Customer Service in the Times of COVID

I work in customer service. Ever since I was fifteen, I have been standing behind one counter or another, serving the general public, and dealing with all the awfulness that comes with it. I do not love my current job, and I certainly have no passion for it. My crowning achievement is that I have so far managed to make it through a 13 year retail career – or perhaps retail sentence is more applicable? – without punching a customer in the face. Which I rather think deserves some kind of award, honestly.

Here’s the thing. Customer service is never an especially thrilling or positive experience. Most of it is boredom, dealing with rude people, and trying hard not to let all the expletives you’re thinking come flying out of your mouth when confronted with jerks. Sure, we get nice customers sometimes, and in my current job (I’m a cobbler, of sorts), I take pride in the work I am doing. But, after five years in the same job, it’s well and truly time for me to move on and find some other hell to suffer in.

What is the tipping point, you may be wondering? Well, lately things seem to have gotten increasingly worse, and I am 100% blaming COVID-19. I live in Australia, and currently live in the only state where face masks are mandatory when leaving the house. Which means, for 8 hours a day, five days a week, I have to not only stand behind a counter dealing with all manner of rude people, but I also have to do it whilst wearing a face covering that limits my breathing, fogs my glasses, and generally just itches and irritates. The state of disaster declared in my home state means that people are confined to their homes, unable to go to school or work in a lot of cases, unable to leave their homes without a mask. It’s not a fun time for anyone right now. And I would be willing to bet money that this myriad of restrictions in place across the country is, in part, responsible for the attitudes of the people I have been serving lately.

I have had, in recent weeks, more horrible customer interactions than I have had in a long time. Almost as if every customer I have served has gotten together and said “hey, let’s go and be as horrible to the girl behind the counter as we possibly can, and see how long it takes to break her.” I don’t know if it is because I am serving less people as a result of the restrictions, and so I am more aware of the bad ones, or whether people are simply taking their own frustrations about the restrictions out on whoever happens to be in front of them. But regardless of the reason, my job has become increasingly unbearable of late, to the point where I have almost quit on the spot more than once. Usually I can brush it off, and then vent to my friends about it afterwards, but in this last week alone I have encountered some truly heinous individuals that have stuck

To those of you who work in customer service, I’m sure you can relate. To those of you who don’t, I beg of you; be nice to your customer service people. We work hard, and we put up with a lot of shit from people, often without the benefit of being able to bite back or defend ourselves. And I understand your frustrations about…well, everything in this strange time I suppose, but none of the things that you are frustrated about have anything to do with me. I am polite to everyone who approaches my counter (at least up until I can’t be anymore) and I would love it if people would offer me the same courtesy. I think a lot of people forget, particularly now that we have become anonymous and featureless behind our masks, that those of us behind the counter are still people. We are not lesser citizens, and we do not deserve the abuse or the sometimes violent attitudes of people who can’t handle their emotions.

Basically what I’m saying is that COVID sucks, customer service people deserve more respect, and, as always, don’t be a dick!

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