There's been stories in today's newspapers about a Facebook group set up by staff at 118 118 Directory Enquiries. The group allows staff to tell stories about awkward customers and vent their frustrations about working for the service.
Read it here (The Sun version)
When I read about some of the things that staff have posted on the site, I immediately thought about this blog. OK, so this blog doesn't reveal the company I work for (although regular readers probably have enough information to make a good guess) nor is it particularly critical of the company. In fact, I don't believe I've ever posted anything that would harm Food Place's reputation - either for the service it provides to its customers, or its merits as an employer. Most of the things I rant about reflect more about me and my colleagues than anything else. But I couldn't help but feel that my blog could actually be likened to the Facebook group for 118 118 employees.
And when they say things like: "I wrote a few a****** callers numbers on the walls of public toilets and pasted them on many an Internet site" - it's worrying that a blog like this could be viewed as similar.
Yes, I do rant about our customers. I've called some of them every name under the sun. And I can entirely sympathise with this comment from the 118 118 site: “People of Britain, re-discover the phonebook, you lazy b******s.” Yes, we all know they're the people who, ultimately, pay our wages. But that doesn't stop them getting on our nerves and I don't think it should take away our right to come online and have a screaming great rant about them.
It's not as though I've ever named a customer I've posted about. Given the anonymous nature of this blog, even their location isn't revealed. If I was posting copies of refund slips on this blog, giving out their details, then I would deserve to be sacked and banned from working in a shop ever again (oh, the delight!). But as it is, I don't. It's a bit of harmless steam-venting and, I hope, it provides a little bit of entertainment for anybody who happens to read it.
It's probable that if a Food Place customer ever stumbled across a blog entry that was actually written about them, they wouldn't even realise. We all see the things that go on around us from different points of view and my take on an encounter is nothing like that of the customer.
Having said all of that though, I wouldn't want to be lumped into the same category as a group of people who spoke of their customers with such outright contempt. Anything derogatory I say about customers is said entirely for comic effect. I don't really come home each night so full of bile that I need to post scathingly insulting messages on the Internet about people. When you consider that my Food Place serves between 20,500 and 22,000 customers each week and balance that against the tiny proportion of ones that I rant about on this blog, you can see how small the number of outright awkward customers there are.
For me, it's just a bit of fun. For a few members of the 118 118 group - they're clearly taking things too far.
The Sun article has some reactions from customers.
“This is bang out of order. I’ll never use their service again." and “It’s customer service at its worst. I won’t be surprised if callers hang up in droves.”
OK, I wouldn't be happy if I thought that call centre workers could paste my number on toilet walls if they didn't like my tone, but don't these people understand that staff are only humans? If you yell and scream at a call centre employee down the phone, with no provocation, then yes - they are going to go home and post nasty remarks about you on the Internet. Employees in the service sector are simply not paid enough money to take a professional stance and say "Oh, I say, that was a nasty gentleman," and think nothing more about it.
Just follow the golden rule. Be nice to shop staff, and they'll be nice to you. Be unnecessarily rude or aggressive, and you'll get everything you deserve. In 118 118's case, that means you can expect lots of prank phone calls. But, at Food Place, we'll stick with belittling you and making you look a clown on this blog. No offence.