Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture

December 13th, 2006.

Every time I promise myself that I will work on controlling my temper, I always end up making a scene.

This time, it wasn’t my fault. All I wanted was a bagel. A bagel, a cup of coffee, and perhaps a spot near a window where I could idly watch the traffic go by as I browsed through the newspaper and licked cream cheese from my fingers. But apparently the Gods were not on my side.

Today I got in line behind a middle aged woman in a fur coat who was barking orders at the poor bagel girl like she was a dumb misbehaving dog. Fur Coat was ordering multiple bagel sandwiches from a list, but instead of ordering them in such a way that would make sense, she was attempting to order them all at the same time. The Bagel Girl was obviously confused and you could tell by her shaking hands that Fur Coat’s harsh tone was intimidating her. Finally, Fur Coat snapped, “I said light butter on that bagel! Light butter! Jesus!”

I couldn’t stand it anymore. I cut in, “You don’t have to be such a bitch about it.”

Fur Coat glared daggers at me and stated, “I’m not.”

“Well, I beg to differ.”

With a disgusted ‘Hrmph,’ Fur Coat went back to her overly complicated order, but she did so quietly and even managed to begrudge the poor girl a ‘Thank you’ after she was finished.

I have a theory about asshole customers: I think they only act that way because no one ever calls them on their bullshit. The poor kids behind the counter can’t stand up for themselves lest they lose their jobs and other patrons look the other way claiming ‘it’s none of my business.’

Fuck that. When I see some self important asshole verbally degrading a teenaged kid with dead eyes behind a counter, it ruins my day. So, I say some shit. Besides, I feel that if I stay silent, I am almost giving an abuser permission to act like a raging asshole. Ignoring their behavior suggests to them on some sick level that what they’re doing is Ok.

It’s not OK.

The phrase ‘The Customer is Always Right’ is the single worst philosophy that has ever been adopted by American culture. It gave an entire generation of people the green light to be as impolite, unreasonable, and demanding as their little hearts desired because they were always going to be considered right. It destroyed the entire concept of courtesy and rendered manners obsolete. People began to treat their peers in the service industry like incompetent morons, lacking in feelings or human dignity, who deserved to be browbeaten and abused for no other reason than they had the audacity to run out of a particular brand of coffee. Furthermore, instead of suffering negative repercussions for their appallingly disrespectful behavior, they are awarded with free coupons and plenty of ass kissing. In reality, they should be shunned and humiliated for behaving like such self absorbed little children.

Speaking of respect, another idea that has ruined American culture is the one that states, ‘I don’t give respect freely. You have to earn my respect.’ This one is most often uttered by punk kids with bad attitudes and black fingernail polish.

Fucking gag me.

I mean, how egotistical does one have to be to automatically assume that their respect is so fucking important that one must jump through multiples hoops in order to earn it? How about we give people respect because they are humans with lives and feelings just as important as our own? Why not give people a default level of respect and more or less can either be won or lost based on the behavior of the individual? The loss of respect is something that should be based on actions. The idea that that one must win basic respect in the first place is incredibly belittling. How narcissistic can you be to embrace that ideology?

A few Sundays ago, my husband and I went out to breakfast. If anyone has ever attempted to go out to breakfast on a Sunday morning, they know that restaurants are usually packed around then. We were finally seated and our server was not only very busy, but also a new employee according to her ‘Hi! I’m new!’ nametag.

I’d like to say that everyone in her section was very understanding. The place was a madhouse and she was obviously out of her element. I wish I could say that the patrons in that restaurant were mannerly and polite and treated her with even an ounce of dignity and consideration. But, if I did, I’d be fucking lying.

Nearly everyone yelled at her or condescended to her like she was a stupid little child. One guy ordered a side of ‘home fries’ and reamed her ass when she brought him French fries. Had he looked at the menu a little closer, he would have seen that ‘home fries’ weren’t listed. This particular restaurant only served French fries or hash browns. Her mistake was understandable and he was basically yelling at her because she didn’t read his mind accurately enough.

But let’s all forget about that for just a moment. Instead, I want to point out that there are a multitude of things that can go wrong in one’s life. Death, illness, and poverty just to name a few. Yet, here I was watching a grown man lose his fucking shit because he was going to have to wait 5 minutes for a side of hash browns. Suddenly, I lost my appetite.

At this point, the angry little man demanded to speak to a manager and a kowtowing corporate whore scuttled over with free coupons and many apologies. The angry man furiously demanded that his waitress be fired right that instant. Over hash browns.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I leaned over and interrupted, “When you’re finished talking to this man, I’d like to speak to you. I have the same server.”

The angry man smiled smugly, no doubt convinced that I was going to back him up on his quest to get a new girl fired because he had to wait 5 fucking minutes.

The manager finished with him and moped over to my table ready for his second tongue lashing of the day. I surprised him by loudly saying, “I just want you to know that our server is doing the best that she can. She’s been trying very hard and has been very sweet to us even though that asshole has treated her so poorly.”

The manager suddenly looked panicked and started shooting terrified looks at the table that just finished reaming him out. “I know,” he whispered fearfully, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to fire her.”

And while I was pleased to learn that this particular manager wasn’t going to fire the new girl based on the whim of some fat ass piece of trailer trash, I was disappointed that he rewarded said trash’s temper tantrum with free food. I long for the day a manager walks up to a table and says, “How dare you treat my employee this way. Get out now.”

I’m sure they want to, but that ridiculous policy ‘The Customer is Always Right’ silences them. So until we banish that phrase from American culture forever, I suggest we quit looking the other way when people behave like scumbags.

After all, technicalities may suggest that they are always right, but that doesn’t make them any less an asshole.

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91 Responses to Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture

  1. Geoffco.Net

    Stick up for your employees…

    Great post on pandering to downright rude customers, and just how messed up it is. Check it out here.
    I think it’s especially relevant that the supervisor/manager needs to back their staff up – publicly.  I have had my bosses back me in the past…

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  7. Zenarchery.com » Violent Acres » Archives » Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture

    […] Violent Acres » Archives » Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture And while I was pleased to learn that this particular manager wasn’t going to fire the new girl based on the whim of some fat ass piece of trailer trash, I was disappointed that he rewarded said trash’s temper tantrum with free food. I long for the day a manager walks up to a table and says, “How dare you treat my employee this way. Get out now.” […]

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  9. links for 2006-12-14 at Blue Sky On Mars

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    […] Violent Acres » Archives » Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture Today I got in line behind a middle aged woman in a fur coat who was barking orders at the poor bagel girl like she was a dumb misbehaving dog. Fur Coat was ordering multiple bagel sandwiches from a list, but instead of ordering them in such a way that would make sense, she was attempting to order them all at the same time. The Bagel Girl was obviously confused and you could tell by her shaking hands that Fur Coat’s harsh tone was intimidating her. Finally, Fur Coat snapped, “I said light butter on that bagel! Light butter! Jesus!” I couldn’t stand it anymore. I cut in, “You don’t have to be such a bitch about it.” […]

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    A few Sundays ago, my husband and I went out to breakfast. If anyone has ever attempted to go out to breakfast on a Sunday morning, they know that restaurants are usually packed around then. We were finally seated and our server was not only very busy,…

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  18. Rude Customers meet history « John’s Blog

    […] Anath over at Applegeeks linked to this blog posting about rude customers. While I agree with almost everything that the author says, I just want to disagree on one point: this phenomenon did not start with the American slogan ‘the customer is always right,’ it’s been around pretty much since the beginning of time. It’s called ‘bullying,’ and it will be around as long as there are power differentials in unsupervised environments such as the one that exists between a server and a customer in a restaurant, or between kids on a playground at school. Or at least until we find a way to ‘educate/train people out of it,’ if that’s even a good idea (there are a lot of good, natural reasons for such behavior in a species). However, I firmly agree with her conclusion in the first part of the article, that most people do it because no one calls them on it; return to what I said above about “unsupervised environments.” The reaction of people around you, even people whom you don’t know, to your behavior is as much a form of supervision as a manager or a parent. Historically (that is, when people lived in small villages/nomadic societies), it was this very social pressure that kept people ‘properly behaved,’ whatever that society’s standard of behavior was. This is to what Hillary Clinton was referring with her book title It Takes a Village, not that I consider her a shining example, mind you. I believe (by which I mean that I have no empirical evidence other than reflections upon my own behavior) that most people are just as intimidated by bullying behavior. I certainly have been in my life. I applaud the author of this post for speaking out, and I hope that, the next time I observe such behavior, I have the courage to do the same. (Mind you, I’m deliberately ignoring my mother’s likely response to such a statement, which is, “What if (as can be the case with bullies) they don’t control themselves when you call them on their behavior, but instead get angrier and direct their anger at you?” That’s a conversation for another time/post.) […]

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    […] Nothing terribly new here, I’ll admit, but I just stumbled across this, and I’ve had this rant (or variations upon the theme) many times over the past few years: Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture: […]

  82. Resell Rights Mastery Blog » Is The Customer Always Right?

    […] http://www.violentacres.com/archives/59/two-phrases-that-destroyed-american-culture […]

  83. My conscious and I » Blog Archive » Stab and Twist, dear, Stab and Twish..

    […] reading certain articles on my website, I’ve even seen people comment, “What is she going to do if she says the wrong […]

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  85. Demeter’s Garden » Great Article About Basic Human Decency!

    […] Is the phrase “The Customer is Always Right” destroying American culture? The author of this article seems to think so, and she makes some great points. Working in customer service can be really […]

  86. In Search of an Audience » More stuff I love to read

    […] yes, this post made me so happy. “The Customer is always right” is a phrase that I have abhorred since […]

  87. whats the rudest scene you have ever witnessed in public? - Page 2 - kittyradio.com

    […] This is a blog I was reading months ago. I figured it was appropriate for this thread and I think it hits the nail right on the head. Violent Acres Blog Archive Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture […]

  88. Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 15, 2009 « Bill Mullins’ Weblog – Tech Thoughts

    […] Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture – Every time I promise myself that I will work on controlling my temper, I always end up making a scene. […]

  89. Right-Wing Links (April 17, 2010)

    […] Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture How does it become a man to behave towards the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. — Henry David Thoreau […]

  90. Dude, WTF?^^ « MjNet

    […] had been inadvertently disabled by me and recently re-enabled, on which I saw a referring link to my site from violentacres.com. Since I was interested in how this site linked to mine, I dug a bit, and if you follow the link in […]

  91. Meanwhile, on the Internet… [ VOID-STAR.NET ]

    […] Two Phrases That Destroyed American CultureWhen I see some self important asshole verbally degrading a teenaged kid with dead eyes behind a counter, it ruins my day. So, I say some shit. Besides, I feel that if I stay silent, I am almost giving an abuser permission to act like a raging asshole. Ignoring their behavior suggests to them on some sick level that what they’re doing is Ok. usa […]