Are Consumers Getting Way Too Outraged?

by Chris Bjorklund


We’ve all been hearing about examples of consumer outrage and it has me worried. Are we taking out our frustrations about the pandemic, divisive politics and life in general on whoever can’t solve our problem at a given moment? I’ve heard stories about people melting down because a store has run out of their favorite cheese. It’s obviously not just about the cheese—there’s a lot more going on. It’s so easy to take out your frustrations on the poor cashier when the checkout line is too long or the pharmacy is out of rapid Covid tests. And I won’t even go into how recklessly people are driving around the Bay Area.

Customer service folks are saying that people are just a lot meaner these days. When the staff is treated like that, it calls into question the age-old adage that the customer is always right. Maybe…but being the customer is not a license to be rude. 

I even found myself crossing “the line” a couple of months ago when trying to get a $700 refund on some textbooks. After weeks of delays, unanswered emails, long holds on the phone, disconnects and empty promises, I finally cut loose and unloaded on the very person who wanted to help me. I threatened to call consumer hotlines, regulators and authorities. I told her that the company had a bad complaint record online and questioned how she could work for such an organization. After I vented and finally came up for air, this patient customer service rep explained the action she was taking on my behalf and sent proof of a request for a credit on my credit card. I realized I had gone too far, apologized and thanked her for finally solving my problem. 

While the friction in our lives will undoubtedly continue well into 2022, it’s time for all of us to reflect on our behavior. It’s time to turn down the temperature and make greater efforts to at least be civil in our interactions with service providers. A good rule of thumb is to treat service people the way we would expect them to treat us. A little bit of that can go a long way.

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