By Joe Rector

I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital in Lenoir City as my wife had a stress test run. It’s not my favorite thing to do at 7:00 a.m. in the morning, but I’d never let my girlfriend drive herself to such an ordeal. What made the ordeal even worse were some of the folks who checked into the hospital. They would try the patience of Job.

A lady who arrived to have a colonoscopy sat at the desk of one of the persons who fills out intake papers. I’ve had several of those “invasive” test before, so I can somewhat understand why she’d be so “sore.” However, this female was rude and hateful to the woman checking her in. No, I wasn’t eavesdropping; the patient was squawking loudly enough to let all in the waiting room know how unhappy she was.

I’m not sure what the purpose of being rude to the clerk was. She hadn’t ordered that the colonoscopy to be performed; she hadn’t forced the patient to drink that disgusting concoction that led to long visits to the bathroom. No, the worker was simply asking questions to confirm information already on forms, and she asked other things to make sure the woman across from her understood that she would be responsible for any uncovered costs.

The same type of rudeness can be seen at any business that serves the public. Customers attack workers when they return a defective product. The carping and bad attitude blast the person who is trying to help.

The fact is that the man or woman who is assisting the customer did not manufacture, box, or sell the product. Yelling and chastising the person does nothing toward aiding the swapping of the item for a new one or securing a refund. Instead, it puts employees on the defensive and causes them to be less than willing to help.

I’ve had plenty of bad experiences with cable and internet providers. Frustration sets in when problems continue to occur. Calls to customer service hopefully resolve issues. What isn’t necessary is unloading a tirade on the person on the other end of the line. Most of the time, those workers follow a script or a set of questions for every caller. Their abilities to help is limited, and sometimes the only thing they can offer is to schedule an appointment with a technician. If a customer belittles and curses the worker, does he think such actions will make the helper more likely to set a quick appointment?

If food doesn’t meet expectations, a customer can complain. She can berate the server and demand to see the manager. A flood of vitriol can wash over the entire staff, and perhaps the unhappy individual will feel better. However, that diner might want to examine any food that is then returned to him. We’ve all heard stories of the little presents that cooks add to the entrees of surly customers.

When I have a problem, my first action is to ask for a manager. That individual is who has the ability to address the problem. It is to her that I lodge my complaint. I ask for a resolution that fixes the problem. Only when that person is rude or unwilling to help do I raise my voice or talk forcefully.

In case of unacceptable food, I call the manager over to complain. I don’t return the food to be better prepared because I don’t trust what might come back, and I never ask for the cost of the meal to be erased or expect a free meal the next time I visit. My goal is to let the manager know that the service is poor and that it will lead to his business losing customers.

Yes, I’ve blown my top at some people in customer service. Most of the time, they are folks on the phone who don’t speak the language well. These folks read the script in front of them and then ask if the problem has been solved and if they can help in any other way. I tell them the problem still exists, but they continue to utter the same lines. That’s when I lose patience and know that the company has no intention of satisfying customers.

Overall, we all need to be nice to others who are trying to do their jobs. Problems will arise, but our duty is to deal with them and the people who are helping the ways that we would want to be treated. If that doesn’t work, politely ask to speak to a manager. Blood pressures won’t skyrocket and help is more likely to be on the way.