Christmas confessions of an ex-service staff


“Kids are my customers. Are you sure they’re right all the time?”. Picture by Goh Wei Choon.

15  Dec 2013

It’s that time of the year again! Christmas – the season to be jolly, to mistreat service staff and to spend money we don’t really have to buy stuff we don’t really need to impress people we don’t really like. Okay that is a pessimistic view on things, but suffice to say after working in the F&B and service industry for …oh about four years one tends to see the good and the bad of Christmas shoppers.
You’ll see customers in upscale shopping centres/internationally renowned tourist destinations yelling at service staff for a million reasons:

  • why are your prices so expensive? it’s Christmas give me a bigger discount
  • why can’t you deliver on these dates? I’m already paying so much
  • no free delivery? this is ridiculous!
  • why can’t you wrap this up for me here? why must I go to the designated wrapping counter
  • why no free sample?

I never really liked the Christmas season. It has nothing to do with religion mind you. I just find the whole thing reeking of hypocrisy and commercialisation. The worst part is when customers, nay, consumers, use the line: “it’s Christmas can’t you help just do this little thing please? Where’s your Christmas spirit?”

Christmas spirit*? Is the Christmas spirit the colour of money? Does the Christmas spirit favour you and not service staff? Don’t get me wrong I’m all for going the extra mile (especially if you’re hot; generally if you’re polite) but the funny thing about this whole going the extra mile thing is that customers (at least in Singapore) expect it to be the norm!

The icing on the horrendous tasting cake is the music – the Christmas carols (usually 12 tracks spanning approximately an hour or so) running on endless loop the entire day! You’d think that with human progression, the internet, and a million Youtube amateur singers, we could at least play a different version of Carol of the Bells!

But as mentioned, you’ll also see the good side of people. Yes the good — and you got to take both together, not just elevate one and disregard the other;

  • a handful (yes you can literally count them with one hand) of customers sincerely saying thank you
  • that glimmer in a customer’s eyes when you help them find the perfect gift
  • small children jumping around gleefully when they realise you have EXACTLY the thing they’ve been pinning for
  • the tips…wait this is Singapore what tips?
  • You get to wear that funky hat and mess around…to a degree.

Despite this, on most days leading up to Christmas I always found myself wishing that my boss would just deny the customer service. It’s a rare clause used in the service industry in Singapore. Admittedly it is an act that conjures up nightmare PR scenarios, reputation and branding management and potentially a lot of swearing between all parties involved and even the calling of security. But what else is there to protect service staff from horrible customers during this season (and indeed beyond this festive season). Social media? Internet vigilantism by naming and shaming?
At the end of the day, remember that service staff are people too, who are trying to make a living get food on the table. Remember too that the festive spirit should cut both ways and try not to abuse them. If they genuinely cock-up, sure tell them off using the proper channels – but don’t exercise the path of “ye Customer is always right” cause really, it does nothing but make you seem like a complete w***er. It makes you an extra large w***er if you use that argument and you are actually in the wrong.

Christmas** is the season to give. Try not to give your fellow man a bad day.



*not referring to The Christmas Spirit or any religious entity, but the other Christmas spirit which gets thrown around a lot outside of churches. You know the Christmas spirit in which some magical feeling is suppose to possess service staff and ensure that they give you what you want.

**Christmas is also the season where I’m usually busy working till I drop or in the case of this year, studying till I drop. Or…trying to study. Regardless this will be my last article for awhile. Got to study. Last paper. Failed it once. Can’t afford to fail it again.
Graduate or die tryin’!

***Many thanks to Goh Wei Choon for helping me come up with the visuals for this piece.


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