Sunday, May 11, 2008

That’s when I reach for my other revolver!

I want to talk about bad service, not of the rhizomatikafkan-kind so neatly nailed here by the Kuddly MarK K-Punk, but that more immediate, aggressive, face-to-face bad service encountered at supermarket checkouts, when the cashiers are surly, angry-looking people who don’t even return your “hello” but who seem to view you with active hostility as they swipe and bag your goods. Yeah. I have a BIG problem with this:

There isn’t enough of it.

I don’t just expect bad service in these situations, I actively want it.

Working for poverty-level wages in a non-unionized workplace? In an insecure, non-optional flat-rate overtime position of mind-deadening repetitiveness sixty-plus hours a week under neon lights AND you have to buddy up to the next dismal cunt loading up your conveyer belt with five month’s worth of frozen Goodfellas Hickory Smoked Dogmeat BBQ Pizza so they’ll feel all good about themselves and come back to make your life a misery next week? Smile and chat? Do me a fucking favour.

I support the miserable ones and the right to be publicly miserable in a shit, alienating job. The ones who still have a bit of fight, the ones who won’t be bought, aching, repetitive-strain-injury-with-no-chance-of-a-compensation-claim-body and soul, the ones who won’t pimp out there suggestive selling litany, the ones who can’t go along with the whole horrible sorry charade of pretending that this is great place to be and that we’re all friends. Sullen, spiky faces puncturing and sourly deflating the whole bright corporate and consumer ego fantasy.

I always hope for one of those. They really do boost my morale. All is not yet lost!

Naturally, when I say this, no-one takes me seriously. They think I’m being provocative, wacky. People have suggested to me that if “they” don’t enjoy their jobs maybe they should do something else for a living. Of course.

“Well, Mum, Dad I’ve decided working as a cashier in Tesco’s not for me after all so I will probably take up that offer to be a neurosurgeon, unless the Chair of Philosophy at the Sorbonne is still available.”

Twenty years ago, when we heard that in the States people said “have a nice day” after you’d just given them your money, we cackled at the crassness of its insincerity. It’ll never happen here, we thought. It’s too obvious, too phoney. Too un-British. There’s something basically curdled and deeply wrong in trying to pour the snake oil of American sales technique onto the deep, stagnant cynicism of the Brits. A few years ago, in Marks and Spencer someone asked me, “How’s your day been?” I assumed he’d spotted someone he knew behind me. When I realised this complete stranger was not only enquiring after my personal life and thereby violating one of the cardinal principles of English negative liberty, the right to never be spoken to by anyone ever, but that for some reason he was also using a weird mid-Atlantic locution I naturally panicked, assuming he was a madman. “ Shit.” I instinctively replied, all of a flap. “ I just found out my mum’s got vaginal cancer.”

No, of course I didn’t, but the temptation was there. Maybe I’m all uptight and should just, like get over myself, but I actually experience these interactions as an aggression of a kind, both of us coerced by some malign third power into becoming something other than we are, in acting out emotions neither of us feels for someone else’s (or, of course, finally no-one’s) benefit. The puppet-master has his fingers in us at such moments! Can’t we all just not get along?

Death to Good Service!


Anonymous said...

Hear fucking hear!

Especially blood-boiling is hearing overpaid suits, the type who worry about 'wage inflation' and the 'increased costs of doing business', giving out about 'feeling obliged' to tip minimum-wage earning double-jobbers in bars and restaurants two quid.


Anonymous said...

I've recently got a job where I've gotta wear a suit (for much less money than my previous jeans and t-shirt one) and to my horror waiters and Big Issue salesmen are suddenly calling me 'sir'. I'm nostalgic for the (often deserved) contemptuous snarl I got from the above. Are they trained to call me this? Is it in expectation of higher tips? (Doubt it because when I was 'in service' the suits paid fuck all in tips).

And what is it with Tesco insisting on filling up your bags for you? I've got two arms! Students seem to love it, though (speed it up you fuckers). They could be 'helpful' by not overcharging for anything vaguely 'healthy' instead of compelling the minimum waged to put a loaf and a bottle of milk in a bag for me.

When it comes to banks, etc. I'm deliberately rude just to see that Americanised veneer fade fast - admit that you're robbing me and we're not 'partners' - you're a theiving fuckin' bank!