A bothersome thing

By Alanna Bottrell

There are a few bothersome things at my doctor’s office.

His receptionist.  She’s bothersome thing number one.  Imagine a princess who’s been forced to answer phones for a year before she can inherit her father’s kingdom.  Now imagine that she has an ability to non-verbally suggest that your arrival has ruined her life.  That’s her in a nutshell.

The fact is, she doesn’t have to give me that look. She doesn’t have to purse her lips and roll her eyes slightly back into her head when I check in.  There’s a sign by her desk that articulates what her facial cues imply.  Here’s what it says: “Everyone has bad days.  Do not take your bad day out on us.  Abuse will not be tolerated.”  That’s bothersome thing number two.

The vehicle registry office, local retailers, recreation centres – these signs (or a variation of them) are everywhere in town.  It’s not right.

First of all, what business does tolerate abuse?  Have these signs encouraged anyone to take their abusiveness elsewhere?  “Oh.  How ‘bout that? This place won’t tolerate my abuse.  Says so right here on this sign.  I gotta go find a place where my abuse will be appreciated.  Good thing I got that warning!” Has anyone had this internal dialogue?

Suppose I invite my friends over to my house for a birthday party.  Do I stand on the porch and holler from the street: “look here, fools.  I ain’t havin’ any of your tomfoolery or malarkey in my home.  You get in, you enjoy your spinach dip, and you sit quietly on the couch.  And no givin’ me any of your backtalk, either.  I ain’t got the time!  By the way, you can leave all the lovely gifts on the table in the hallway.  Thank you!”  This, to me, is what those signs say.  Only in fewer words.

These signs immediately establish conflict and it says as much about the business as it does about Fort McMurrayites.  They tell the reader that the establishment has had more than a few angry clients/patients/customers.  Instead of reminding people to be civil, it sends a different message (that is: “we tend to infuriate people, but it’s totally them – not us”).

Instead of a friendly “welcome” they’re saying “we don’t need your bad attitude.”

To be fair, the pressures facing the service industry need to be acknowledged.  Service providers are often operating above capacity, while drastically understaffed.  There are language barriers and poorly designed parking lots to consider.  People on both ends of the transaction are often overworked and possibly underpaid.   It’s like a perfect storm.

However, there’s something to be said for treating your customers well.  If I spend $125 at the grocery store each week, that’s over $6,000 annually.  Multiply that by the thousands of citizens in our region.  That’s a lot of money!  Right now, we’re limited in our options.  As the city grows, and more retailers and service providers set up shop, businesses are going to have to become more competitive.

You can only bite the hand that feeds you for so long, before it slaps on some bandages and takes its business elsewhere.