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Reducing the Flaming Asshole Quotient: I'm sick of watching the way people treat cashiers. I'm sick of hearing stories about people taking things out on retail mooks. I'm sick of hearing smug stories about "Ho ho, did you hear the awful thing I said to a telemarketer?"

Fuck you. Grow up. The person at the mall where you found a thong for your teenager doesn't deserve your wrath. Call corporate. The person you're venting your spleen on makes less in a year than you spent on your minivan.

Replies: 10 Confessions

Just hold on a minute there. First of all, I AM a grownup. Second, I wouldn't have a minivan on toast. Third, people are responsible for their own behavior. It's called a service industry for a reason. If you don't want to serve, get a job in a lab washing glassware. I'm a nurse and my daughter's a waitress, so it's not like I don't know what I'm talking about here, either. And as for telemarketers, people choose that job just like they choose to be Democratic Presidential candidates. How come one gets a scathing fax and one gets a free pass?
I'm just asking.

elavil @ 01/22/2003 09:42 AM CST


I agree. If I'm patronizing a business and the server is an asshole, I have a right to call that person on it and speak to the manager. If I don't like something else, like prices or the food, then shame on me for taking it out on the clerk or waitstaff.

Recently, we went to the Creperie and watched one of our favorite waitresses ask a party why she got a 10% tip on a large bill. The table of doctors and lawyers blamed it on corkage fees, food, etc., none of which were her problem. Then they proceeded to explain that 15% is for exemplary service and 20% is for just drop-dead-awesome service. Now, for this table, I say the year mandatory minimum wage program would be correct.

Shylo @ 01/22/2003 09:57 AM CST


First of all, there's nothing in that link that says the service industry person being yelled at was providing poor service. I believe that blogger was complaining about unjustified cruelty against retail staff by people who should be smart enough to be kinder.

Secondly, I worked as a telemarketer when I first moved to Boston not because I chose to, or because I thought telemarketing was a thrilling career option, but because I needed a fucking job. They were the only place that hired me on the spot, and I had just moved to town two days earlier and needed money quick. I worked there for six weeks until I found something else (also in the service industry, and also because it was the only place that would hire me). I had to work weekends and dinner hours because I didn't really have a choice. I was three months out of college in a strange town, and I needed to pay rent -- I wasn't calling people because I wanted to bug them during dinner.

Is there really any good reason to scream and swear at a telemarketer -- the person making minimum wage on the other end of the phone, who is in no way in charge of who gets called or when -- instead of just saying, "No thank you" and hanging up?

I spent a lot of time working in retail -- including 2+ years after college, when I had to keep working at the bookstore because I couldn't find a teaching job, and the recession made other jobs hard to come by -- and nine times out of ten the person yelling at the clerk or cashier was not being given poor service. We got yelled at for books not being released from publishers in time for grandma's birthday, we got yelled at for not having books that had gone out of print, we got yelled at for policies we were told to enforce but had no power to change, etc. ("What do you mean you can't take my check without ID? You fucking bitch!")

Yes, if the person ringing up your purchase or bringing you a sandwich is really being a dick, complain to the manager. But there are too many people in the world who believe they are entitled to loudly belittle anyone beneath them on the social totem pole for offenses either infinitesimal or imaginary. Those people are Flaming Assholes.

amyc @ 01/22/2003 10:32 AM CST


I'd just like to see a revival of good manners in general. After all, as Elvis Costello says, "What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?" -- all things that good manners promote.

GK @ 01/22/2003 11:14 AM CST


I've been teaching the GMAT for Kaplan recently and it's fun when you get emails from your students pissed off when they don't get the score they need for Kellogg. It's hard not to reply with, "Maybe you're just stupid."

I bet there were times when you wanted to tell people to shove that "Chicken Soup" book somewhere fun. People make life so hard sometimes.

Shylo! @ 01/22/2003 01:05 PM CST


I believe Flaming Assholes are equally represented on both sides of many service transactions. I think the real point of this exchange is that paying down -- or even having lots of -- money (for tuition, goods, or services)does not confer moral, social, or intellectual superiority OR the alleged privileges attached thereto. As for telemarketers, I have Wisconsin No-Call, so all I have to say is, "I have Wisconsin No-Call" and they go away. The only one I was rude to said, "But wait! I'm not selling anything!" and then he tried to sell me tickets to some alleged benefit for Wisconsin firefighters. Except he was calling me from an area code in Virginia. He got a scolding.

elavil @ 01/22/2003 01:47 PM CST


The Virginia area code probably means he was incarcerated. A lot of telemarketing firms use other states' prison labor these days. Really makes you want to hand over credit card info, yes?

amyc @ 01/22/2003 02:10 PM CST


This is the second time they have called me. The first time, I asked for documentation that the money I gave them went elsewhere than to pay telemarketers. They sent me a little flyer inviting me to Help Wisconsin Firefighters, with a sappy photo of FDNY. This time, they lied. Is why I prefer to give locally, not counting Habitat.

elavil @ 01/22/2003 03:11 PM CST


I thought of this conversation last night when I lied to a telemarketer. My wife gets a chuckle over how I hear them out before telling them I'm not interested, but this time I just lied. "Hi, my name's Tim and I'm from a major television network and we would like to get your opinion on a few things." Usually I jump at opinions because too many polls are heaviily weighted with stupid opinions, but I was just tired last night. "I'm sorry, we don't own a TV." He didn't even miss a beat in his script. "Do you subscribe to cable?" "For the TV that I don't own?" He was obviously on autopilot.

Amy, I never heard that you spent time as a telemarketer! Did you really get a lot of people screaming at you? I'm sure you got people telling you it's dinner time and what are you doing calling during dinner, but they really screamed at you?

Charlie @ 01/23/2003 11:32 AM CST


Yep. Screaming, swearing, the whole lot. "Do you have any FUCKING idea that it's a FUCKING SUNDAY????" -- that sort of thing. I worked for a lefty phone bank in Somerville, MA, in 1992. Mostly we did calls for environmental and pro-choice organizations in favor of certain candidates (I remember Nita Loewy's congressional run in New York was a big one). But the biggest client was Working Assets Long Distance. I wasn't even selling anything -- just getting people to switch their long distance service and telling them about all the cool stuff Working Assets did. We were told that most of our names came from environmental mailing lists, so we weren't cold-calling in the traditional sense.

But it still sucked and I hated every minute of it. The weekend before the 1992 election, we all had to work the phones calling people in Pennsylvania for the PA Democratic Party's "get out the vote" efforts. All we had to do was recite a 10-second speech reminding people that Tuesday was election day -- no candidate endorsements or encouragements to vote for Dems or anything. Just "Hey, don't forget Tuesday's election day!" said in a cheery voice. I got so many "Fuck you! You can't tell me how to vote!" and "I hope the Democrats all burn in Hell!" and similar responses that I spent most of the weekend in tears. It was great.

amyc @ 01/23/2003 11:59 AM CST


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