I have a personal belief that every human being should at one time or another do at least one of these jobs: secretary, retail, waiting tables, janitorial, and catering. If we all had to experience how difficult these jobs are, we would be nicer. We would understand that the person on the other end of the phone has no power and yelling at them isn’t going to get you anything. We would understand that the person helping you with your clothes feels subhuman when you leave them a messy dressing room. We would tip our waiters and waitresses more. We would be much more careful in public restrooms and we would RSVP. If you have worked one or more of these jobs, you know exactly what I’m talking about. These are servant jobs. These are jobs which require you to give parts of yourself you generally reserve for only close friends and blood relations. They require you to clean up other peoples’ messes, literally. You must handle verbal abuse with grace. You must deal with the constant unexpected. Then you go home, have a good cry, eat chocolate, and do it again tomorrow. They demand the pouring out of yourself if you want to do anything close to a good job.
When we owned our boutiques, we focused on customer service. My employees will tell you that I never once told them the customer is always right. I firmly believe that this philosophy is INCORRECT. In fact, the customer is often wrong, in my experience. Usually, the customer is upset because you didn’t set their expectations properly. Sometimes they have a legitimate complaint, but most often the customer is thinking only of themselves and nothing else. We didn’t have a ‘customer is always right policy’. We had a service policy. Part of the issue for us was trying to find a middle ground between customers and consignors. You can’t bite either hand that feeds you and you can’t choose one over the other. This made customer service very interesting.
The hardest part, we found, with customer service was our thought life. After you’ve been chewed out, belittle, picked on, walked on, and yelled at, it’s very hard to be gracious. In fact, it is almost impossible. All you want to do is break that person down. We spent hours and hours complaining and whining about our customers after they left. We discussed how annoying they were, how mean, how useless. It doesn’t surprise me that some people get spit in their food. I’ve seen how they treat teens just trying to do what their bosses asked them to do. I’ve had my teens and other staff members yelled at by grown women who should be more behaved.
But guess what we found? The more we indulged in this kind of verbal and emotional abuse of our customers, the angrier and more bitter we became. We hated them, our job, and everyone else.
This was when we made a policy against complaining about customers. We taught and encouraged our teams to stop the cycle. Instead of verbally abusing a customer after they left, we tried to imagine what could have happened in their life to make them the way that they are. We asked ourselves if they were really being that annoying or if we were just being thin-skinned. We tried to turn the other cheek and put ourselves in their shoes. We encouraged one another and held each other accountable.
If someone complained about what clothes I would and would not accept, I tried to imagine what her day might have been like instead of getting upset. Maybe she had a fight with her husband. Maybe she lost a job. Maybe she’s getting rid of all these clothes because she gained weight and she can’t get it off. Maybe her kids are sick. Maybe her dog died. Maybe she got some really bad news. Maybe this is just one of those days were everything went wrong.
When we started showing our customers pity even if they didn’t see it, our attitudes changed. We willingly put up with a lot more from them. We found that people we always thought we didn’t like, just needed a smile and a hug. We found out that angry women hadn’t been told they looked great in a really long time. We found out that bitter women just needed someone to listen to them. We found out that messy women had three seconds before their kids, husbands, or parents needed them. They couldn’t hang everything up because someone else needed them and they needed us to hang the clothes up for them. We found out that almost all the customers we thought were annoying were just women struggling through their days and lives.
Do you know how much more rewarding it is to bring a smile to someone’s face even when they’re pushing you away instead of complaining about them after they leave? Do you know people can sense this? The atmosphere in our boutique was very open, loving, and happy. Why? We didn’t tolerate ourselves, our customers, or our consignors complaining about one another. Yes, we stopped even our customers from complaining for us. This showed them they could trust us not to complain about them when they left. It encouraged women to lift one another up instead of knocking one another down.
This lesson is one I have to revisit all the time. This is one I have to remember even more now that I’m working with mostly just my family and church family. Just because I love you doesn’t mean that we never hurt one another or even get on each others’ nerves. We do and we will. What we need to do is remember that we don’t know what’s going on in each others’ lives. We should handle one another with grace and pity…and maybe get to know each other better.
Next time another mom in the nursery bothers you, remember that you don’t know everything about her week. This could be her very last straw. She could be struggling just to make sure everyone gets something to eat. Next time someone in lunch line annoys you, remember they could have health problems they’ve never mentioned. They could be in a difficult relationship. They may be struggling with some sin, just like you. Pray for them. Pity them. Don’t deride them. If there are some people in your church you don’t quite get along with, that’s okay. You can still love them. Look for positive things about them instead of picking at the frustrations over and over. Maybe you’re asking them to do something they can’t or don’t know how. Maybe their strengths are different from yours. Maybe they’re in the middle of great suffering. It might be a suffering so deep they don’t even know how to talk about it.
Be long-suffering with your church members. If you don’t like your church maybe you need to stop looking at yourself and start looking at the soldiers beside you. Are they wounded? Are they broken? Are they haunted by the carnage they’ve seen? Are you helping them or just complaining? Are you lifting them up or just being one more person who doesn’t like them?
If this principle was important in our boutiques, how much more do you think we need to practice it with our fellow believers?
These men and women love Christ just like we do. They are our brothers and sisters. Are you seriously not treating them with more love than complete strangers? Are you giving them the least that you have? They are other adopted children of the Father. He loves them, and so should you.