What is it about a customer service position that makes some people feel they can unload their frustrations on you with impunity?
Some days I wonder if there might be a post-it on my forehead that says, "Go ahead and verbally abuse me, I can't do anything about it but stand here and take it."
Last week I had an encounter with a lovely woman, most likely post menopausal and not aware of hormone replacement therapy.
Although our hours of operation are clearly posted on the front gate in huge block letters and again on the front door at eye level, this person, well, I guess I should say this physician, because right in the midst of her verbal abuse, she said, "I'm a physician!" I'm still not certain about the relevancy of that. Maybe it made her above the need for civility to her fellow human beings....anyway, I digress.
She followed (on foot) the director, who had driven in after opening the gate with his remote, and came into the front door, which was unlocked.
My coworker, Jill and I were getting ready to go into our Tuesday morning meeting in a few minutes after helping a gentleman who needed to relinquish his cat and was finishing filling out some paperwork.
Instead of telling the woman we weren't open to the public yet, (as I realize in retrospect would've been the thing to do), when she asked if we had any kittens, we told her no, but she could check with the other shelters and pointed out the flyer behind her that listed all the shelters in San Diego county. When asked, we told her the nearest would be the North County Animal Services and would she like directions? "No, I'll just call them." Then she stood at the counter and called on her cell phone. She became distraught that she couldn't get past the automated choices and redirected her frustration toward us.
Angrily she told us, "I'm going to write a letter! This is the worst customer service I've ever received! How do they expect people to adopt animals if they don't answer their phone?"
We didn't say anything, just kept working and after a while, we got a call from the back that the meeting was going to begin.
I politely asked her if she would please take her call outside because we had to go into a meeting and weren't actually open yet.
She went ballistic and said, "Your customer service is as bad as theirs!" I said "Thank you." and you would've thought I said "Fuck you!"
"What did you say?"
I looked at her and quietly said in a very kind voice, "Can you tell me what we've done to make you so angry at us?"
"You shouldn't have let me stand here, you should have told me you were not open yet!"
"We were just trying to be helpful."
"You ridiculed that gentleman!"
"Excuse me?" I replied, (pretty sure she was referring to when the med tech, Kathy had come to the counter to ask the gentleman his name and he said, "I'll have to spell it." and we laughed and I said, "oh one of those" and Kathy said, "xzvg..." and he laughed.)
I said, "I think you are seeing things from a distorted advantage and you've brought this in with you, I never ridiculed anyone."
That's when she decided to let us know that "I'm a physician!" Then she asked me what my name was and I decided I was done with her and just stood there and smiled at her. She asked me again and again, I just looked at her without saying anything.
"I'll just say older blond woman."
"Gee, thanks for that."
Then she stomped out. She got all the way to the gate (which had closed after the director had come in) and couldn't figure out how to get out and looked like a prisoner trying to escape as she grabbed hold of the gate and began shaking it. Finally she came back and I went out and pointed out the way for her to get out by the gate to the left.
She quietly muttered a "thank you" as she walked away.
It was pretty funny after that because the man came up to me and gave me his card and said, if she writes a letter, please have them call me for the real story. We all laughed.
The rest of the day, Kathy went around saying, "I'm a physician!"