Let’s All Take A Breath And Stop Being D*cks To Front Line Workers

by Clint Edwards
Originally Published: 
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I picked up a grocery order the other day, and by the time I got home — 30 minutes away — I realized they’d given me the wrong bag. So I called and arranged to pick up my missing items, only to get back to the store and have a handful of further missteps from the staff. I won’t go into all the details, but I will say that between my pickup time and when I actually got the items, I’d been working on this for almost two hours. I didn’t feel comfortable going into the store because my wife is considered high-risk since getting out of the hospital in November, so I felt stuck. I’d missed dinner, and by the time the grocery store employee brought my things, I was pretty frustrated.

But then I paused, for a moment. I looked at this late 20-something frazzled front line worker in a KN95 mask trying to make the best of it in the middle of a pandemic. Sure, there were mistakes in my order; chances are, someone made an innocent error, switched a bag, and it turned into an inconvenience for me.

But there were bigger things to consider, right?

Before college, I worked at a big box hardware store. It’s actually where I met my wife. I waited tables for about five years, too. And let me tell you this: long before people were on edge because of a pandemic, I’d seen some pretty ridiculous behavior from customers. During my years in customer service, I’d been placed on blast because of simple human errors, and despite my very heartfelt apology and the management doing as much as they could to make it right, it seemed like nothing was ever going to make amends.

I’ve seen some of the kindest, hardest working people hiding in a back room to cry because someone decided they were mistreated and felt justified in going off on their server. None of it is ever pretty, and in almost a decade of working in customer service, I cannot think of a single situation when someone going off on a customer service worker was ever really justified, or when it couldn’t have been resolved with a simple mature conversation. Not one.

But now the pandemic has brought out an extra layer of stress on everyone, and the videos I have seen online of customers going off on front line workers have been straight up shameful. Under normal conditions, it’s never appropriate to yell at someone in customer service. It’s just not. We can discuss things like rational adults, I assure you. But during a pandemic, wow. Completely inappropriate.

So, back to my situation with the food order. Yeah, I was frustrated. I might even say that I was getting angry as I sat in my car, waiting for the food order I’d already paid for and missing dinner with my family. But then, like a good human with compassion and understanding and enough empathy to see past my own petty frustrations, I took a breath. I may have taken two.

I realized that getting pissed off at someone working face to face in a pandemic wasn’t going to make the overall 2020/2021 situation any better, and what the world really needs right now is a little more grace, a little more benefit of the doubt, and a lot fewer angry customers.

I mean, honestly, people are putting their lives on the line to provide us all with groceries, hardware, car parts, gas, and many other necessities that we all need to just survive. That’s no small gesture, and frankly the sacrifice front line workers are making is a lot more important than my frustrations with my food order.

And you know what I’m saying is true. Regardless of the situations, the strain these people are under, and the sacrifice many of them are making during a very difficult time, is far more significant than whatever put in you in a hissy.

So, as that very kind and dedicated front line worker handed me my bag of groceries, I sincerely thanked her for the effort in fixing the error, and thanked her for the work she does. She graciously waved back. Then I drove home and put my dinner in the microwave.

No fuss. No muss.

It was just that easy.

You can all do this. You can all take a breath, look at the larger situation, the reality of what these people are faced with, and contain your anger. It’s not only the right and kind thing to do, it’s also the mature and adult thing to do, particularly considering the extreme strain these people are living under, and the sacrifices they are making every single day. It’s called empathy, my friends. You have it in you. We all do.

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