Anonymous said to realsocialskills:
Yesterday I saw a man being very angry with a cashier while I was standing in line. She was obviously upset and nothing she told him would calm him down, even though she wasn’t a manager or anything. I wasn’t sure if I should say anything to him to help her or if that would make the situation worse. What are you supposed to do when you see someone being rude to an employee?
I’m not sure whether there are effective things you can do to directly intervene in order to defuse the situation. (Do any of you? If so, please comment.)
There are a couple of things you can do afterwards, though.
You can be nice to the cashier afterwards. Like, you can wait until he goes away and say “Wow, what an asshole.” or “That guy was really mean. I’m sorry you had to put up with that.” Being reassured that other people saw what happened, and that it wasn’t their fault someone was horrible to them, can help a lot. It’s hard for most people not to blame themselves when others berate them.
Another thing you can do is be a witness. Mean customers often decide to complain to managers and say that the employee mistreated them. Managers sometimes believe mean customers over employees. This can get people fired. If a mean customer is lying in a way that might hurt an employee, you can contradict them and tell the truth. That can protect them from being punished for a lie.
Anyone else want to weigh in? People who work as cashiers or other customer service roles - is there anything bystanders have done to protect you from mean customers that’s worked? What’s backfired? People who’ve intervened - what worked? What didn’t?
20+ years working retail here.
As a customer, unless I feel that my safety or the safety of the employee is at stake, or unless the situation seems like it’ll resolve faster without interference, I intervene. A vast majority of the time, it’s by saying something to the other customer, like, “She has no control over that. You need to go talk to a manager,” and/or, “There’s no need for you to be talking to him like that.” If the other customer gets shitty with me, well, I’m not on the clock or employed by that store, and I can say what I want.
I always try to say something nice to the employee when they’re helping me. A smile and, “Wow, what an asshole,” will give the employee a chance to relax and maybe laugh, and reassure them that not everyone is terrible.
If it seems appropriate, I will talk to the manager and explain what actually happened, from an unbiased bystander’s perspective. If I can I try to do it in front of the other customer. I usually say, “I’d hate to see the employee get in trouble, so in case there’s a complaint later, this is what happened.” When at work, I’ve had customers explain to me (the manager) what they observed, and it’s very helpful.
Honestly, I’m at the point of not giving a fuck what rude people say to or think about me. I’ve been that cashier being screamed at way too many times to watch someone else have to go through it. Yeah, one day someone may take exception and get violent, but that can happen anywhere, anytime for any or no reason, so I don’t worry too much about it.