25+1 things vanishing in America: polite customers

For our recent series Vanishing in America, I wrote a post bemoaning the disappearance of customer service in the U.S. retail industry. Many readers rightly took me to task for appearing to place all the blame on waiters, clerks and call center reps. They pointed out that it takes two to tango, and when otherwise nice people are forced to deal with rude, inconsiderate and pushy customers all day long, their attitude is bound to suffer.

Do any of these situations ring a bell?
  • The customer in line in front of you at the big box store is haranguing the cash register clerk, demanding last month's sale price for the TV he intends to buy.
  • Halfway through checkout, the grocery shopper realizes he forgot cottage cheese, and leaves the clerk and those in line behind him hanging while he walks back to the dairy section.
  • Bright and early on Monday morning a woman comes into the fashion store to return an expensive dress she bought on Friday, and is indignant when the clerk points out the wine stains.
  • The diner behind you told the waiter that she didn't want any onions in her French Onion Soup. Although he'd tried a dozen ways to politely explain to her the folly of her order, she insisted on ordering it. When the soup is served, she bitches him out for ignoring her request.
  • The kid comes into the store, latches onto a sales rep and asks her help in finding just the right helmet for his motocross riding. After trying on every lid in the place until he finds the perfect one, he thanks her, but doesn't buy it, explaining that he can get it cheaper online now that he knows what he needs.
  • The resource librarian is speechless to respond when a mother introduces her two preschoolers, explaining to them that the nice lady behind the desk will keep an eye on them while she runs to the bank.
As our readers were quick to point out, you often get what you give, and how often do we give grief, even before we've even given the clerk a chance to do right by us? Dave Barry once wrote that a person that is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Customer service and polite, reasonable customers; you can't have one without the other.
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