“HANG IN THERE BUDDY!”, I said.
I was holding a bag, and doing my best to give two thumbs up to an employee who had just endured a miserable customer.
It was last Sunday, and I had just failed at my mission to find a new pair of shorts that WEREN’T cargo shorts.
When I went to pay, the customer in front of me was hassling the employee because she couldn’t scan a check. The poor employee was so young, I wondered if she had ever even SEEN a check in real life. I felt bad for her.
The customer demanded to have another cashier. She wasn’t yelling but was loud enough to get people’s attention. The customer kept telling the employee that she shouldn’t be out here if she wasn’t trained properly and that she needed to go back to training if she couldn’t handle a check.
When a manager arrived the customer made sure to talk about the employee as if she wasn’t standing just two feet away.
It turns out the check was torn. It had nothing to do with the employee.
Someone else came along and let me pay at another register. My transaction was quick. It was as if they were just happy to have someone pay with a debit card and to have one less pair of shorts to inventory for the fall.
And yet, something irked me about how that poor employee was being treated.
I just don’t think people deserve to be treated that way; even if it turned out to be a training issue, or if it had somehow been her fault. It’s easy to pick on people when we see them as “lesser”, and that’s exactly what was happening.
I highly doubt the customer would talk to her family and friends that way, or to anyone she deemed her peer. There was a clear imbalance of power between a much older customer and a young (and most likely new) employee.
And so when the moment came, and the angry customer had left, I decided I would do my best to lift the mood a bit.
“HANG IN THERE BUDDY!”, I said to the employee, two thumbs up, bag of compromise shorts in hand. She laughed. Mission accomplished.
And that brings me to the moral of the story.
Treat everyone with respect, even those who you perceive to be less powerful than you. They’re doing their best, and even when their best isn’t quite good enough, they are still deserving of your patience and respect.
Most of all, if you have to be the person to awkwardly tell someone to “hang in there” don’t hesitate to do so.