Just Squeaking By

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:23-24

With all of us living in the land of diminishing returns, where things cost more and we get less, Labor Day seemed like a great time for broaching the topic of customer service. For those of us who work for a living, we appreciate the extra day off. Unfortunately, some must keep the business world turning.

One teeny tiny qualifier as we delve into the discussion about customer service, unreasonable expectations are the first cousin to disappointment. For example, as a faith-based fitness instructor, I realize the importance of treating everyone who comes to my classes with honor and respect. With that said, if the student expects to be a marathon athlete after the first class, along with no sore muscles, they will be disappointed.

But, if rude or insulting to a student, or if I ignore a student and make them feel unwelcome, that would be unacceptable. Believe it or not this does happen in some businesses. Have you ever experienced this type of service? As a Christian we must remember we are the light, and our work may be our greatest opportunity to reflect Jesus’ light to the world.

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

Have you noticed over the last few years the shift in customer service? Grumpiness has replaced cheerfulness; smiles have been turned upside down. And as far as the customer always being right, it is more like we are bothering them to show up in their place of employment. You either get an employee who responds in one-word answers, “No!”, or an employee who can answer any question but the one you asked.

There are plenty of great stores and businesses which offer great customer service and I truly appreciate their work. They have employees who notice a line forming, stop doing something else, and willingly open another register just to help move things along. On the other hand, I remember a time when people checking out customers would not talk badly about their manager, or wanting to take a break, their lack of wages, or how long they have been working today. They say everything but thank you for your business.

We have all told ourselves, “I will never enter that store again,” and then for convenience end up at the store again. Going through the self-checkout, my items would not scan. Self-checkout is for another conversation, I believe the entire system is a mistake for many reasons. But I digress. There was no sign saying the scanner was not working, and no one informing me of a problem. Finally, a worker came strolling by and I asked if the scanner was working? He kept walking, made no eye contact and said, “Nope.” I had to bridle my tongue from saying something. Bottom line, he did not care about me as a customer. It wasn’t like I was taking him away from stocking or something, THIS WAS HIS AREA. ZOMBIELAND!

And then there was the time I complained to the manager about my treatment while shopping. He told me there was nothing he could do to stop the barking behavior of a human following me down every aisle.

Now, my personal favorite. She was nice enough, but when the checkout person examines the item you are purchasing and starts to sniff it, (yes, smell the product or open the lid to smell it) or look at it like they are purchasing it themselves, that’s a bit much. Just this week at a retail store shopping for a few things for the new grandchild, my checkout person read the package and then actually began rubbing it against their face to determine how soft it was, while then proceeding to wrap it around their neck. But they were not done.

Then they read that the item makes a squeaky noise, so they proceeded to squeeze it repeatedly and giggle. I get it, people are curious, I’m a curious person too. As a customer in this moment, you just smile and hope they don’t break the only one in the store child’s toy. Once they hand you the receipt, you run out the door to your car and leave the sniffing and squeaking to the baby!

Yes, we are just squeaking by on customer service, so how can we help? First, as Christians we should not be contributing to the problem through bad behavior or blessing them out. See this as an opportunity to be kind and Christlike. For the grumbling checkout person offer wisdom. Tell them, “Yes, I am sure standing on your feet all day is tiring. I try to remember that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It may be the only Jesus they hear all day.

Finally, Jesus lived a life of service. We should recognize business establishments and their employees when they provide great service. These individuals are the examples of the Golden Rule for life found in Matthew 7:12, “Do unto others what you would have them do to you.”

The marketplace is our greatest ministry opportunity! Remember we are serving the Lord when we serve others.

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