Today I did an experiment at my work – I started observing some behaviors between myself and the customers which I’ve found quite interesting – I noticed that I was finding flaws in my mind about the customers and specifically disliked the ones that were cautious, slow and soft speaking and I preferred the ones that came in, immediately state what they wanted, also if I could not remember if after bringing item number five to them, because that were, in my eyes, efficient and I would thus get them quicker out of the shop.
I have even developed a “slide” from the front desk to a fridge so that I can get there faster and “spare” a few steps – (I also do it because it is fun to slide across a stone floor with a smooth surface) it is all about efficiency.
So today I started noticing how I am required to say “how may I help you?” or something similar when a customer comes into the shop. If I do not say anything or even if I say hi and continue what I was doing, they would not speak up. So today I decided to test it and see what would happen if I did not say “how may I help you?” and simply continued what I was doing. I was standing and cleaning some rack when a woman walked in. When I did not say “how may I help you?” she quickly left the shop and I thought to myself that if I would lose customers over this, then I’d better speak the line.
The next customer was a man. With him I had to push myself not to speak, because he kept standing there, innocently waiting for me to finish what I was doing and come ask him: “how may I help you?” I felt bad about just ignoring him, yet I did turn around to show him that I had seen him. I stood there for what felt like an eternity and simply continued cleaning my rack. Eventually another woman came into the shop and after a few moments the man walked out. I have never before experienced not only one, but to customers walking out of the shop without buying something – most people buy something, but this time, I had lost 2 customers simply because I did not speak a automatized line.
The woman then, as the first of the three, asked me if she could buy something and pointed out to me, a little critically, that the man had left. I explained to her that I was doing an experiment to see if the people would really not ask if I did not ask them first and rather leave the shop. I was shocked to find out that it was so.
People would actually rather leave the shop than to stop me in what I was doing and ask me to service them, which I by the very fact that I was standing behind the counter in an apron, was exactly there to do.
I then started thinking about whether I would do the same and I realized that I would. I have so often stood in some form of situation with another human being, wherein all I had to do was to speak up, where I have rather retreated with my tail of fear and shame between my legs.
I also realized that most of those coming into the shop acting like they own everything and naturally commanding me to “work for them”, where often people with money, who would park their expensive cars right outside the shop, with fast and certain steps walk into the shop and look me directly in the eyes as they said: “I’ll take 2 of those and 5 of these and…” They would also buy more and care less about the final amount.
They looked as though all was right in the world and I was there merely to serve them and it was a fair and balanced relationship. And ironically, these were the people I would feel the most comfortable with, where I could simply do my job without having to accommodate their neuroses and insecurities.
I stared looking at the people coming into the shop and noticing many who felt defeated, ashamed and fearful. Many felt broken or lost or desperate towards their experience and position in life. They would feel inferior to me as a person behind the counter, instead of seeing me as someone doing them a service, which they pay me to do.
It was like they too, where simply pawns or marionettes with entangled and yet invisible strings off the sleeves that pulled their arms up and down, to work and buy and eat and wipe their asses in an endless cycle of events. It was also clear that what was pulling their strings from the other end, was in most cases fear. Fear which they’d “learned to cope with” through dulling themselves will all sorts of addictions. I know this – because I am them myself.
I was however surprised to discover the general experience of defeat and inequality there was in the community in which I worked and how big a role money and social status played in the individual’s experience of him or herself.
There is no punchline or moral to this story – it is simply what is here as a slice of the world where specific patterns are playing themselves out by us allowing ourselves to step back and sit as zombies inside the body, always only looking out and moving the arms and legs and mouth, while a system of neatly orchestrated inequality plays to the beat of it’s own drum, as endless cycles of give and take, give and take – and KATJING in the register and full bellies, but never any real communication or conversation, because we’re simply too nice and too afraid to be direct with each other and look each other in the eyes and say: “is this what we want?”
It is not what I want. So now I gotta practice being direct and directive – standing myself and walking directly and NOT standing idly by.