A couple of weeks ago, we had a patient that really got under my skin. At first I racked my brain to try and understand how I must have failed her. In the end, I know that my staff and I did the absolute best that we could, but this patient still went on the war path. I didn’t realize what her motivation might have been at the time, but it really started my thought process toward wondering if rude people get more breaks. Does being mean and nasty get you further in life?
This particular lady has had some unfortunate eye health issues over the past year. As a result, she is not capable of clear, 20/20 vision. She is not blind. She still sees well enough to drive and does better than many people her age, visually and physically. However, I knew from her past history that she would not be happy with what we were able to do with her vision. This lady has been a holy terror for many years, so much so that our optical staff will not make glasses for her. Every pair she has ever gotten from our office caused much yelling and rudeness on her part until it was either remade in the very same way or a refund was given to make her happy. In 12 years, I can count maybe 2 or 3 people that we’ve had to fire, meaning we won’t sell them anything, so it’s a real sort of honor if you get on the list.
Because I am a glutton for punishment, I continued to see her as a patient. She used to be very rude to me, but I always tried to be nice. One day, I guess she was having a tough time and she let it slip that she was raising her great grandchildren. Her children lived out of state, and her grandchildren were in jail for drug possession. She was unable to control the great grandkids, and as middle schoolers, they were out roaming the streets at all hours of the night. At that point, I decided to cut her some slack. No almost 80 year old should have to be dealing with that, and she began to really like me. In fact, she came in every couple of months for some reason or another. I honestly think she just liked the company.
Well my favor must have worn off with her latest pair of glasses. Even though I told her repeatedly that she would not have 20/20 vision, she wanted to go ahead with a new pair. She gets them at WalMart because she has burned bridges with the other opticals in town. When she got the new pair, she was not happy, and called my office to curse at the receptionist, who was very dignified and eventually offered to send her records to anywhere else she wanted to go. We thought that was the end of it until she showed up at our office, caused a big scene, and demanded to speak with our optician. He refused to see her and she wouldn’t leave. I had to go out and tell her we were unable to help her any further. I’m sure if she yells loud and long enough she will get her money back on these glasses as well.
What is the point of this story? I believe there are many people who feel like they have no control over their circumstances. Instead of looking for a positive like I’m alive, I’m healthy, I have food and shelter, all they see is how someone wronged them. They can’t change the people or events in their lives that are in turmoil. Instead, they yell and cause scenes in places where they can, usually toward the poor clerk or receptionist who is brave enough to ask “How may I help you?” I think they often get their way and it creates a rush, kind of like an addict when he or she first accesses their vice.
What happens with an unhappy customer? The employees try to calm them down. The manager might come out. Before you know it the person has a free meal or discount on something, mainly just to shut them up. It isn’t good for business to have a screaming, cursing customer in view for all to see, so we do whatever is necessary to control collateral damage.
Maybe in a sense, rude people tend to get more breaks and freebies. I have no problem with questioning something you don’t understand or even asking for a discount, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Yelling at entry level employees is just being mean. Maybe we shouldn’t cater to rudeness. Perhaps, we should just ask mean people to leave or escort them out. Are we reinforcing bad behavior by giving rude people what they want?
Ultimately, I choose to be positive and treat people as I would want to be treated. I feel for those with unfortunate circumstances, but that is never an excuse to be mean. The amount of energy it takes to maintain that sort of personality must be toxic. While it might get you a refund or free item along the line, I don’t think the cost of being eternally rude is worth the effort.
Have you ever seen rude people get a break? Have you been the victim of rudeness and how did you handle it?