The Customer is Always...RUDE?
Real talk here, people. Whether you’re sitting in my section at a restaurant, inviting me in to fix your sink, or asking me to rewrite your marketing materials, you don’t get to be disrespectful just because you’re paying me.
No ifs. No ands. No buts.
As anyone with a customer- or client-facing job can tell you, eventually you run into one who is just completely unreasonable. The one whose expectations are never clear, so they’re never met. The one who knows they can't do your job (it’s why they hired you), yet somehow THINK they can do it better than you anyway. It usually starts with a “Why don’t you just…?”
Short answer? Because I have expertise and experience and specific skills that I’ve spent decades honing, and I can tell you that it doesn’t work that way. My other favorite is “…well, it should only take you five minutes.” Yes, it should, if I had a magic “fix your horrible homemade web copy” button on my keyboard. If it’s just a five-minute fix, why didn’t you do it? Why did you call me?
And I’m not talking about harsh feedback or differences of opinion. I’m a big boy. That’s business. You have every right to push back until you get what you paid for. “The customer is always right,” and all that jazz. But respectfully. The respect you exchange when you enter into a service contract is as important as the cash. There’s a line you cross (both ways) when you start questioning someone’s lineage, age, education, qualifications, professionalism, or position on the totem pole (and I’ve heard them all). At that point, my friends, Popeye is opening the can of spinach. (I KNOW I just dated myself with that reference.)
In my career, my words have been called many things by a wide variety of opinionated, yet uninformed people. I’ve also won enough awards with them to fill the downstairs powder room (and the coat closet, too). These opinionated people like to talk a lot of smack about “Who the hell wrote this?” or “Why does it take so many hours to write one website?” until they realize that I’m sitting in the room.
Maybe because like waiting tables or fixing clogged drains, people think writing is easy. And in the age of Twitter and blogging and “Internet celebrity,” everyone with a keyboard in front of them considers themselves a writer, so I can see how that might happen. Writing is hard. Copywriting is very hard. It’s not just grammar. It’s not just following the AP Style Guide. It’s about changing minds, making the complex sound simple, or boiling three pages of specs into a 5-word tagline. I know I’m no Mark Twain or J.D. Salinger, but I’ll go out on a limb and say I’ve got more cred than a guy writing reviews of hoagie spots on Yelp!. So RESPECT THE SKILLS, SON.
So anyway, if you have worked in the service industry at all, you know the struggle. And if you haven’t, don’t be a dick. Your money doesn’t override basic human decency. Be respectful. And you’ll get it back. At least that’s how it’s SUPPOSED to work. However, if you choose not to be respectful, don’t be surprised to find a loogie in your food.
© 2014, Kwame DeRoché