Unreasonable customers breed rude service people?

I don’t know about you, but I feel very hurt each time I get treated rudely by service people when I never even provoked them in the first place.

But when the anger dissolves by the end of the day, I start to wonder why they’re like that. The wounded child in me, of course, would like to think that they’ve got a bee up their toot.

But the rational adult in me, who sometimes pops out uninvited, would say, “Maybe it’s not entirely their fault.”

Don’t you hate it when you’re forced to be sensible about things? It kinda throws a blanket over the flames of fury you’ve been nicely stoking all day, dreaming up creative BBQ dishes in which your enemies are the main ingredients.

Here’s a case in point:

There’s this “Seoul Street Food” outlet in Bugis Junction that serves up skewered meats fried in all sorts of interesting batter.

The price tags advertise one stick for $1.60, while two go for $3.

That day, I wanted to buy about four different ones because they all looked so good. I started pointing out my choices to the guy, “One of these and one of these…”

At which point he cut in impatiently, “Cannot miss!”

My mind drew a blank as I blinked at him. “Cannot what?”

“Cannot miss! Cannot miss!!” he cawed at me with a shrill voice and a frown.

“Cannot what?” I repeated stupidly.

He raised his voice. “This one cannot miss!!”

“What do you mean by miss?” I asked helplessly.

He switched to Mandarin. “不可以参!”

That was when I got it. He’d meant to say “cannot mix” but must have been slightly gutturally challenged.

He was basically telling me, in the verbal equivalent of shorthand, that if I wanted the special price of $3 for two sticks, I’d have to get two of the same sticks, instead of one of this and one of that.

I was a bit slow on the uptake because I didn’t even realise that there was a discount for buying two sticks. (I don’t look at the price tags very carefully as a habit.)

“Sure, no problem,” I said.

Then he grumpily walked off to the cashier to ring up the purchase without even asking me if I wanted anything else.

What the hell was eating him?!

I swear I didn’t so much as wrinkle my forehead or speak in an unpleasant tone.

While he was packing my two sticks, I asked if I could have my sauce separately packed because I was going to be bringing the food home.

(The sticks are usually drowned in mayonnaise and chilli sauce, which actually makes it very tasty.)

He said something in a scolding tone which I couldn’t really catch, and then he passed me the packet without any sauce whatsoever.

A freeze-frame moment happened as I gaped at him puzzedly.

“Er… what about the sauce?” I finally asked.

That prompted him to lecture me about the food not tasting good without the sauce as he snatched the packet back and squirted sauce onto my sticks.

Totally incomprehensible.

My conclusion about this guy is that, apart from having a bee permanently stuck up his toot, he may possibly have been driven insane by customers yelling at him for charging them more than they expected.

In order to pre-empt being scolded by unreasonable customers, he goes directly into defence mode and lashes out first before the customer can lash out at him.

And, no, it wasn’t that he was having a bad day or something, because he was happily gossiping and laughing with his colleagues between customers.

I have a similar story about a taxi driver, but I think this entry is already too long and pictureless, which means I’ve probably lost 90% of my readers by this point. Haha.

So, which came first: Unreasonable customers or rude service people?

29 thoughts on “Unreasonable customers breed rude service people?

  1. Avatar

    I guess its a vicious cycle…
    Somtimes I think its is just miscommunication. One party says something but the other did not understand and both can be a little fustrated.
    But as a service personnel, I always believe that no matter how bad a day is, he/she has to have professionalism. And also, you cannot take for granted that your customer reads the fine print, you would have to explain to them no matter what.
    As for the pre-empt part, it might be true. Some might be scared to be scolded, so they scold others first. Psychology works in a weird way…

  2. Avatar

    “Cannot mix” — Bwahahahaha! Maybe he has no front teeth or short tongue, cannot pronounce properly.

  3. Avatar

    Hi Sheylara. Please forgive me this time. Coz I will talk about some technical stuffs, which might bored u guys here. :P

    Actually customer service is something important to the company and they will do their best to please us. Somehow the top people cannot monitor the bottom workers all the time. There is a chance for bad service to happen (Murphy’s Law).

    The quality of service can be think of as a bell curve (normal distribution). Where the right end of the curve is super good service, provided by very few people, and the left end of the curve, for stupid goons giving shitty service. The majority of the service, which is at the peek of the bell, is at the middle (not so good, not so bad).

    there is a small chance that we will meet people at the left end of the bell curve: the rude taxi driver and silly goon. this is normal and happen by chance. So there is nothing wrong, just our plain luck and the working of randomness in life.

    As a customer, we can do something about it, using the weapon of economics…. hehehe

    we can set up deterrent. We publish our bad experience on blogs or other media so that with such publicity, which can damage the reputation of the business, will force them to do their best to avoid offending the customers. Another thing we can do is to boycott them. Reducing the demand for their service or stuff will forced them to behave well.

  4. Avatar

    paced: Yes, sometimes it’s miscommunication. But other times, it’s just attitude.

    modchip: Actually, it’s that some Chinese-educated people (especially older folks) have trouble pronouncing x. It’s just the way their tongues were trained.

    Relax: That’s very interesting information. I have actually considered it before, that people tend to dwell on negatives and forget about positives, that’s why many people always like to claim that they’re “unlucky”. So, that article was a very interesting read!

    But you have to admit also that they are days when more things go wrong than any other day. :P It’s like a snowball effect.

    Well, in terms of this case which I just blogged about, I feel lucky for not encountering them very often. But the few times that I do make me wonder why people like these exist even. Which is why I wrote this!

    About boycotting for bad service, it seriously doesn’t work in Singapore, especially when it comes to food. To most Singaporeans, food > service. So, if you sell REALLY good food but have shitty service, people will still flock to you.

    An example is Eng Seng Restaurant in Joo Chiat (famous for black pepper crab). Horrible, rude service, but people queue up there daily from 4pm, and if you go too late, like maybe 7pm, you might not even get to queue because all the crabs have sold out.

    So, what can we do?

    -=}{oT~dEv1L 666=-: Er… what is there not to understand about “One of these and one of these?” I also pointed at what I wanted. And pointing to something you want in a retail shop is a universal language and nobody needs to understand your verbal language. I get by with that when I go to places like Japan. Haha.

  5. Avatar

    Or… Maybe he’s just rude. I tend to believe that the customer is always right (even when they are wrong) and that a service industry is just that: service. When I worked behind the bar it was clear that a happy customer may tell no-one, but an unhappy one will tell everyone that they know (witness your blog). If you are rude to a customer then the chances are that not only will they not come back, but also their friends won’t either.

  6. Avatar

    haihz… some of these goons got lucky. too much profit, servive not important anymore. Publish on your blog to raise people’s awareness loh. That is what Raja Petra is doing :P

    Yes, they are days when more things go wrong than any other day. This is still part of randomness at play (it is called poisson clumping).
    In randomness, some events happen close to each other, others are further away, but the overall randomness is constant.

    when we have poisson clumping in everyday life, several bad (or good) things happen together in a day. This is the Law of life :P

    I think racism (or possibly, sexism?) is at play. It is say that in Singapore, your chance of being treated nicely increases, when you are a Caucasian. I am not sure about it, but it could be one of the contributing factor.

    The bell curve applies to both customers and service people. Both are victims and predators :P

    there are many factors as well. I think it is a complicated issue.
    Maybe it is the culture (those who have been to Italy might experience weird service people there, so culture might be a huge factor)

  7. Avatar

    I think it’s fair game. We get rude service, they get sucky customers.

    Let’s just not meet each other after the first bad encounter.

  8. Avatar

    yawningbread.org published an illuminating entry a few months ago about the phenomenon of Singaporean consumers putting up with lousy service. I agree with him that service-providers get away with their nonsense bcos local consumers let them (due to our culture of fear of speaking up). Voted today. Good luck.

  9. Avatar

    I believe it doesn’t matter who start first, just try best treat everytime a fresh start by oneself, show nice manners to all people, especially to F&B ppl.

    I have hear horrors stories about customer showing attitude to the F&B ppl then get complimentary of “weird weird” stuff and the customer happily eat it?!

    Treat ppl nice, maybe they will treat ya nice back. if they treat ya bad, dun mind too much, maybe he/she having badmood or get treated badly by previous customer or boss.

    Always 以礼待人. else we can just leave also. we dun need bring down our level with rude ppl nor get angered by them.

    anger brings wrinkles, anger brings sufferings?(talk in yoda’s voice)

    hehehe just relax , relax choya? lol

  10. Avatar

    Coming from customer service line (more white collared than this chap but nonetheless) I can tell you that yes, some rude customers are the reason why staff are rude even though this isn’t exactly justified. However, there are some staff who are plain “last nite never get” to all & sundry if you get the drift. LOL!

  11. Avatar

    Bad customer service usually go in hand with bad customers.
    Everyone should self reflect before they go on to complain about bad service received.

  12. Avatar

    I wonder if anyone even thought about that guy losing his job just because of this post? oh ya… I guess it is not worth the time to Photoshop or cover someone who has ” no front teeth or short tongue”.

  13. Avatar

    As a part time customer service staff (sobs), I can safely say that most of the time, the customer’s stupidity can make us go crazy. Or their attitude really sucks. And we usually treat them to a doubly “special” treat.

    Sometimes, communication can be a pain in the arse as well. In your case, I reckon the guy was irritated that he has to repeat himself a few times (and he didn’t know tt his pronounciation was wrong). And I tink he didn’t understand tt you wanted the sauce seperately packed as well. Cannot expect too much from foreign workers I guess. (language wise)

  14. Avatar

    The above case would be lack of communication or proper training for the staff.

    The service line is tough shit. Most of the time people do not really appreciate good service as it is taken for granted and expected and yet anything bad, there will be plenty of loudspeakers with calls to boycott, blog about it, etc.

    Hence while service staff are expect to professional, it can be tough. Imagine providing good service for a customer most of the time and you don’t get a single word of thank. But when shit happens you end up getting blame when sometime it isn’t your fault. What’s worse, being well train means that you have to translate everything to become your fault.

    Sometime i have customers snapping their fingers or whistle to get the attention of my service crew. I personally feel that it is quite rude. I dun blame the staff if they choose to ignore them after all good service should not rendered in exchange of personal dignity.

    Nevertheless, i agree that there are gaps in the service standard but customers play an important role in this as well.

  15. Avatar

    service dude: cannot mixx

    sheylara: errr…. can u say that one more time?

    service dude: cannot mixx

    sheylara: hmmm… I think u might have a severe case of throat cancer

    service dude: “§$%/&%$§”§$%&/


  16. Avatar

    Just F them. If they dun like, QUIT! Nobody force them to be in this line. People need to understand that there is NO such thing as equality in this world. Equality is a stupid idealism that will never succeed.

  17. Avatar

    Well, pretty much a chicken & egg argument that goes in circles.

    Bad Service > Unruly Customers > Unhappy Staff > Bad Service > etc

    Having been part of the customer service industry previously, I must say it works both ways. After working hours, my colleagues used to play the role of the unruly customer outside and grumble over how they can do a better job instead.

    Colleague: “Wah lau, this kind of service also can. If he worked at our place, confirm kena complain like mad.”
    Me: “You’re not that much better off yourself, making things difficult for the staff. He is going to feel even more disgruntled and possibly provide even worse service by taking it out on the next customer.”

    If somebody directs their anger/dissatisfaction at you, it’s more than likely that you’ll feel pissed too. If you are unable to reciprocate your annoyance back at the same person, it will most definitely be redirected to somebody/something else. Case in point: blog entry – “Unreasonable customers breed rude service people?”

    Conversely, if somebody sincerely treats you well, there is no reason for anybody to get all riled up.

    I’m playing my part by committing to a drawn out “Thank yoooouuu” (smile inclusive) for every seemingly trivial task someone performs – be it the staff that clears your table at a food court or a random person holding the door on your way out of the toilet.

  18. Avatar

    Way to go out of point. Bad customer service and bad customer and equality.
    That’s stretching it a bit just to bring that equality = idealism idea into this issue.
    There’s no mention of equality in this post, just the petty bitching of someone who felt slighted by the person selling her some skewered meat.
    Nothing needs to be equal here and nor has it been. Who’s the victim here?
    The person who got his picture posted here with the accusation that he has problem enunciating and providing “bad” service or the person bitching about it.

  19. Avatar

    From someone who actually graduated in the hospitality industry and waited on tables throughout undergrad and grad school but am not in the service industry, I REFUSE to be served with rude service.

    I’ve gone to a coffee joint in Spore and waited for 10 mins at the counter to order my coffee when there was clearly no customers and the service staff was busy talking to the delivery man and blindly ignoring me. And when she was done, I waited to tell her that I was willing to pay 6 bucks for coffee and yet she was too busy to serve me. Busy chatting with the delivery man. Her excuse, err, sorry, my first day. And I looked in her face and told her, then lady, learn! Customers first. Delivery man can wait. Customers pay your salary and not delivery man.

    To be really honest, after living in HK and now holidaying in States, I can attest that the service standards in Spore is going from bad to worse. Or maybe, I’m Chinese, Asian and I’m not worthy of good service. However, there has been instances that I DO tip more than 20 percent for really good service in Spore. However, these days, it’s far and in between.

    Even with the 5 star hotels, it’s when complains are mad loud and clear, then attention is given. I’ve made a complain to a 5 star hotel and I questioned the manager if the hotel thought that me being a Sporean is not worthy of good service because I may not become a frequent guest. Straightaway, amendments were made and yes, we return to the hotel on a regular basis. Actually husband stays there at least a week a month now.

    So…..at the end of my long rant, Spore needs a lot more to achieve the service standards that consumers like us want. I don’t shop in Spore because service is bad. I’d rather take my money and shop in Hong Kong or the States. In the long run, Spore will suffer as it’s now hedging on the tourism industry again.

  20. Avatar

    Ya, rude or barely visible customer service in Singapore or other countries pissed me off.

    The thing I do most times when I encountered bad customer service is:
    1) Ask the manager to my table (if in a restaurant or franchise )
    2) Give the staff a ticking off (if not in a restaurant or the store has only the staff)

    Most times, they will usually keep quiet and feel awkward after that.

    I believe that customer is always right (most times).
    If you are going to spoil my day, I will not let you off easily.

  21. Avatar

    Lol Sheylara, I hate that bugis junction Dong Dae Mun fat guy too.

    I asked for extra chilli sauce for my jumbo hot dog and he refused. He said its not nice. Damn angry.

  22. Avatar

    i had an encounter with this guy too. i was ordering the fried chicken thigh on a wkday morning (when they are usually damn free), rqsting for no chilli. he acknowledged it & the next moment he squeezed chilli sauce in. (!!!)
    he went “uh-oh”and stared blankly at me giving the “that bit of chilli wldn’t matter i guess, & u just better take it” face.
    wth (-_____-#)

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