What is respect? Is it having people move out of your way, when you approach? Is it having them hold the door for you or invite you to go first? Perhaps it’s the immediate and unconditional obedience of people who are under your authority… Different people have different definitions of respect but not all of them are correct or accurate. I know that for some older generations, that last one is usually the case. I can remember my grandmother, who always DEMANDED immediate and unconditional obedience and respect from her grandchildren. That doesn’t always produce the best results and in today’s modern world, respect can be a fleeting thing.
Without muddying the waters too badly, respect can be easily defined as admiring someone based on their abilities and achievements, while having due regard for their feelings, traditions and rights. So, what does that admiration entail? Is that obedience aspect a requirement? Most people would be inclined to say no. I respect my friends. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say I would obey them. Would I hold doors open for them? Absolutely. The concept of respect has the tendency to be subjective and not always clear to some people.
Let’s take one of the most commonly assumed shows of disrespect: a disgruntled customer. Now, the concept of “the customer is always right” hasn’t really been a thing in quite a long time. For the most part, retail chains are beginning to understand all too well that the phrase that was coined in the early 1900’s in order to ensure customers didn’t feel cheated or deceived, is no longer being exercised in that spirit. But that doesn’t stop certain customers from using the slogan and expecting it to be obeyed.
So, a disgruntled customer comes up to your till. You scan their items and they immediate take notice that the $3.99 item they wanted didn’t scan as $3.30 as they expected. This is an actual scenario I dealt with, back in my retail days. The customer immediately becomes irritated and agitated, perhaps even name-calling and berating the cashier, who is basically powerless to do anything beyond scanning and charging the listed price. Then, they pull the classic trump card out of their pocket… “Get me your manager, NOW! Don’t you know that the customer is always right?”
I walk up and ask the customer how I can help, who then proceeds to spit out the story in as exaggerated and emotional manner possible. All while demanding respecting (DEMANDING) as she is the customer and her patronage pays our salaries… yada, yada, yada… While she’s busy unloading a flood of verbal diarrhea on me, I send a merchandiser to check on the item to see if we had incorrectly priced it. The result was that the price was correct but the item next to it was a bottle with a lesser amount, which resulted in the lower price. I could only assume that the customer’s current bottle was sitting in the wrong slot when she picked it up.
Without getting into the law and applicable legislation that pertains to pricing on retail shelves, I could see that there was no clear way of dealing with this person as they were absolutely adamant that they were right. So I did the only thing I could think of to diffuse the situation and end it before my cashier broke down in tears: I pulled three quarters out of my pocket and handed it to her. When she asked me what i was doing, I responded that I was paying her back the difference in price. She was floored, and said she couldn’t take money from pocket as it should come from the till. I calmly explained that no, it shouldn’t because we don’t provide refunds because something was picked up from the wrong spot on the shelf. But since she believes her patronage pays my salary, she’s welcome to money out of my pocket.
This is only one example, and a pretty common one, of how this customer disrespected the employee. The irony is that the employee was simply doing her job, one in which the customer likely wouldn’t want to do. And what’s even more hilarious is when someone irate is making a total ass of themselves but yet still seems to consider it appropriate to DEMAND respect.
Respect is a fluid thing, and subjective to the person. Respect should be earned and never demanded, although there are instances where respect can be given depending on the situation. The important thing to remember is other people’s perspective. If you can respect someone else’s perspective, it makes it all that easier for others to respect yours. ☯