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The Customer Is Always An Arsehole.


I queue with calm serenity inside my local Starbucks. Ready to indulge in general light-hearted barista banter, before I predictably order a medium café latte, chew proverbial fat, and finally perch upon a comfortable, quiet seat. I am about to write, as a multitude of ideas float around my neural capacities. I know once a single hook sparks, words shall naturally flow like a mulled wine poured into cut glass goblets, after fifty-years of fermenting in the cellar of a French aristocrat. Though sometimes, it feels more like a sea of Irn-Bru – sticky, pointless, and loaded with too much sugar.

Today however, inspiration strikes between these hazel eyes – literally. For as I wait to order, before me a dumpy, middle-aged woman complains to a barista in a monotonous drone, about her coffee being too cold – even though she has already half finished the beverage. The girl behind the counter apologizes, offers her a replacement, and a complimentary slice of cake as payment of interest. The woman agrees, and is handed a fresh, hot coffee, and slice of sponge-cake on a plate. Her stubby hands grab both as she remains silent, and then walks with nonchalance to her vacated seat. 

Spending many waking hours in these unique avenues of anthropological study, you begin to discover customers – or human beings, on a deeper level, carry with them certain traits which the mass-majority seemingly adhere to. It is almost as if one person chooses to act in a particular manner, and virtually everyone else agrees to follow this path; in this instance, the belief that the server in any supposedly subordinate position is dog, and the purchaser, the master. Somewhere along the lines, where did the general consensus forget they were being served by human beings, and not soulless, smiley robots.

There is a strange sense of irony in the idea of truths perceived by percentages, as a person alone is a unique and interesting individual. And yet people as a group - on the other hand, seem to carry a universal desire to follow the first vocal decree of reality; in the case of any service industry – especially that of Starbucks, this seems to be that for the price of a coffee, the baristas become accepted as personal slaves - who we are free to treat with as much contempt as possible, yet still smile as if they actually enjoy being looked down upon, for working a demanding job which receives little credit from any direction outside the company. So many wasted cups, dirty plates, napkins, moved chairs, spilt drinks, filthy floors, and orders to clean a table, and yet still they smile - even through the most malicious of visitors.

In a perfect world - a more honest, direct world, retail and service workers would shed the false smile they are forced to wear for every last piss-taking customer, who comes in and demands the Earth. This could work better for all parties involved in the long run because A; the polite customers (and they do exist, hopefully more than the cynical nature of this article suggests), receive the genuine response they deserve, through showing a reciprocated respect. B; the selfish, miserable bastards – who show no gratitude or appreciation for the service they are fortunate enough to have given to them, will have to earn each smile, which may or may not come their way.

Perhaps the customer has become too spoilt in modern times. In a nation like Britain, we take the notion of being waited on hand over foot, cleaned after, and treating workers like Eunuchs to Alexander The Great, as a given standard; as opposed to occupational extra. But the jobs are hard, the hours long, and they are out earning a living in a dignified, honest manner. 

My inspiration is spent, and I clear my table, say polite goodbyes, and wonder how to be less general next time I write. I receive a smile from the staff - but I am pretty sure it is genuine, and that I have earned it. They say the customer is always right. Personally, I say the customer is always an arsehole. I know I am - but in my case, it is only to the customers...

Lee.

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