The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a female part-time worker in my 50s, and I serve customers in administrative work. I can’t cope well with customers who suddenly become angry.
They are always men in their 40s to 60s, and they shout at me over unreasonable complaints. Frightened, I apologize while looking down. But they just get angrier, barking at me, “Look at me when you apologize!”
I keep composed when talking with women and young and elderly men, so they do not yell at me when I serve them. However, I become very nervous when I talk with men in their 40s to 60s.
Since I was a child, no men around me, including my family members and teachers, shouted, so I’m probably just not accustomed to being shouted at. Sometimes, I can’t stop shaking and even begin crying after the customers leave after shouting at me.
I don’t mind if I’m at fault. However, in most cases, I just don’t understand why they are angry at me. I’m so frightened that I just apologize to them, hoping they’ll stop. Such an attitude probably just makes them angrier. What should I do?
Dear Ms. I:
I had similar experiences many times because I ran my own business for a long time. While reading your letter, I vividly recalled how I felt humiliated at those times as if it had happened only yesterday.
I operated a bookstore. One day, a customer in his 60s suddenly became angry after buying a book. He complained that it was terrible the way we frequently changed the arrangement of books. He added that he had come to my store to get a book he had found previously, but he couldn’t find it on the same bookshelf anymore. He told me that it was unprofessional to confuse customers.
I just apologized because I didn’t want to be bothered. But he just continued to rant. When doing business, we always run into people who believe they have the right to arrogantly lecture and shout at shop people when there’s something they feel slighted about as long as they are customers and pay money. It’s a way for them to vent their anger, I think.
In such situations, if you are surprised and try to appease them, they just continue behaving imperiously. So, instead, ask them to explain exactly what they are dissatisfied about. Ask calmly and ask one or two colleagues to be present on such occasions because this can be difficult if you are alone. First, always try to calm customers down.
Tatsuro Dekune, writer