You’ll have experienced this if you’ve worked on the frontline before. If not, you may be the one with the umbrella

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One day, a cashier in a supermarket could not scan the barcode for a bag of toilet roll. After trying several times, she smiled at the customer and tried to key in the barcode number instead.

“What are you doing? Why are you so slow?”

The cashier smiled at the customer.

“What? Why are you smiling? Faster!” the customer demanded.

The system did not recognize the number. She tried again, apologizing for the inconvenience caused.

“Do you know how much time you’ve wasted?” the customer yelled. “What the hell are you doing? You pathetic lowlife—do it quick or I’ll lodge a complaint, and you’ll lose your job!”

The cashier tried again, almost wanting to fight back, not knowing that the item was apparently not sold in the supermarket—it was discarded by someone.

“You pathetic lowlife—why are you so slow and stupid? Call your manager here—”

“Sir—”

“Who are you to talk to me, you lowlife? Get your manager here! You’re going to lose your job!”

Familiar? If not, you might have been sheltered too long in your life. This is not an exaggeration—I can assure you that as you read this now, someone is treating another person like this. It might not be between a cashier and a customer, but it is happening—for example, it could be between a sales executive from Company A and the CEO from Company B. And I can tell you that the words exchanged are real.

It’s appalling, and it’s really sad that such events are happening. I remember the phrase, “Customer is always right”—if I may, I would like to say that, that’s nonsense. Look at the story above. Customer is always right?

I’ve many such experiences before, and while I do not want to disclose my experiences in order not to offend anyone, I’ve to admit this: When this occurs, I dare to fight back because the consequences would not be that bad. But imagine that the cashier is the breadwinner of her family, and she fought back. What’s going to happen?

It’s almost disgusting that customers, just because they’ve got authority or money, make a conscious decision to verbally abuse others, even to the extent of treating them as subhuman. Have society outgrown the days of slavery? Looking at this, I would argue that contemporary slavery still exists, taking a different form—between an abusive employer and employee, a nasty customer and a service personnel or, simply put, the powerful and the weak.

While I was doing research for one of my novels, I’ve read up on an experiment in 1971 that tested what normal people would do when they’re given the ability to abuse other normal people. You’ll be surprised at the results—they cancelled the experiment because the abuse was too much to handle.

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Are you guilty of this? I don’t care, and I don’t want to know. What I’m interested is this: Whether you’re guilty of being a nasty customer before, it’s about time to remember to treat every single person in Earth as human. That’s all it takes to make this world a better place to live.