatever restuarant you find them at, they are this way no matter where they go. So learn to not take it personal, they are simply mean people who are really quite unhappy. And if you have the luxury of having a little fun with them do it. I work at a nursury and many times the men do not want to be there and complain the entire time. I have a life time of working with the public and know what and when something is appropriate. I love nothing better than to look at the guy who’s being a crank and ask “get up on the wrong side of the bed today did we?” Or something similiar. Sometimes it slows them down enough to think about what a butt they are being, sometimes not. But you got one thing right. Be a turd with the people who are waiting on you and you will go towards the end of the line every time, or in my case, you just might pay full price when I could have let you know about the sale you are unaware of.

    Nice post. Just realize the world is full of people like this and it has nothing to do with the person behind the counter.


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