It’s a Friday night. You’re wasting your youth answering phones at a pizza shop. There are four lines on hold, but you’ve been explaining the difference between linguine and fettuccine to an old lady for the past 10 minutes. When the call finally comes to an end, you tell her it’s an hour wait. She tells you to cancel the order because the wait is too long and hangs up. You look at your coworker and say “I quit,” and then, “Thank you for holding, how may I help you?”
As I come up on my sixth year of working behind front desks and cash registers, I always find myself at the same conclusion: I hate customer service… but I love it at the same time.
It’s exhausting. It tests your patience. You deal with hundreds of people a day. “The customer is always right,” even when they’re dead wrong. Lastly, and one of my favorites – it becomes blatantly obvious when you’re interacting with someone who has never worked in customer service.
Here’s an example for that last one: the food is taking longer than the customer would like it to, and they’re “in a rush to get out of here.” You tell them you’re so sorry, and you’ll have their food out right away, knowing damn well they’ve only been waiting for eight minutes and their food will be at least another 20. In your head you tell them that they should’ve gone to McDonald’s, and then you come to terms with the fact that you’re getting a lousy tip.
It’s been six years of mentally preparing for every shift. It’s been six years of dealing with people who make me hate people.
So why do I do it? Because it’s worth it.
Like I said, you learn patience. You learn what you can and can’t say. I’m thankful that when a customer tells me they’re never coming back, I’m able to refrain from saying “good.”
Another thing I’ve gained from this life-sucking job is communication skills. Problem solving is up there too. Both are in the top five skills that employers look for, according to Udemy for Business. You’re forced into knowing the right thing to do at any given moment. You learn what to say when you’re getting yelled at by a stranger. You also learn how to talk on the phone. I know people in their twenties who still can’t make their own doctor’s appointments (if this sounds like you, please do better).
Finally, people do exist that can make you love other people. After meeting 50 people who make you want to walk out on the spot, it only takes one person to make it all worth it. My favorite story (and one of my only positive ones) to tell is the time I was behind the counter of a full restaurant, ready to rip my hair out at any moment. I handed a girl her order, and when I apologized for the wait, she said, “It’s okay, I used to be a waitress,” and tipped me $20. I almost cried. People like her give me hope that the world isn’t so bad.
As I come to the closing of what quickly became a rant, the conclusion is that customer service is still kind of awful. However, I’ve realized that after all these years I’ve learned so much about working with people and how to keep my composure in any situation. Most importantly, I know that I’m way better off than the person who needs their mom to order their Chinese food (seriously, figure it out).
Juliana McKee is a third-year media and culture major with a journalism minor at West Chester University. JM886634@wcupa.edu