Always be kind

Published 9:57 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2019

By Nathan Rice

A customer sat on the other side of my desk. She spewed out her complaint repeatedly, refusing to allow me to speak to explain the situation or help solve the issue. I was eventually able to assist her, and she left the building. I then listened to the voicemail that came to my phone while I was working with her. An angry voice on the message declared that a problem she was having was ridiculous.

These back-to-back situations had individuals taking out their anger about a situation on me. I’ve worked in customer service for more than two decades, so I know I’ll have to deal with difficult people. I understand people are going to yell, and that I will sometimes take the brunt of pent up frustration.

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I kept a smile on my face and a pleasant tone in my voice as I worked with both of my customers. My training and experience have this ingrained in me. When you work with the public, you must learn to let angry words roll off you. This day, however, it hit hard. My heart was already tender from the difficulties I was facing, and concern about all that was happening weighed heavy upon me.

What neither of these customers knew was that I was having a tough week. A few days earlier an unpleasant personal situation had to be handled, and the emotions from those discussions were still high. In addition, I had spent hours the previous evening trying to help a young man by pouring out my heart, thoughts and advice to him. My mind had kept me up late into the night as all the situations I was dealing with replayed in my head.

I share this story in the hopes that it will cause everyone to think about the person behind the counter, the waitress who brings the food, the cashier who takes the money, the call center representative who answers the phone, and the sales associate who explains an item.

They are people who have lives outside of their place of employment. Sometimes their hearts are broken, or their minds are filled with concerns about unknown outcomes. Maybe they are facing a rebellious teenager at home who is causing stress and worry. Perhaps they just heard that a spouse has decided not to return home. Some days they are working while waiting on test results to come back from the doctor. It could be their first day back to work after burying a loved one.

I know some people are just rude and mean. Nothing I say in this short column will change them or their attitudes towards employees assisting them. I hope, however, that people who do have a kind heart will see the employees who help them as people with lives like everyone else.

I’ve seen many otherwise kind-hearted people berate a waitress for bringing them a Dr Pepper instead of a Coke rather than just politely asking for the correct order. I’ve seen people who I know would not want to hurt others treat associates at stores and waitstaff at restaurants like subpar humans, demeaning them in ways they would never do outside of that place of business.

It’s simple. You never know what someone is going through. Be kind — always.


Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at