If you work in the service industry, it’s likely that you’ve come across various archetypes in the people you serve. While the average visitor is considerate and polite, or simply doesn’t require comment, occasionally, a member of The Public will send you into murmured fits of cursing, make your skin crawl, or induce fits of hysterical laughter. All of my experience with The Public comes from working for non-profit organizations like museums and libraries. The following is a small compilation of my own anecdotal experiences and those I’ve heard from comrades who serve The Public.
The Volume Problem
The inability to control one’s speaking volume is currently plaguing the nation. Whisperers and shouters are in equal abundance and each bring their own unique set of complications for the service person. Answering the phone to a sonic boom-like screech has been known to burst the eardrum of an unsuspecting librarian. Similarly, when ordering your complicated meal at a noisy bistro, please speak up.
This guy knows how to do your job better than you do: how convenient! Whether it was serving customers in Vietnam or as a regular patron at your fine establishment since the dawn-of-time, he’s had more valuable experience than you can ever hope to achieve. He’ll tell you how to do the task he’s just condescendingly commanded you to complete before you even ask for his name. Often, The Pro will ask particularly obscure questions as if he’s doing an in-depth expose on how your staff evacuates for a fire drill. You can recognize The Pro from the thin-lipped smile that just appeared on the weary museum guide’s face.
Usually well-meaning and almost always an octogenarian, The Regular frequents your establishment and often launches into their request without pause. Most of the staff know The Regular by name and refer to them with a benevolent chuckle. The Regular will be appalled, however, to find that not everyone – like new staff members – knows their regular order. I’ve had many Regulars be sorely disappointed when they get me, someone who doesn’t know them, on the phone. When The Regular is polite, they can liven an otherwise uneventful day.
The Creep makes your skin crawl. Whether they come around to your side of the desk, touch you, or comment on your personal appearance, The Creep will find a way to make you uncomfortable. Unfortunately, working for The Public isn’t an environment where you’re free to do and say whatever you want when someone makes you feel vulnerable. When a leering man tells you to “smile more,” you can’t say, “f*ck you.” It doesn’t take much of The Creep for you to yearn for your quiet dark cubicle in the staff workroom.
The Guests Who Make It Worth It
Almost every day when serving The Public there is a visitor who simply says hello, who is patient, or who thanks you for your time and effort. Often, you’ll even get to see someone truly enjoying your organization’s experience, and they’ll be grateful. It’s heartwarming and fulfilling. It’s not always easy working with The Public, but at least you can claim a moral superiority over your friends who work quiet desk-jobs.
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