A lot of businesses (especially in America) will tell you that the customer is king and deserves to be treated like royalty. If you put this promise to the test you’ll find that you really can get your way. You can get discounts, order modifications, and you can even treat the people who serve you like shit with no apparent fear of repercussions. The belief that the customer is king is so well established and reinforced that it has become a part of modern culture to the point that it feels like a God-given right.
But even if politicians wrote it into law that customers have the right to get whatever they want and to treat customers service workers like 18th century slaves, this kind of behavior overlooks a few very important truths. The most important truth it overlooks is one that actually has been written down by politicians: all people were created equal and were endowed with the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Your local fast food chain’s company policy doesn’t trump this fact, because the value of a human life isn’t determined by employers. The value of human life is determined by the rarity and brevity of its existence. If there is a God then humans are sacred projections of God’s love and power. If there is no God then humans are the universe incarnate, an inexplicable miracle 14 billion years in the making. That’s what you’re bullying when you treat a customer service worker like shit. No human being deserves to be treated like that, and you don’t deserve to treat any other human being like a second class citizen who is beneath you.
Sure, you deserve to get your money’s worth when you pay a business for a product or service, but that doesn’t trump your customer service representative’s right to be treated with basic common dignity. This is especially true when your customer service representative is getting paid minimum wage, which is so far below a living wage that anyone getting paid minimum wage is inherently a wage slave. They’re not making enough money to live healthily, enjoy luxuries, save for retirement or invest in continuing education. They’re ruining their bodies working as hard and fast as they can with as few rest breaks as the law allows. They’re watching their infinitely valuable and fleeting life end as fast as the clock turns. For all they sacrifice to bring you a burger they’re not getting financially compensated to get treated like shit by selfish, spoiled bullies. They endure it though, because if they don’t they’ll get thrown out in the streets and die of starvation in the cold. But just because you gave their oppressive employer a few dollars and they in turn gave you permission to kick their wage slaves while they’re down in life doesn’t mean that you have the God-given right or philosophical justification to do so. If you think customer service workers are lazy bums who deserve everything they get then walk a mile in their shoes and find out how hard and thankless their lives truly are.
We shouldn’t even have to have an argument about whether or not you get to treat other people like dirt though. You should simply care about people. Most human beings believe in religion, and every religion mentions somewhere in their holy texts that you should love other people. I think Sam Harris (an atheist) put it best when he said, “…every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?”
Look at life from the point of view of the people who are serving you. They’re sweating and bleeding for you. They’re busting their asses to fill every order as quickly and accurately as possible. Inevitably they’re going to make mistakes, and while it may be in your right to ask politely to have your order modified or remade, you’re inconveniencing your already overworked servants. You’re making their lives harder by sending them back to the kitchen than they’re making your life harder by getting your order slightly wrong. If you’re kind enough to give money to charity at Christmas then why not extend that kindness to letting a few mistakes slide? You can take more genuine joy in helping your servers by not making their job harder than you can by getting your order right. The least you can do is not go out of your way to belittle them.
Despite what I’ve said so far about the righteousness of treating other people well, we’re all human. And when you treat people like shit they tend to respond in kind. Customer service workers have to put up with abuse every day at their dead end jobs that they dread going to and know they won’t have forever. If you consistently inconvenience and bully them it’s only a matter of time before one of them spits in your food or worse. I won’t say their retribution is right or wrong, but I will say that you brought it on yourself.
Also, be vividly aware that the consequences of your negative behavior don’t stop in the kitchen. Every time you treat someone poorly you weigh down their mind with another negative experience that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. These experiences add up and color the way they see the world. They can only endure enough abuse before their soul turns dark and they begin lashing out at other people. The people they take out their anger at you on will in turn be haunted by their own karma ghosts that will affect how they treat others. That’s how the world turns into a bad place to live. Your childish behavior isn’t just part of the problem. It is the problem.
If you’re truly selfish enough to justify treating other people worse than you expect to be treated then you need to recognize that this manifestation of your selfishness is merely a symptom of a greater flaw in your character that is affecting other aspects of your life negatively. For your sake as well as everyone else, see a therapist and get help. You and everyone else will be happier for it.
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