Anyone (specifically women) in customer service positions shares my pain. It seems to me, through my own experience as well as others', that being female and being in customer service is one of the most difficult jobs. It perpetuates the idea that women must always smile--it twists the knife in deeper, telling us to be subordinate and take everyone's shit, regardless of how they treat us.
It's extremely hard for me, as a feminist, to allow customers to talk to me the way they do. But what can be done?Advocating for oneself in this line of work is not welcomed. You stand up for yourself, you're fired. The customer is always right.
No. The customer is some backwards, sexist asshole. The customer is the guy on the corner of a busy street demanding you smile. The customer is the white, privileged banker you see when you deposit your checks at Chase, who you swear, treats you like you know nothing about your finances. The customer is that pretentious grad student, who took one women's studies class, and thus, thinks he knows all there is to know about being "progressive" and what it means to be a woman in this culture.
The customer is very rarely "right."
This is detrimental for women. We move past sexism/discrimination in one era, only to find it again decades later. I know it has never really disappeared--it has always been there. We just got better about dealing/not dealing with it. It just seems like men who are in customer service positions don't fully understand how much it can affect women. Men don't necessarily have the historical background of women's rights, etc to be able to truly know how awful it can feel when you have a male customer treat you like shit.
I had my first cry over a customer last week. I had to act like it didn't affect me. I had to hold back the tears until I was alone in the bathroom. The customer repeatedly interrupted me, talked down to me, and overall, just treated me like I was nothing. I wanted to scream so badly, but I knew I couldn't. I had to let him walk all over me. I had to act as though he was right. Afterwards, I was pissed off that I "let" myself get so upset by him, but how could I not? When anyone treats me like shit, specifically men, I absolutely cannot stand to be silent. Though, in this instance, I couldn't be anything else. It was a lesson learned in how abusive our culture truly is.
I understand the need for customer service positions, and I understand that it's all about keeping the customer happy, but at what expense? I just wish for companies across the world to have some understanding of how being a female customer service representative is a bit like being a masochist--it can be incredibly painful sometimes, but it's your job, so you put up with it.
Next time you speak with a customer service person, be cognizant of how you are treating them. Remember, they are people, too. They have families. They have lives outside of work. The problem you may have is most likely not their fault. Be mindful of not taking it out on them. Don't walk all over them just because you think you can.
Treat them how you wish to be treated.