heron61: (Heron - about me)
[personal profile] heron61
As I've mentioned before, I'm fairly shy when dealing with strangers, and this becomes significantly more problematic when I have to ask for anything beyond the most minimal service from clerks in stores, servers in restaurants, or any other service personnel. This is one of the reasons I deeply loathe my dairy allergy, since I often must ask to see packages and ask detailed questions, since it's far from reasonable to assume that servers in restaurants know the details what ingredients are in the bread the restaurant purchases. In such situations, I become shy, embarrassed, and deeply uncomfortable at such times and generally must force myself to do this.

I now vividly understand why. From my PoV, my parents, especially my mother, are horrifically rude in a way particularly common among the nouveau riche, especially on the East Coast. They are impressively demanding and have such an overblown sense of entitlement when dealing with any service personnel that I feel deeply embarrassed to be with them. This morning, I watched my father badger a busy server for a table with a better view, and this afternoon I watched my mother badger the desk clerk at the motel we are in (which my parents stay at often and thus have some various frequent occupancy status) because we only got one voucher for a free item of food at their snack bar, instead of two. Having been told that policy had changed and so they would only get one, my mom was quietly nasty, and eventually the desk clerk (who was exceptionally nice) relented and gave her a second one (thus gaining, at most a $2 bag of chips or candy). On the few occasions when I have objected or attempted to call my parents on this behavior, they talk about it as having to "be tough" to get what you want or deserve and can clearly see absolutely nothing wrong with their actions and in fact feel proud of how they act and consider the fact that I do not act this way as a sign of either weakness or naiveté.

A few minutes after I watched the second incident, I suddenly realized that the origin of my specific social phobia when dealing with asking for extra attention for service personnel. Even from young age, I never wanted to be like my parents in this. I never wanted to badger service personnel or to ever be that demanding and rude. That realization instantly filled me with a great deal of both joy and pride. I'm very glad that even as a child I understood how impressively rude and horrid my parents are because they assume that their money entitles them to all manner of special attention. I don't know why so much of how my parents attempted to raise me failed or utterly backfired, but I'm exceptionally that that it did.

In with all this came the related realization that the fact certain types of rudeness are one of the fastest way to cause me to decide to avoid someone and even to stop being friends with someone is closely tied into my reactions to my parents' actions. In any case, I'm also getting better at dealing with asking about food, since when I'm with my parents the option is my mother doing this, and the way she browbeats servers bothers me far more than my own phobia. My parents are old and have lives that I consider horridly limited in terms of social contact (largely by choice), and I feel sorry for them, but I also am disgusted by them.

Date: 2008-05-17 09:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anselm23.livejournal.com
You are embarrassed by them and horrified by them because it's rude to treat people that way. It is necessary to be tough with people when they're trying to cheat you — as my recent interaction with Apple showed — but by and large most people deserve common courtesies of please and thank you, and gentleness of speech and habit.

We — and I'm speaking of we here as "human beings" — all know this. It's wired into our social firmware, and your parents ignore it at their peril.

My own parents practice a win/win relationship with service personnel. Dad always tips well, and I've gone to restaurants where the maitre'd and the serving staff are literally delighted to see them, and go to extra effort on their behalf. They're not servile, but they understand that my parents see them as human beings, and seek out their restaurant because it has good food and good service, and my parents don't have to be ugly, pushy or demanding.

Your parents sound deeply unhappy.

Date: 2008-05-17 01:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heron61.livejournal.com
Unsurprisingly, my parents are bad tippers. Despite the fact that they literally make an order of magnitude more money a year, I often leave a few extra dollars in tips at restaurants.

Date: 2008-05-17 02:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heavenscalyx.livejournal.com
My parents are never nasty, but they occasionally poke at the server in a restaurant for things that make me uncomfortable. Granted, when they were my age, they never did it, and it's kind of amusing to see my mother being an old lady and taking advantage of it for a change. Though my folks are also strict 15% tippers, which I have long since decided was a generational thing (my parents are, as yours may be, Depression babies), as well as possibly a class thing (my parents' generation was lower middle class, rising out of the working class of their parents' generation -- a large portion of my generation has become terrifyingly nouveau riche).

However, we've had friends who deeply distressed us. We had, for example, one friend who *cringe* snapped her fingers to get the server's attention one very busy night at one of our favorite restaurants. Plus she was taking us out to dinner, so she left a tip -- a mere 15%. We were so embarrassed that we didn't go back to the restaurant -- where the people knew us and were always cheerful upon seeing us -- for months. And we still commonly use this friend as an example in narratives about bad customers/tippers.

Totally understand a social phobia arising from having this sort of unfeeling "tough" behavior inflicted on you.

Date: 2008-05-17 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xi-o-teaz.livejournal.com
Having been a server, I can say that the simplest & most highly efficient way to get what you want from any type of service worker--make that "any other human being in any area of human endeavor"--is to TREAT THEM LIKE YOUR FELLOW (EQUAL) HUMAN BEINGS. I often ask more than the usual from my servers, but I guarantee I not only tip better, but treat them FAR better than they've been treated at least all week long.

Ah, the lost Art of Courtesy, how I miss thee!

Date: 2008-05-17 05:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kitten-goddess.livejournal.com
I am demanding towards service people, partially because I have a minor allergy to cashews and pistachios. I am not shy about asking whether the offending nuts are in a certain food.

Unfortunately, I once scared two waiters and the manager of a Greek restaurant when I asked what kind of nuts were in a dessert. I said the word "allergy" and they practically had a heart attack, fearful I would sue. They ended up not letting me order that particular dessert and I ordered the plain cheesecake instead.

Another time, Tantric_Chef and I were on the Amtrak and we had each gotten a small bottle of wine from the dining car to take back. Unfortunately, his bottle of wine could not be opened, since it needed a corkscrew. The service people had forgotten to open the wine. He didn't want to get the bottle opened, but I insisted on grabbing it, taking it back to the dining car, and getting it opened. We were then able to drink our wine.

I always tip 20%. When I was a kid, it was 15%, but when it changed to 20%, I began tipping that.

I have also sent back drinks that were badly mixed (tasted overly of booze) and had more juice added to them. The bartender looked at me like I was an alien, because I wanted more juice added to the drink, but I didn't care.

Date: 2008-05-17 05:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] athenian-abroad.livejournal.com
On the few occasions when I have objected or attempted to call my parents on this behavior, they talk about it as having to "be tough" to get what you want or deserve and can clearly see absolutely nothing wrong with their actions and in fact feel proud of how they act and consider the fact that I do not act this way as a sign of either weakness or naiveté.

This is interesting. I wonder if it might be off-base to characterize your parents' attitude as "nouveau-riche entitlement," because this sentiment is quite different. It sounds like your parents are operating in a frame which says, "The merchants and shopkeepers are out to cheat you, so you have to be on your guard every second...not like those stupid, gullible rich people who can afford to let themselves be robbed." That is, they are operating in the framework of village-peasant culture (which, in this country, is the wellspring of many of the immigrant-traditional sub-cultures).

The whole "courteous square dealing" business is, I think, very much a middle-class invention.

It makes sense that you'd be more comfortable with the latter, since you grew up in a thoroughly middle-class world. (In fact, the story you tell here reminds me a bit of the sort of things that children of immigrant parents often talk and write about -- e.g. feeling embarrassed when their parents try to "haggle" with the sales clerks in department stores; you just don't do that.)

One interesting aspect of the "village culture" approach: it doesn't scale well to a world of large organizations. It might make sense to pick fights with merchants and shopkeepers in a world in which the people you're dealing with face-to-face are the actual decision makers. But in a world of large organizations, the decision to "cheat" your parents out of their second free cookie (or whatever) wasn't made by the hapless desk clerk; it was made by an associate vice-president for marketing affairs somewhere in ConradHiltonCorp (or wherever) -- who won't be deterred by the fear of being hectored by his "victims" because he'll never meet them.

Date: 2008-05-18 04:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heron61.livejournal.com
I think that may be part of it, but there is also very much the element of them firmly believing that the various high-usage high status categories they belong to for airlines and hotels entitles them to all manner of additional benefits and they become demanding and even somewhat angry if they are told that there is some problem with their request. The entire interaction often reminds me of a child's tantrum expressed using a mixture of condescension and meanness.


Date: 2008-05-18 01:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fireincarnation.livejournal.com
Most everyone who has to deal with my (numerous) allergies is very sympathetic when I explain in detail how important it is to not expose me to said ingrediants. If I hurry through it, and just say, "I can't eat wheat, rye, barley, please check if this is in the ingrediants," it doesn't work very well. I get lazy workers, like the Taco Bell manager who didn't see wheat, (the last ingrediant in the Fire sauce.) I also get better searches for wheat than I did for barley. Many people doubt that common foods contain barley, when it is a filler in many foods. I would suspect that some people doubt the presence of milk in foods that don't look like they have milk (like bread or crackers.) When I bake bread, milk is one of my staple additions.

I'm one of those "too aggressive with the low-wage workers" types. Often it makes the people I'm around unomfortable. I'm just afraid I'l get taken advantage of or ignored if I don't speak up, and when speaking up doesn't work, I get more demanding. I *have* learned to ask for management instead of bothering the lower-down employee who can't get me what I want anyway. It's especially annoying when the store's policy is written in large print behind the counter and the person doing the implementation obviously thinks it's a holiday decoration, not the policy. Also annoying when employees think "store policy" trumps federal law.

So, here's the question: How do you handle these encounters without using your parents behavior and still get what you need?

Re: Demanding

Date: 2008-05-18 04:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heron61.livejournal.com
So, here's the question: How do you handle these encounters without using your parents behavior and still get what you need?

I am polite, deferential, but insistent, and I keep in mind that what I am asking is an imposition - I also tip very well for people who go to extra effort to help out.

Date: 2008-05-20 02:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] waterfire741.livejournal.com
It seems that us VolcanoLizards come in one of two stripes that way; we're either polite until someone disrespects us, in which case we rip them apart, or we're jerks all the time. Personally, I fall into the former category. I'm all good till someone tries to piss in my wheaties, then I destroy them.
Also,people that are rude like that have obviously never thought about the sideeffects of their actions; They're pissing off the people that are handling their food, for Gods' sake! They might as well order a spit-shake and cum-stained bedsheets.

Date: 2008-05-20 06:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heron61.livejournal.com
I'm precisely the same. I'm deferential and polite, unless someone is mean, disrespectful, or otherwise actively unpleasant - then I attack.

Also,people that are rude like that have obviously never thought about the sideeffects of their actions; They're pissing off the people that are handling their food, for Gods' sake! They might as well order a spit-shake and cum-stained bedsheets.

This makes me wonder how often this has happened to my parents.

Date: 2008-05-21 03:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amberite.livejournal.com
I have a kind of odd perspective on service work that comes from having done a lot of it, I think. Over this time I've become more exacting in my requests but also more effusive in rewarding good service (with tips in restaurants/coffeehouses, pleasant behavior in stores) and somewhat indignant at outright bad service, probably because I take pride in tasks I do -- in a deeper and more serious way than most people seem to in small jobs1 -- and so I feel like the job's insulted by someone shirking it badly/unapologetically. (To be clear, by bad service I specifically don't mean: the line is too long and the staff are overworked; technical glitches; any of those things which are unfortunate for both the customer service person and the customer.) I tend to have a shorter temper than I should when people give me bad information on purpose or by avoidable neglect, but I guess that's true whether they're in customer service or not.

My base expectation is that answering questions, etc, negotiating the flexible aspects of the territory between the customer and the product or service, is what these folks are getting paid for; it's objectionable for the employee to shirk that basic duty outright, and quite silly for either party to think of it as an imposition. If the product or service could be accessed without the help of a live human, they'd be automated already. :-)

Dealing with tempers is sometimes part of the customer service job description, just like making snap decisions is part of the job description of a driver, but that doesn't mean one should cut a taxi driver off in traffic and if doing so without thinking one should damn well apologize -- same with being snippy at customer service people. They/we are trained to handle it but shouldn't have to.

1 realization: this is one reason why I'm fascinated by the psychological aspects of Cyteen, which I'm re-reading right now. It strikes me again how the details of azi vs. citizen psychology don't correspond to a particular thing in RL, but at the same time the mindsets have something in common with autie/aspie vs. neurotypical, and something else in common with dominance/submission traits, and I probably haven't scored the surface and really wonder what her inspirations were for this stuff...

Date: 2009-05-09 09:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] geek-dragon.livejournal.com
I wonder what your parents would do if they realized how stupid they look being so rude. I worked in a fast food joint and a grocery store, and sometimes people just snap. They looked like idiots.
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