Frontline workers are not your punching bag

The phone starts ringing steady Thursday mornings at the Citizen.

Hot news tip?

Huge emergency?


The question callers have is “where’s my paper?”

Most callers politely ask why the new edition of the Citizen hasn’t arrived yet in the box where they normally grab their paper.

Equally politely, Kandie informs callers that the drivers have until 6 p.m. Thursday to fill the drop boxes. Many boxes are filled as soon as mid-afternoon Wednesday with the rest on Thursday morning but it always depends on the arrival of the truck from Vancouver, where the paper is printed.

A handful of callers, like one fellow this past Thursday, believe they are so entitled to a free product that they can start shouting and swearing at someone when that free product isn’t available when and where they want it.

Folks, Kandie can be as sweet as her name implies. She is gentle and empathetic when grieving friends and family members come into the office to place an obituary. But start yelling at her over the phone about why your paper - which you pay absolutely nothing for by the way - isn’t in your neighbourhood box when you want it, well, she’s not going to tolerate your rude and abusive behaviour for a New York minute.

And nor should she.

Sadly, frontline workers have to put up with this outrageous behaviour, both in-person and over the phone, every day and often multiple times per shift.

The degree to which some people go to justify their rudeness to frontline workers is incredible. They see it as standing up for themselves and their rights, that they’re not going to tolerate poor customer service, that they’re having a bad day.

You’re having a bad day?

So how would you like it if the frontline worker you were treating horribly decided to record your conduct (as a participant in the conversation, they are legally allowed to both record and share the recording) and then posted it on social media? 

Temper tantrum at the till? 

Look, video taken by the customer behind you or from the security recording of you having your childish meltdown is all over Facebook.

Yell at someone over the phone? 

Along with the recording of you being a jerk is your phone number from the call display, so random strangers can ring you up and yell at you for no reason, other than the fact that you seem to think it’s ok for you to scream and swear at others over the phone.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

This kind of retaliation already happens in extreme cases from time to time but imagine if it became more prevalent. Imagine if you knew that there was video and/or audio of you during each personal and over-the-phone encounter you had with a frontline worker. For security and customer service reasons, this is already the case much of the time so it shouldn’t be a stretch.

Now imagine if companies and frontline workers routinely shared these recordings. You’ve got nothing to be afraid of if you’re a regular customer – scratch that, a decent human being – who treats each person they meet, regardless of the circumstances, with dignity and respect. 

But if you think your customer dissatisfaction entitles you to abuse a person just doing their job as best they can, maybe a hefty dose of public shaming is exactly what you need to sort you out.

A hilarious video made the rounds on Twitter this week of two dogs on opposite sides of a gate. When the gate was closed, they bared their teeth, snarled and barked at each other, pushing themselves up against the gate. When the gate opened, they stepped back and looked at each other, warily but quietly and respectfully. When the gate closed again, they resumed their annoying, aggressive behaviour.

Please don’t be that dog.

Follow the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) and the silver rule (don’t do unto others as you would not have them do unto you).

And if you catch yourself behaving poorly to a frontline worker, stop, take a deep breath and apologize. You and they will be better for it.

Thank you, frontline workers, for everything you do.

Also thank you for not shaming your rudest customers more often.

They don’t deserve your kindness.