We customers get no respect

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
September 26, 2000

Just when did the shift take place from the customer always being right to just being a plain pain in the butt?

In recent months, I have been cut by a manicurist, pierced by a tack while trying on clothes at a department store, handed mixed-up food orders and messed-up film negatives and subjected to cab trips in which the drivers’ seats were so far back that I had to kiss my knees.

Fact is, I can deal with inconveniences. But they’d be a lot easier to stomach if people would just show some common courtesy.

For instance, I understand, Mr. Yellow Cab driver, that your legs may be longer than mine. But when I’m paying you to drive me, I’d like to have more than a couple inches of leg room in the back seat. And when I politely ask if you could move your seat–just a little–it’d be nice if you didn’t snarl back, “Then I won’t have enough room.” At least pretend to care about my discomfort.

To the manicurist who cut me: I know you didn’t do that on purpose. But when you push my cuticles so far back that I bleed, it’s not something that goes unnoticed. So don’t comment on how dry my hands are, as if that’s what caused the spontaneous bloodletting. And when I tip you, don’t scowl ’cause it’s not 20 percent. Remember, you drew blood.

Having worked as a salesgirl a million summers ago, I know what a thankless job waiting on customers can be. But please don’t yell at me when I’m trying to make a purchase and then complain to me about how you’re overworked, underpaid and sick of dealing with people like, well, me. Just talk behind my back like I used to do. I promise it’s just as fun.

But if I should come out of a dressing room say, bleeding, because I stepped on a misplaced, open security tag, don’t wait until another patron suggests that I sue the store before attempting to look for a bandage. You’ll really come across as inhumane.

And if you give me back my packet of photos with thumb prints on them, don’t automatically accuse them of being mine–especially if I haven’t had access to them. Maybe the thumb prints on the negatives match one of the employees there, who then printed each shot with the thumb marks embedded on each picture. A simple, “Sorry, we’ll re-do them for you,” would suffice nicely. And I would’ve said what most of us would have: “It’s no big deal.”

But the fact is, bad service is a big deal. We’ve just gotten so used to it that we let people get away with it. Constantly.

These days, I’ve gotten better at dealing with rude service. When restaurants deliver the wrong order, I call them back to let them know. If they don’t go through the motions of apologizing, I don’t patronize them anymore. When a salesperson is rude to me, I take my business to another store where they carry the same merchandise with a better attitude.

So the next time you see me getting into a cab, you can bet that I’ll be getting plenty of leg room. Or at least an admission from the driver that his comfort is more important than mine.


Jae-Ha Kim is a staff reporter who would like to thank all the polite folks who haven’t cut her, mixed up her food orders, put fingerprints on her negatives or squished her in the back seat of their cabs.

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