I understand why some people treat others poorly

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I am prompted to write this piece after reading a recent report with the heading “I don’t understand why people treat those in customer service so poorly”.

The report was based on a video clip that was posted by a TikTok user who works as a cashier at a Shell station in Penang.

According to the report, a customer was upset when told that the points redemption facility for his BonusLink card was not available through the point-of-sale machine at her station.

In the video clip, the cashier explained that in order to redeem the BonusLink points, the card must first be scanned or swiped and not after filling up the petrol.

Incidentally, I too have a BonusLink card and had been patronising Shell stations over the past decades. But for many years, I have no idea about the number of points I have accumulated, as I did not bother to check online to find out the number of points and types of gifts redeemable.

But if I were to be told that I could not redeem BonusLink points by a Shell station, I would be surprised and somewhat disappointed, although the points matter little to me. I have no thoughts of using the points for gift redemption but continue to use the loyalty card out of habit.

However, I would certainly not berate the cashier who was reported to have said, “I do not understand why people treat those in customer service so poorly, thinking we all are uneducated. He questioned: Can you understand my simple English?”

She added, “I am a university student. I have Band in Muet (Malaysian University English Test), of course, I understand. He talked as if I am uneducated, and I understand it is part of the job hazard. But this is not an excuse to treat one less than a human. Respect is respect, but do not assume others are stupid.”

The cashier posted the video clip to vent her frustrations and must have been thrilled that it had gone viral and would even surpass a million views. Although revenge can be sweet, it is better to learn something more useful and benefit from this unpleasant encounter.

While it is true that most people tend to reciprocate the kindness or anger directed at them, we should try to remain true to ourselves by behaving according to our beliefs and doing what we think is right.

Our behaviour reflects who we are and should not be unduly influenced by others. Likewise, how others treat us has got to do more with them and less with us. Whether others are deserving or not, we ought to be kind, just as we have received kindness unexpectedly or undeservingly.

Unfortunately, those who do not truly respect themselves would not be able to respect others, but they may not realise it. Therefore, it is important to learn self-respect, not just to respect others, but also to be unaffected when others treat us badly or unfairly.

And it is important not to stereotype or make general statements like “I do not understand why people treat those in customer service so poorly”. The incident should be viewed as just one angry customer with a cashier upon learning that he could not redeem valuable points.

At outlets where regular customers make up the bulk of the sales, excellent customer service is crucial to building up the business. At times when customers are angry, they are also great opportunities for turning them into the strongest supporters by handling their complaints well.

I have conducted many customer service training programmes. Instead of limiting to a long list of dos and don’ts, participants were also asked to share their best and worst experiences, and how they could handle the situation better the next time. What they shared was truly profound.

We should try to rise above petty quarrels and learn to be truly powerful in this world. Fortunately, this is within the means of everyone who can exercise self-control. All that is needed is to learn and remember that no one can make us angry or happy if we don’t allow it.

As such, our anger and happiness are choices we make. If we choose wisely, our life would be sublime, and no longer be subjected to the treatment and respect others give us, whether satisfactorily or poorly. Only then, we are ready for much bigger things in life.

And always remember, people get angry because of themselves but direct their anger at others. Likewise, we can make others happy only when we ourselves are happy. Those who are not happy are not so smart after all and has nothing to do with their level of education.

The views expressed here are strictly those of YS Chan from Kuala Lumpur.