It’s Not Your Imagination. Customers Are Worse Than Ever
It’s not easy working in a restaurant these days. In fact, it’s difficult working practically any customer service job because it seems that customers now are more insufferable than ever. The number of viral videos of customer meltdowns is a good indication that more and more customers are “losing it” and taking out their frustrations on whichever service person happens to be in front of them. Just a couple of months ago, a restaurant customer was so upset about the soup she had ordered that she threw it into the cashier’s face. That customer was later charged with assault.
Just this week, actor Peter Dante who is mostly known for being in Adam Sandler movies, went off on a restaurant hostess because he refused to wear a mask. Of course it too was caught on tape, which is probably the most screen time that guy’s had since the 2006 blockbuster Grandma’s Boy.
Flight attendants have also been in the line of fire of customers who think they’re right, but aren’t. So, are customers truly worse than they used to be or are we just seeing more examples of it because everyone has a cellphone in their hand?
Sadly, it’s not just your imagination. They truly are worse. The FAA reported 5,033 incidents of unruly airline passengers as of November of last year. From the total number of incidents, the FAA initiated 950 investigations, a sixfold increase from the year before. Sixty-two percent hospitality professionals in the United States surveyed by Lightspeed say that guests have been more demanding. And in a not-at-all-official Twitter poll, 92% of those surveyed think restaurant customers are worse now than ever. The question is, why?
The number one reason probably has something to do with the pandemic. We are weeks away from slinking into the third year of dealing with it and everyone is exhausted. It’s quite possible that a number of these customer outbursts are examples of misdirected emotions. Misplaced anger is a way for people to release that emotion and give it to someone else, even if that someone else wants nothing to do with it. It’s pretty difficult to scream at an invisible virus that upended your life for two years, but it’s surprisingly easy to yell at your Olive Garden waitress when she didn’t bring enough breadsticks to the table.
If someone is angry about wearing a mask, they can take out their frustration on a flight attendant instead of the entity that is the CDC or Dr. Fauci. Adults are pretty much behaving like grumpy children who don’t want to take a nap, but really, really need a fucking nap.
Another reason that customers may be on their worst behavior is because they are beginning to realize that the old adage “the customer is always right” is not necessarily true. While the customer is always important, there are plenty of situations where they are anything but correct. They’ve had that notion spoon-fed to them for decades and customer service workers are slowly letting them know the truth.
Three weeks ago, a Long Island waitress kicked a customer out of her diner for mistreating the staff. He may have thought he was right to treat them like the asshole he is, but turns out he was wrong. Last week, a Petco employee saw her TikTok video go viral when she stood up to a customer for treating her and her coworkers “like trash.”
Yes, customers are horrible these days and because of social media, everyone sees everything. Maybe for the new year, it’s time to focus on civility again; people treating other people with dignity and kindness. Service workers aren’t expecting warm hugs from customers and they’re not looking for deep meaningful relationships with them either. They’re looking for respect and a recognition that everyone is in this shit show together. If a customer can’t do that, then at least there’s the certainty that someone will whip out their cellphone and record the interaction to post online. Eventually, maybe these badly behaving customers will at least consider the possibility that they could be the next viral video of a customer meltdown and that will be enough to internalize their anger like a normal human being.