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Friday, August 13, 2010

Folk Hero or Obnoxious Man?


It's amazing how quickly Steve Slater, a flight attendant who claimed that he was fed up with rude passengers, cursed over the loudspeaker, grabbed a beer and slid down the safety slide has become a "folk hero" of sorts (sort of in the category of Bernhard Goetz, I would think). It seems that service workers seemed to identify with Mr. Slater.

I was reminded of a few things in my life when this happened. My mom didn't believe for one moment that Mr. Slater was justified because recently I (who usually get along quite well with the flight attendants, often talking to them on long flights) had an incident with a flight attendant. A few months ago, I was on a flight (a puddle jumper with only one flight attendant) and had some difficulties with a nasty flight attendant. It started when he refused to let me go to the bathroom before the flight left the gate. It continued (I don't recall what the second "thing" was) and came to a head when he wouldn't give me more water (I'm diabetic and need a lot to drink or I get dizzy). So on one of my myriad trips to the bathroom, I saw an open water bottle and took it from the galley and brought it back to my seat. When "Mr. Personality" saw me with the bottle, he tried to take it from me, wrestling with me over the bottle. When he realized he would not be able to take the bottle from me, he crushed it rather than allow me to drink from it. He had the Captain call ahead and I was met by a woman who I assumed was supposed to escort me out of the airport, but when I told her what happened, she laughed and realized that I wasn't some crazed terrorist or criminal, intent on disruption their flight. I laughed the whole thing off (after sending a narrative of the event in an e-mail to the airlines and promptly put the incident in the cobweb covered filing cabinet in the nether regions of my brain and didn't think about it again until Mr. Slater's incident -- and it took my Mom reminding me for me to extract this from it's place in my brain).

This past week, on Undercover Boss, there was a repeat of an episode about a CEO of a mail order business (I forget the name) was working undercover with a customer service phone employee who was rude to a customer and he was livid. He later told the employee that this was totally unacceptable.

This also reminded me of when I was working many years ago as a teller at Chase Manhattan. I often worked the "deposits only" line and I was also the teller that one of the "not exactly by the book, but let's help the customer" officers (whose name was John and he later was the president of a smaller branch) used to bring the upset customers to (because he knew that I would do whatever he asked me to do even if it wasn't "by the book").

One day, John brought over someone who was really upset. The customer continued to complain while I was taking care of him. I finished the transaction, handing him his receipt, smiled and said, "have a nice day" and he left. The next customer was a regular of mine and so I started chatting with him. He started staring and I asked him what the problem was and he said that he was shocked that I could take that abuse and still be my normal cheerful self. I shrugged and told him that I knew the customer wasn't angry with me, just the bank. I'd been on the other side myself many times.

On that episode of "Undercover Boss", there was also an employee who was able to diffuse just about any customer with his charm and "let's make this right" attitude. He personified the cool customer service representative and he managed to resolve issues, feeling that it was his job to have the customer feel good after the call. I have experienced people like that too, in between the obnoxious "I'm right, you're not!" people.

So what's the real story with Mr. Slater? I don't know. But he's no folk hero to me.

Check out my other blogs:

Israel and it's Place in the World
Jewish Singles
Strong Jewish Women

Check out some of my squidoo lenses (articles):

Strong Biblical Women
Strong Biblical Women 2
Why Be Vegetarian
Vegetarianism: Getting Started 1
Vegetarianism: Getting Started 2
Why be Vegetarian?
Rosh Hashana
Quick Vegan Cooking
Creating new recipes from old
About the Jewish Calendar
Witches and Morality
Math Hints 1 -- Adding Fractions
Presidents1: George Washington

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