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Businesses Take a Firmer Stance Against Rudeness Amid Customer Frustrations and Worker Abuse

  • Businesses have been coping with an increase in customer rudeness due to challenges created by labor and supply shortages
  • Stress caused by interaction with abusive customers is one factor that has caused employees to quit their jobs
  • Businesses are asking customers for patience, but also stepping up to show appreciation for employees and warn that rude customer behavior won’t be tolerated

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

For more than a year, business owners have been pleading with their customers for patience. After asking for their understanding and cooperation in complying with COVID-19 restrictions, they’re cautioning that labor and supply shortages are likely to impede service for the time being.

The circumstances are, unfortunately, leading to an increase in incidents of customer rudeness. Customers angry with longer wait times, limited offerings, or other issues have sometimes responded with verbal or even physical abuse against employees. In response, companies have been stepping up their efforts to curtail such harassment and warning that it won’t be tolerated.

Frustration and stress caused by rude customers is one factor causing employees to quit their jobs, especially in service industries such as restaurants or retail. These workers are often paid low wages and were charged with the often confrontational task of enforcing mask rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some businesses responded to such confrontations by temporarily closing their doors to customers. In Rhode Island, an ice cream shop closed one location for the season after customers became threatening after being told that they couldn’t eat on the patio. A Los Angeles taco stand closed both of its locations after several incidents of verbal and physical abuse from customers who refused to wear masks.

While the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and easing of business restrictions made mask enforcement redundant, the issue could reemerge after the Centers for Disease Control suggested that all people in areas with a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission should resume wearing masks indoors. Businesses are also reporting an influx of rude customers even after masks were no longer required. This is likely driven in part by the eagerness of customers to resume in-person dining and other social activities, with some becoming abusive when dissatisfied with the service.

Earlier this month, a Cape Cod restaurant went viral when it shut down for a “day of kindness” after verbal abuse from customers became so bad that some employees were reduced to tears. Employees came in for the day for tasks such as cleaning and training instead.

The restaurant owners said that while most customers have been understanding of the current circumstances, they have also seen an “astronomical influx daily” of rudeness, which they described as worse than anything they’ve seen in their 20 years in business. They also reminded people that their workers are often teenagers working their first job.

A Maine restaurant described a similar problem in a Facebook post soon after. The business asked visitors to be patient due to staff and supply shortages, while also warning that they”aren’t going to put up with ANYONE being ANYTHING LESS THAN CIVIL when speaking to our staff.”

Traditionally, business owners have been encouraged to stay calm when handling rude customers. Businesses are also advised to emphasize with the customer, work to find solutions, offer an apology for any problems that arise, and thank the customer for raising the issue.

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