shadeshaman's picture

Is being treated decently a luxury only enjoyed by the rich? Had another shit-tastic run-in with Kaiser, no, make that TWO. In the same week. One for me, and one for L-Dawg. And I got to thinking that the majority of my run-ins with them are shitty. And then I took L-Dawg to see my acupuncturist. I paid out of pocket, as Kaiser doesn't cover acupuncture, unless you exhaust all the Western meds AND can find a Kaiser doc who not only thinks that acupuncture is benign, not only thinks it's safe, not only thinks it's a good idea, not only is willing to refer you to an acupuncturist, but is also willing to go to bat for you against the corporate Kaiser to make sure that your acupuncture treatment is covered. Like that's going to happen.
My acupuncturist is in the Glen Park area of San Francisco. Very nice, very chi-chi. It's like spa day for me. I take the BART and walk a block to the office. Nicely decorated. All soothing. Nice background music. Dr. Heidi is a super nice lady, too. I get my treatment, then I walk to the Glen Park branch library, get a couple of books, go to the fancy little grocery store, maybe do a little window shopping, or if the weather is nice, I walk around the 'hood and look at the fabulous Victorians, then I take the BART home. Everyone at every shop I go to is super nice. Helpful. Kind. Not like shopping at the Grocery Outlet or even Safeway, not like going to Kaiser.
And so I wonder: is this a money thing? Do you have to have cash, or the appearance of cash, to be treated decently? I'm not talking about being fawned over, I'm not talking about people being obsequious, I'm just talking about receptionists who don't roll their eyes at you (yes, that really happened at Kaiser). I'm talking about NOT being herded around like cattle, not being talked to like you're an idiot, not being stared at like you're going to steal something.
When I was on Welfare, I understood that being treated like shit was part of the deal. I hated it, but I knew the score and I needed the cash, and I put up with it. But I am not on welfare anymore. Am I still too low on the totem pole? Is there a breaking point, a green ceiling? Do I have to flash cash to be treated decently? And if so, ICK.


punkmama's picture
Submitted by punkmama on

i experience the same thing, but i look at it as environmental. at the crappy wal mart i do my everyday shopping in (proximity and budget make this the "best" place for me to shop for necessities), everybody is surly and unhappy and unhelpful, including the people shopping there. then, by my office, there is a nice whole foods where i go sometimes for a chair massage or an overpriced lunch from the prepared foods deli, and everyone is supercool and relaxed, friendly and all that. i mean, yes, the people shopping at and working at the wal mart are probably poorer than the people shopping and working at whole foods, but i think the main difference is environment. wal mart smells awful, like industrial cleaning products over filth, whole foods smells amazing, like good food and fresh produce. the lighting in wal mart is horrid and fluorescent and unforgiving, the lighting in whole foods is warm and indirect and relaxing. that contributes to the difference in experience, IMO, although there are certainly political arguments to be made about the issue. i think that if we paid more attention in general to the environments we lived and worked in that we would find less rudeness and unhappiness reflected in the people that spend their days in those environments.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Glamorous's picture
Submitted by Glamorous on

stem from the personal situations of those working in difficult, low paying jobs. Maybe they have simply lost patience with the world.

I've noticed this myself when I shop in Walmart. It's the most cost effective way for me to keep the cupboards filled, but I hate going there because the employees are generally in a bad mood and not helpful.

This was discussed in the very interesting book Nickel and Dimed: Undercover in Low-wage America by Barbara Ehrenreich

My daughter works in a grocery store that has fairly harsh conditions, and treats their employees deplorably. I cringe at the bitterness with which she describes the customers needs..."Some lady came in today and made me walk all the way to the stock room for salt when I had three cases of milk to unload...why the heck couldn't she go somewhere else for salt?" When I explain to her that being resentful of customers is NOT the answer, she grumbles "They don't pay me enough to like customers. I have too much to do to *like* customers."

She has learned to see the customers as an obstacle, as an impediment to getting her too-long to-do-list finished. It completely escapes her that without customers, there will be no job.

Low pay also brings higher stress. Hard to focus on the job when juggling shut off notices, child care arrangements, and lack of health care.

I am surely not defending the bad behavior, nor negating your desire to be treated like a valuable human being. I'm just thinking that working in a dead-end job in a dead-end place with little hope of escape might make people behave in ways that are hurtful.

As for the welfare office, my recent romp through unemployment was brutal. I can't even begin to imagine why the system is set up to make anyone who applies for any assistance feel like they've done something wrong, but that's a whole other post.

Peace and tea to you. :)


Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food. ~Austin O'Malley

guava's picture
Submitted by guava on

The marketing strategy goes like this: if you are competing for offering goods or services based on price, customers will flock to you if you are the cheapest. If you are competing based on service, and price is less of an option, then a better service experience will give you an edge over your competition. I think the majority of companies out there believe this, and use these ideas to determine whether they're going to focus on offering lower prices or better service.

It doesn't always work that way - I don't think companies can get away with charging high prices and providing shitty customer service the way they used to. I also think it's sad and naive for any type of business to believe that being nice to customers isn't worth their time or effort. As if people who have less to spend deserve to be treated badly. There are a handful of companies who get it right - Trader Joe's comes to mind, and I've had really good experiences with people at Target.

It's interesting that you mention Kaiser - I've received the absolute worst treatment from health insurance companies and banks. I think it's because these industries are so entrenched in bad business practices with little to no repercussions until now that they figure they can get away with treating people however they want.

Sorry about the rant.

guava's picture
Submitted by guava on

I've worked minimum wage-paying jobs where I liked my co-workers, my workplace smelled nice, and we got to play the music we liked...and it was fun and I had a good attitude when dealing with all but the most abusive customers. How employers treat their employees makes such a huge difference in the employees' attitudes.

earthgarden's picture

I think you have hit the nail on the head. When I first started substitute teaching in an inner city school system, one of the many things that shocked me was how some of the teachers talked to the students. It was in strong contrast with the caring way most of the teachers talked to students in the suburb school system where we live. I wondered, what is wrong here, why are they so mean? Then I started subbing, and it took just a few days for me working in the trenches to understand the pressure the teachers in the hood are under. Contrary to popular belief they are highly trained, highly professional, and deeply care about their students and what happens to them. but they are also overworked (a class size 35+ is not uncommon) and over stressed, in part by a student population that is overwhelmingly starved for attention but used to chaos and negative attention, and act out in ways other student populations don't.

It takes a strong will and constant awareness not to get sucked in by that. Lord knows I have been sharp with students when I meant to respond softly and kindly. still learning mindfulness, eh. but like your daughter in the store, I'd have no job without the students so they should be my first priority, not all the other stuff I am required to do. The pressure is not my priority, the students are. so thanks for your post, it triggered me to have some insightful thoughts :)

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