Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Both Sides Now

I’m stealing this title from a Judy Collins song of the same name from the mid 1970’s.  Even if we try can we see both sides, or simply an illusion?  Let me illustrate.Angry_Penguin.svg

The other night I walked into a candy store argument.  I walked into an Anthony Thomas Candy Store to purchase the requisite Christmas gift for my mother-in-law.  (Now, don’t tell her; she already knows.)

Engaged at the counter were an irate customer and the store manage, the only employee present that evening.  After my husband and I stepped into the store, a few other shoppers walked in.  We all listened to the argument because it was loud and passionate, filled with emotion.  Here is how it went (in the interest of time I have condensed 10 or 15 minutes into 1).

Old woman customer (OWC): (loudly and passionately) I need the mailer for each box.  You always have the mailer.  I need the mailer that fits the box.

Anthony Thomas Manager (ATM):  (after she had wrapped and presented the five candy boxes) I’m sorry, but I don’t have any of those large mailers right now, but I can put the candy in a larger box and pack it well for you, so it won’t rattle or shake.

OWC:  I need the mailer that fits the box.  I come in here every year at this time and buy the same order.  You should know that.  I always get the mailers for free.  I don’t want all the candy in the large box; each one goes to a separate address.

ATM:  There is no extra charge for me to box this for you with extra packing in this large box, I simply don’t have any mailers to fit that large candy box right now.  I can put the smaller boxes in mailers for you and put the large box in it’s original container. 

OWC:  (much louder)  I come in here every year and get the mailer for free, why won’t you give it to me now?

ATM:  I could ship the box for you so you wouldn’t need a mailer, but it doesn’t ship from our store, it ships from the factory and costs $X. 

OWC:  (on the verge of tears) I don’t want to pay you to ship it, I want the mailer for free.

It finally ended with the ATM agreeing to keep the OWC’s candy purchase (which she refused to pay for unless she was provided the mailer) behind the counter and they would finish the transaction on the following day.

When we left the store I told my husband, “don’t let me get like that when I am old.”  I said that because I could see myself in that old woman who, when she couldn’t get things the way she wanted them, took her frustrations out on the sole employee.  She was pitiful and needy.  I feel that way sometimes when I’m tired and out of sorts and the menu picture doesn’t match what I’m given in a restaurant. I thought about the OWC and all her wasted effort.  She could have gone down the road to FedEx Office or the post office and gotten a box to fit her candy.  All that passion and effort to send candy to someone in Florida who probably won’t even care when or how they got it. 

The ATM handled the customer patiently, with grace and kindness, but she held her distress internally as any good manager would.  I watched her stress level rise in the face of that OWC who could not, would not be satisfied. 

Are we more like the OWC, only seeing our side of things, or are we more like the ATM, doing her best to keep the peace?  Or do we fall somewhere in the middle. 

If we are one of those two, can we see the viewpoint of the other?  Has something like this ever happened to you?  This Christmas season, please share the love of Christ with cashiers and store clerks and even angry old women and men.  “The Angry Penguin“], licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License by its creators [ Swantje Hess] and [ Jannis Pohlmann].

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