Thursday, December 13, 2012

Entitlement: One man's mission, several people's pain

I'm an emotional guy, but I tend to think that I'm as grounded as I can be in this new world. I grew up and still live in Nebraska, for all its good (nice people and community mores) and its bad (constitutionalist hate for non-traditional marriage, lack of non-secular support systems). Around here, it is just understood that people have to take responsibility for their own actions, and work together to try to live.

Two days ago, a customer came into my store (DISCLAIMER: I work for a wireless carrier, but this is my own story, no personal information) and said that his kids broke his phone and he asked me what could be done. He just bought the phone 5 days ago, and the glass on the front was shattered. I started to explain that there would be some cost to replacement; he took to giving me a dirty look. I stated that there were places in town that could repair it cheaper than what insurance would charge for a deductible. As I went to ask for his phone number to verify insurance, the customer then proceeded to tell me that he would be calling Customer Care in order to get a new phone at no charge. He then called me a "f#*$ing fat-ass" and told me to replace it because he could get Care to do it, so I should just do it anyway. Bully tactic.

I called his bluff. This guy was only planning to use intimidation to get what he wanted. He knew that Care won't replace broken phones without charging retail. This guy said he wanted to cancel after I said that I would not replace a broken phone without charge, hoping I would change my mind. My response was to ask for his phone number and ID so I could get him his account information, which he could take to a competitor if he felt that my pricing was too much.

This guy screamed that he was calling Care and asked for my name. I told him that he could call Care, but he would have to take his call outside after insulting me. He walked out and came back in while on hold, twice, spewing profanity and insults at me. At this point, I told him that if he came back, I would call authorities to have him removed.

After it was over, my manager and co-worker there said I handled it well: no swearing, only raising my voice to ask him to leave once. Never got his account information, so I had no way of putting a note on the account to warn Care what this guy's attitude was.

The last thing he said before leaving was that we "don't provide good customer service" and that "my son just learned what happens when you don't take care of your customers". This guy, screaming, swearing, and threatening with body language had his three or four year-old son with him the whole time.

This guy felt entitled to get what he wanted, and when he did not want to hear what the reality was, he threw a tantrum. Nice job to show your kid that tantrums don't help you get what you want, sir.

Now that this story is over, the big thing that I learned is that entitlement is an excuse to try to act like a child that doesn't have the mental capacity to try to work out problems. This guy thought that he was entitled to get a new phone for free even though his kids broke it (which makes it his fault). No responsibility plus a calm attitude towards the situation from me set him off.

I feel really sorry for his kid. This little guy was standing there quietly, not understanding what was going on between us. He did have a look of fear on his face when his father started cursing and yelling at me, like he knew that this guy was wanting to hit me. I wish I would have captured the information about this customer now, just so I could say I helped his kid not get anger taken out on him. It was a very strong possibility with this guy.

Entitlement, anger, and a self-serving attitude bring about a lot of pain. I was somewhat in shock for at least 2 hours after that. I was heartbroken that a young boy has that kind of behavior to deal with from the man that needs to show him how to live. My other customers and co-workers were frustrated that the scene interrupted their lives.

I'm not saying that people should not ask to be treated fairly in their business. I would have done everything I can to give this guy options if he would not have resorted to the reasoning of a preschooler and verbally attacked me. I stayed calm and gave him instructions to try to show his kid how adults have to handle unreasonable people and keep everything safe.

As someone who has worked in retail and service industries since I was 12, please remember to keep any conversations civil, ask questions in a normal voice, and don't be afraid to state your position in a blunt, calm manner. If you can keep the entitlement out of it, resolutions are easy to bring out.