A High Tolerance for Chaos: What I’ve Learned from Rejoining the World of Customer Service 

I got a second job, and it’s going along nicely. Sure, working after work, or on a weekend, isn’t nesesarily the first thing one wants to do. But the extra money is nice, as is the chance to just get out, meet some people, and hopefully learn something. 

In this case, about wine. 

But the return to the customer service industry has also proven to be educational on other matters besides the vino. For example, I’ve learned some things about myself and others.

You see, this past Friday and Saturday night, our point-of-sale computer system was out of commission. So all billing, taking payments, and accounting had to be done by hand.

In a historic downtown hotspot.

In the middle of summer.

On the two busiest nights of the week.

Like this, but sadly with less mustache.
Despite it all, we survived. And we survived with style. 

Here’s what stuck out to me from this brief return to the days of my youth when doing everything by hand would have just been considered normal.

We rely on machines way too much. A malfunctioning machine, in this case due to a quick lightning storm that rolled through town, made everyone panic like the sky was falling.

Well, not all of us. There was definitely a, shall we say, demographic difference in how people handled things, but I’ll get to that later. 

The thing is, the idea of having to do things manually seemed to abhorrent, not only to employees, but to the customers. From the looks of pity and soothing words we received, it was like we all lost loved ones.

It wasn’t that bad. Really. In fact, in some ways just writing things down was easier.

But this doesn’t bode well–and I’m really stretching things out here–but if there’s ever some global catastrophe, be it natural disaster or act of war, that knocks out our power grid, we are totally boned. 

This is why some skills should never be forgotten, and indeed reclaimed.

Including basic math!

People are mostly really decent… Customers understood the problem, as long as we explained to them at the outset that settling their bill might take a bit longer than usual…and that the method would be decidedly “retro.” Or “vintage,” if you’re a hipster. 

But they still got their food and drink, so it wasn’t really a big deal to most. Amazing how alcohol can make people forget their troubles, isn’t it?

…but sometimes you have to learn how to read them. Amazing how alcohol can make people forget their troubles, isn’t it! Some irate customers mellowed out after getting a little extra splash of wine here, some unexpected champagne here, one of the owners himself picking a bottle and distributing to our inconvenienced customers. 

Sometimes we’d pour a little extra for people who were such good sports. And whatever their state of mind, many ordered more stuff anyway. 

People are funny, I’ll give them that. 

I have an incredibly high chaos tolerance. Honestly, the whole thing registered as little more than a mild annoyance for me. Maybe I’m inured to the pandemonium from my time in court dealing with screaming, angry defendants. Maybe it’s because I’m the parent of a small child. Or maybe it’s because I’m old enough to remember when we had to do things by hand!

Those credit card things that emboss the number and other pertinent info onto carbon paper? Yep, I’ve used those at jobs. 


And when we ran out of carbon paper, we just wrote everything by hand. On a slip. It’s not a big deal.

At least, it wasn’t to me. Chaos is a part of life. It will happen to you. Roll with it, or get rolled. 

Chaos (artist’s rendering.)

Life is work. It doesn’t matter what your gig is: you have to hustle. Learn this at a young age or be a snowflake. 
One of the best things I did was get a customer service job at age 13, scooping ice cream and washing dishes (usually separately). After that, I washed more dishes and then over the years I worked at a movie theater and a bike shop. 

You learn resilience. You learn discipline. And, to quote Coheed and Cambria, nobody gives a fuck who you are.

Do the work? Get paid.

Can’t do the work? Get out. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRengade

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8 thoughts on “A High Tolerance for Chaos: What I’ve Learned from Rejoining the World of Customer Service 

  1. EA says:

    Life is Work.

    This brings me back to fond memories of washing huge pans of burnt on lasagna crusts and scalding my finger tips on plates – good times hahaha!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Working in customer service is a really rewarding experience. I too experienced a technical outage when I worked in the libraries – I can’t even tell you what they did before they had all the books logged on the system! So we had to write all book loans down on paper. This took a long time but most people understood when I said apologised for the wait and explained the problem with the system. All except one guy who said “a poor workman blames his tools”, which I wasn’t I was explaining why he had been waiting for five minutes to be served. Can’t please some people!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. They are. I think the term is…a bit of trying to hard. Can’t we just say “people skills”? “Savoir faire” is a nice term as well.

        Anyway, semantics aside, I agree with you: Most every job–indeed, most situations in life–require people skills. Pretty hard to be successful if no one wants to buy your goods or services because you’re so personally repellent…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Emotional intelligence it sounds like a word used by person who lacks it as it does have a bit of an in personal feeling. I need to put the management literature down!

        Liked by 1 person

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