Daze of My Life: To Whom It May Concern

Daze of My Life
To Whom It May Concern

Not that I'm a complete sap with respect to my dealings with the customer-serving general public, but if you're the least bit tolerant of me, I'm likely to be extremely tolerant of you. More specifically, what I am referring to is courtesy, or shall I say, the lack thereof. Not that my goal in life is to understand the behavior of other people, but it never ceases to amaze me how consistently, and it appears (or certainly feels) how cluelessly disrespected Kenny the paying customer is.
Eye contact--forget it. A smile--unlikely. A thank you, an expression of appreciation, an offer of assistance, etc.--not in this lifetime. A break in their conversation with another employee or a stoppage of their cell phone call to better assist and/or understand you and your inquiry--apparently not a part of their job description. And finally their handling/returning of money to the paying customer, two sides of the coin, if you will: (A) after the customer has paid, and there is cash/change to be given, don't toss the money on the counter, place it in his hand and (B) after the purchase has been bagged and the change has been handed over, don't make the customer reach across the counter for his purchases, it's disrespectful, or don't you know that? Perhaps you missed that particular five minutes of training, or don't you care, and therein lies the problem.
I'll certainly never know why businesses, or more specifically, the employees, aren't treating me better. Without me, the paying customer being happy enough to return and patronage their store, the less money will be registered. And the less money that's received in the register, the less likely the store will survive and if the store doesn't survive, guess who's out of a job--the employees, that's who. If the old axiom holds true that one treats others as they would prefer to be treated themselves, than why are there so many employees in so many service/retail positions who prefer, apparently, to be mistreated, a preference I cannot, for the life of me, figure out.
Being older and wiser and more experienced in the ways of the world than these drone-like employees with whom I'm exchanging money for services or payment for products, I constantly fight the feeling that somehow I knew then what I know now, and would never have acted as disinterested and distracted as the many employees do now.
I think I thought I was getting paid for performance, not merely attendance. There was no presumption of job security or guarantee of paycheck. If I didn't do the job properly and act in a positive and productive manner, I would have been fired. I knew that not only did I have to be on time, I had to be in the mood too. In addition, I had to be polite, or else. That was as much a part of any job as was the job itself. Moreover, I wasn't simply hired...I was supervised.
But now, as I errand my way around my week, it's the pleases and thank you's I remember the most because it's what I receive the least. I'm almost to the behavioral point that when I feel the most disrespected, I'm going to start responding in kind. Unfortunately, it's not likely that too many employees will change their attitudes, but...
At some point, somewhere, something has to be said--not to change anyone's world or any businesses/employees' future--but for my own sanity. I can only tolerate so much. And besides, I deserve better. I'm a paying customer, for crying out loud. As Peter Finch, the actor, so famously proclaimed in the movie,
"Network;" "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."
And I'm fed up, too. It's not like you can fire me--I'm the customer. You're supposed to work for me, remember?

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.