Thursday, 1 April 2010

I am not your 'love'. I am your customer.

There are some things I simply can’t let wash over me. Having strangers, especially customer service people, call me ‘love’ is one of those things. I mean, how dare they? Who do they think they’re speaking to? Their mum? Their grandma? Their girlfriend?

Well, I’m none of the above, and being addressed in this over-familiar way by complete strangers irks me to my very core. My very core, I tell you!

It happens so often, and each and every time it makes me flinch. “That’s two-pound-fifty, love,” says the man at the ticket office in my train station. “Where to, love?” asks the taxi driver.

Today I was reminded how much this offends me, when I answered a call from somebody attempting to get me to sign up for one of those makeover and photoshoot days at a studio and was greeted initially with a casual “Hello, love.”

If a complete stranger calls me, on my mobile, at a time that suits them not me, and they’re trying to sell me something, how dare they, for one single solitary second, think they are entitled to address me as ‘love’?

I didn’t say anything in objection the first time and allowed the guy to give me the spiel. (This wasn’t a cold call as such; back in December I got sucked in by a special offer for a haircut with this photography deal built in. I had the haircut straight away and promptly forgot about the shoot, so the studio was calling me to check if I still wanted it. Fair play, really, but still.)

I soon gathered, though, that they were asking for more money over the phone, as a deposit for the shoot. I’d gone off the idea completely, truth be told, and the whole deal only cost me the price of one of my usual haircuts so, you know, nothing lost on my side. I certainly didn’t want to get caught up making another payment to them for something I didn’t really want. “I’ve decided not to go ahead with this, actually,” I told my ‘gentleman’ caller.

“Oh, why’s that, sweet?”

Sweet’? Had he actually just called me ‘sweet’? A man I don’t know. A person engaged in a conversation geared towards taking my money. A man talking to a woman in a customer service scenario. Yes, yes, I’d heard him correctly.

“I don’t have to explain to you why I don’t want the service. I’m a customer and I’ve simply changed my mind,” said I, a bit trembly in the voice now on account of the irritation.

“You might as well do the shoot, love, as you’ve already paid for it.”

Well, that was it. Hit the roof, didn’t I?

“You should not call me ‘love’ or ‘sweet’. You don’t know me and it is completely inappropriate. Please count me out of the whole deal and strike me off your list of contacts. Thank you. Good BYE.”

I really resent the fact that there is no way to slam down a mobile phone to end a call. There’s only so much dramatic statement to be made from pressing a button really hard.

I’m not asking to be called ‘madam’ or ‘miss’. That’s probably going a bit far. But, in customer service interactions and sales calls – in fact, in any interaction with someone I don’t know – I definitely expect the person to be polite and vaguely aware that I’m actually not his best mate or his girlfriend, and that we’re not having a chat on the sofa.

It should feel a bit stiff and awkward, because it’s a business interaction and our custom is at stake. They should damn well address us with courtesy and formality. Presumably they think, if there is indeed any thinking behind it and it’s not just laziness and/or sexism, that being chatty and forcing us to engage with them in a personal way will win us over and make us feel comfortable.

Well, it does not. It makes me see red. I’m sure men get called ‘mate’ all the time, too, which must be equally aggravating.

Actually, I’ve just remembered I got called ‘mate’ several times by an electrician once. I was so baffled by the fact that this man apparently interacted with everyone, male and female, as his ‘mate’, I totally forgot to be offended by the rudeness. Until now. Read more by Maddie.