An Open Letter to Customers; I am Competent, I Promise

Dear customers,

I have been doing my job for two years. I know that that is probably not information you are privy to before approaching my counter. For all you know, it could be my first day. But given the job I do, I think it’s a fairly safe assumption that if it was my first day, or my first week, or even my first month, I wouldn’t be in the shop alone. Suffice to say, yes, I do know what I’m doing. So you really, truly don’t have to ask three times in a row if I can do my job. I promise you I can.

I know a lot of you are disheartened or dubious about being served by me, because I am a girl. It may then interest you to know that my vagina has absolutely no bearing on my ability to do my job. No, for those of you that have asked, I don’t need a man to supervise me and yes, I do everything in my shop all on my own. And I have to say, I really don’t understand what is so surprising about a woman being able to repair shoes, or fix watches.

To that one gentleman (and I use that term loosely) that wanted to know when the manager would be in, so he could ‘speak to the man that does the work, and not just the pretty face who serves the customers’, the manager is in the shop six days out of seven, and her name is Amy. Though she is certain that you thought your backhanded compliment was flattering, she would like to inform you that it wasn’t. She is much, much more than her appearance. Furthermore, she is incredibly offended by your casual dismissal of her based on her gender, and by your misogynistic belief that only men are capable of doing anything useful, whilst women are nothing more than eye candy. She would like to tell you, politely, that you are an asshole, sir.

On another note, customers; when I ask you to come back in fifteen minutes, I promise you it is because it really will take me that long to finish your job. Please do not come back after three minutes and get mad at me when I still have twelve minutes before the work is expected to be finished. And do not hover at the counter and tell me how to do my job. Unless you have had the proper training and are standing on my side of the counter, you know less about my job than me, and thus, are in no position to offer advice or direction. For some of you, I’m sure you’re just trying to help. But if you are so confident in your ability to do my job, then by all means do it yourself at home, and stop wasting my time and testing my patience.

Lastly, and this goes for people in general, I would appreciate it if you would not take your bad mood or bad day out on me. I have done nothing to you (though if I have, I am deeply apologetic and you are entitled to be mad at me). I really am just here to help you with a problem that requires you to approach my counter. I will treat you with respect and a friendly attitude, so I don’t think it’s too much to expect at least the former from you in return.

Sincerely, a somewhat put out customer service assistant/shop manager/woman who knows how to do her job.

Dealing With Tension in the Workplace

I have worked a lot of jobs in my time. I have worked with people I like, and people I don’t like. I have always managed to maintain a professional working relationship, even with the ones I didn’t get along so well with. However, in my most recent position, I have had to deal with someone who may very well be the true test of my patience and professionalism.

This person is everything I hate in customer service people; he is arrogant, and egotistical without foundation. He is rude, and his penchant for thinking he is better than the customers purely because he knows more about our job than they do, comes across in his service. I mean, of course we’re going to know more than them; that’s why they come to us, but that’s no need to treat them badly. I have seen him blatantly ignore customers, refuse to answer the phone because he doesn’t want to, speak to people in a blunt and disrespectful manner simply because he believes their questions are beneath him, and refuse to acknowledge his own faults…of which there are many. If I were a customer, I would be making complaints, and more than one have. And yet he always manages to make out like his wrongdoing is entirely their fault. In short, he is an asshat.

I have been working since I was fifteen, and all of my jobs have heavily involved customer service. Now, I hate everyone. Seriously, like…everyone. And yet despite my misanthropy, I have always, always maintained a level of polite professionalism in whatever job I’m working. It doesn’t matter what side of the service counter I am on; I always approach it with a smile and a friendly attitude. I may not necessarily love my job, but I am damn good at it. And that is what makes me so angry about this person I work with; if I – the most people hating person I know – can manage to be a good customer service assistant, then he has no excuse to be a bad one.

On a more personal level however, the thing that I find such a struggle to deal with is his clear disregard of me. I genuinely believe that he is threatened by me, and my ability to do this job. See, for the last 18 months, I have been working for someone who takes pride in his work, and taught me everything I know about how to be good at what we do. Better than good, in fact. And the honest truth is that I know how to do more than this guy I’ve had to work with over the last month, and I know how to do it better. His attitude towards me indicates that he hates the fact that someone has come to work around him that can show him up without even trying. More than that, I think he is incensed by that fact that the person showing him up is a woman. Now, I’m not going out of my way to prove myself better than him. I just came to the city and started doing my job the same way I’ve been doing it for the last year and a half; the same way I was taught, and the same way that has helped me to earn a solid reputation in my field. The fact that his standard of work is lower than mine is not my fault, and I shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of his attitude as a result. But even when I have tried to play peacemaker, he has thrown it back in my face. A couple of weeks ago, I complimented him on a particularly good engraving he had done. When I told him it was really good, he just said “I know.”. Honestly, dude, a simple thank you would have sufficed.

We don’t like each other, that much is certain. He has made cracks at my gender, my sexual orientation (when he gave me his number in case I needed to call him about work, his exact words to me were “This is probably the only male number you’ve ever gotten”), my standard of work, my appearance and a number of other things. I confess, I’ve stooped so low as to respond in kind. Today he informed he how good looking he is (seriously, that’s how conceited this guy actually is), and after telling me how long he spends staring at himself in the mirror (schyup), said that he’s been told that he looks like Chris Pratt and Benedict Cumberbatch. I responded with, “yes well that’s accurate, given how neither one is particularly attractive”. I know, it’s a terribly petty thing to say, and I should have taken the moral high ground and just ignored him. But this was directly after he had essentially called me ugly, so on the other hand, I kind of feel like I’m justified.

I have reached a point where I no longer care if he is offended or threatened by me. I don’t need to prove myself to him, or to anyone for that matter. And at the end of the day, his insecurities are his own problem. Despite all his bravado and incredibly large ego, I believe it’s a front, to hide his own lack of self worth. Because let’s face it; anyone who gets that threatened by someone else truly can’t have that much faith in himself.

Sexism From Strangers

I deal with a lot of misogynistic bullshit at my job. I work in a shop that deals with key cutting, watch repairs, shoe repairs and engraving. There is nothing expressed in that job description that specifies that it is a male job, and yet often I will be having a good day and some chauvinist male customer will make some sexist remark, and I find myself fighting the urge to show them just how hard a woman can punch them in the face.

For a start, the company I work for has the word ‘Mister’ in the name. Right off the bat, I’m at a disadvantage. The kind of men that make sexist comments are the kind of men that see the name of the company on my shirt (conveniently located over my left boob) and assume that I’m no good at my job, because I happen to be a woman. It doesn’t necessarily happen daily, and for every rude male customer I serve, I serve plenty of lovely ones, but sexist comments are at least a weekly occurrence. To give you an idea, here are some examples of things that men have actually said to me, and my female colleague at work;

– ‘Oh, can you actually do that?’
– ‘Thanks, but I think I’d rather have the man do it’
– ‘So, if you want to just give it to the other guy…oh, you mean you can fix it?’
– ‘Look, ah, no offense sweetheart but I’d prefer to give it to someone who actually knows what he is doing’
– ‘You must just press a very big button to do your work for you in here’
And one one particular occasion, a man walked up to my friend, saw that there were no men in the store, looked at her and just said ‘no’ and walked away.

Yup. As if the comments aren’t bad enough, on more than one occasion, I have greeted a male customer and had him completely ignore me, to speak to one of the three men that I work with instead, regardless of how busy they may be with something else. Admittedly, there are things that I’m not yet trained to do, and if someone needs something done that I can’t do, I have no problem with asking the guys. But when men come up and assume I can’t even change a watch battery, that’s when I get irritated. I am perfectly capable of doing my job, and being a woman shouldn’t and doesn’t affect the way I work. But evidently, there are some men in the world who assume that because I don’t have a penis, I can’t do anything for myself.

These men are the kinds of men who think a woman’s job is to cook and clean and have babies. The kind of men who believe that a woman can’t do anything as well as a man, and that we thus don’t deserve the same opportunities, or pay rates or freedoms. And it is that kind of man that makes my job more difficult, and less fun. A sexist remark can make a good day bad. I am an intelligent, capable young woman and I don’t deserve that kind of disrespect from complete strangers.

Pretty much sums it up.