I spend a large portion of my day annoying the people that I care about by playing Devil’s Advocate. Occasionally, they term it “lecturing” – but I personally feel that this is both cruel and unusual. I’m just, you know, interested…
Anyway, the point is that I was recently part of a conversation that went something like this:
Cared-about Person: I need a new watch strap.
Me: Then you should go and get one.
Cared-about Person: Tried to. But every shop I walk into doesn’t have the one I need, so they take my number and promise to call me back about ordering it, only they never do. Customer service is so crap in this country. Why are people so useless? So then I don’t go back to that store on principle.
Me: I see.
Cared-about Person: What?
Me: Can I make an observation?
Cared-about Person: Will anything I say stop you from making it anyway?
Me: Well no. But it’s only polite to ask first.
Cared-about Person: Go on then.
Me: How many shops have you visited?
Cared-about Person: A few*.
Me: Surely it would have been quicker to make yourself into an irritation at one shop by calling/visiting repeatedy until the shop attendant got you the watch strap just to get rid of you?
Cared-about Person: …maybe.
Me: I mean – it’s not like shop attendants are the most motivated of people. Bad pay. Spending long hours under fluorescent lighting that highlights their acne scarring. Snotty customers that have already cottoned onto the fact that being an irritation to them is easier than shopping around…
Cared-about Person: Why are you lecturing me?
Me: I’m not! I’m just saying.
Cared-about Person: You’re lecturing me.
Me: Okay fine. Visit many stores on principle then.
Cared-about Person: You’re still lecturing me.
Me: Would you like me to turn this into a lecture? Shall I pull out my soapbox? You know I love me a soapbox. And once I’m on it, expect me to stay on it for some time. I’m not afraid.
Cared-about Person: Or, like, I could just order the watch strap online.
Me: Or you could order the watch strap online. Yes.
People are just people. Gone are the slaves that were meant to wait on our every whim. Instead, everyone now has emotions and incentives that often conflict with our own – and we just have to be cool with that and manage them.
So in the case of the shop attendant that is poorly paid and just wants to go home, we have two options:
- Visit other shops in the hope of finding a shop attendant that actually likes attending to people and sees their salesmanship as a vocational calling; or
- Make yourself irritating to the point where the shop attendant is spurred to action.
Vocational callings are rare – and to be honest, the salesfolk that feel that way tend to be overbearing, peppering you with phone calls after the fact to follow-up and check-in and like-our-facebook-page.
So I prefer the disinterested ones. Besides, I always feel like they’re just posing a challenge – and I like to win challenges. Sometimes, it’s by being an irritation. At other times, I think you’d be amazed at how far a little engagement can go*.
*And I don’t just mean “smiling”, “looking in the eye” and “asking politely”. That’s not engagement – that’s just being pleasant. Engagement involves commiserating over the shortness of lunch breaks, and enquiring about weekends, and a dash of self-mockery.
Or you can always order online.
I’m just saying.