"Awh," he said in a condescending tone as I stared blankly at the pile of carefully counted change in my outstretched hand. I could feel my heart pounding with trepidation at his tone. I must look like a deer looking into the beam of car headlights.
"Is it hard for you? Is all this too difficult? Can they really not find an employee able to use a till? Isn't that sad?"
The man sneers at his wife who looks down at me through pointed spectacles. It's my first day behind the till at my new job and I'm painfully aware that a long queue has formed though I'm only five minutes into my shift. They can smell it. They can tell that I'm afraid. This doesn't mean that they show any form of sympathy.
"I'm sorry, sir, is the change not correct?"
I'm trying to work out what I've done wrong.
"I don't know," he says "You tell me."
I've processed everything through the till as I was trained to do. I counted the change out twice. It is absolutely unknown to me what this man seems to be having a problem with and yet he decides to stand there, a heaving queue behind him, and mocks me for a further five minutes in a moment that was truly overwhelming. It's only my first day.
First days on the job can be pretty scary. You have to learn new things, discover how everything must be done and sometimes you're just thrown in head first and trying to piece together this puzzle all on your own. The example above I've written is sadly based on a true event. Those two customers made me feel utterly awful and because of that they've always stood out in my mind. First days on the job are scary and we probably all have to deal with them at some point. The sad thing is that if you're entering a job in retail or any sort of service industry people like to be shitty.
Yes, we've raised people to believe that the customer is always right which provides a comforting sense of entitlement. People think they can walk all over you, intimidate you, speak to you however you want. They don't bother to apply any empathy to the situation. We all deal with waitresses, bar staff, sales assistants and people who serve our needs as a customer. It's something we all experience, have in common and therefore people are likely to complain about them just because they can. I'm telling you now that no matter how entitled you think you are, it is not right to treat someone badly at their job when they've done nothing wrong. I've been in that awkward first day fear frenzy and I've seen others going through it too. If you see someone and they're clearly learning then deal with it, be nice and don't make them feel bad. In fact maybe throw them a compliment, a smile or say something encouraging. They'll get it eventually. In fact you're part of a very special time in their lives as they transition into a new role, a new chapter of their lives, and you can be the person that gets them through the day or the person that makes their day so much worse.
Either way, they'll remember.
Be nice to whoever is waiting on your table. Your waitress is not to blame if your food is cold and undercooked, but she's the one you'll really verbally lay into when you start to get grumpy. If the cashier is still learning how to use the cash machine give them patience if they take a little extra time to ring your items up. If the new barista takes a while with the coffee and it's more of a latte than a cappuccino then accept it politely (no really, it's just coffee. I never understood the pretentiousness surrounding coffee)
We all have to start from square one at some points of our life. We all have to learn the ropes. I've heard customers groan, roll their eyes and mutter to each other about how they hate being served by trainees. OK, if people are learning they may make mistakes. Maybe you know the establishment they're working in more than they do. The answer is simple: be helpful in a way that isn't rude. I'm sure almost everyone who works in a role where they service others has had to deal with people being rude and belittling to them. It's just common courtesy to be understanding and tolerant of people as they learn new surroundings and rudeness earns you absolutely nothing. I suppose the gist of what I'm saying is that if you see someone working in retail or any sort of service position and they're nervous they may be new. They're scared, they're learning and being snooty or mean won't solve anything. In fact it's a pretty shitty thing to do. Look back and remember your own first day at a new job and how uneasy you probably felt. They're feeling that right now. Just show a little empathy, be kind and you may make their day a little easier.