In Which I Fail My Duty To Fight Civility Rot…


Ah, another day, another ethics challenge at the 7-11! If it isn’t CVS, it’s another local establishment. As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say,

For the third straight night, some jerk had parked his car in the church parking lot overlooking our cul-de-sac, sitting with his headlights on so they came right in our living room window and driving my wife to distraction. And also for the third straight night, I put my lovey but pit-bully dog Spuds on his leash to confront the driver, and asked him why the hell he was sitting in his car shining lights in my window. They always say the same thing: “I’m sorry, I had no idea!” Why don’t they have any idea? See those houses literally right in front of you? See where the light beams go?

What’s the matter with these people?

Immediately thereafter, I ran an errand for my already annoyed wife that required me to go to our local 7-11. The clerk, whom I don’t think I’ve ever seen before but he was wearing a %&4#@! mask so I can’t be certain, handled my transaction while having a conversation on his cell phone, never looking at me. This has never happened to me before. In fact, more than once I have admonished customers ahead of me in line in various stores for not having the common courtesy and respect to get off their cell phones or bluetooths and treat clerks like human beings rather than robots. I’ve done it at that 7-11, in fact.

The clerk’s behavior was a predictable consequence of the rude jerks I wasn’t around to admonish. It’s tit-for-tat: if those are the new standards of acceptable conduct customers are inflicting on him, then this clerk accepts them. Now hek is going to treat customers like they were potted plants, and think’s that OK. Maybe other clerks will take their cues from him, and do likewise. And another tiny bit of human consideration and manners bites the dust.

I was in a rush; it was a quick purchase, and I felt like I had done my quota of civility confrontations for the day, so I just took my stuff and left. Now I’m angry at myself. I should have told the guy that I didn’t appreciate his chatting on the phone when I was depending on his service. I should have told him that it was rude, and that I would never treat him that way if our positions were reversed. Maybe I should have told him that I knew his boss (which I do) and that I would make a point of mentioning this episode to him. Aah, probably a warning would be sufficient: I should have said that the next time he does that to me or anyone else, I’ll blow the whistle on him. That’s better.

But I did nothing. Maintaining standards of civility depends on societal enforcement in millions of interactions like this one. That requires vigilance by all of us. This was the “broken window syndrome” of convenience store manners.

I’m sorry, everyone.

11 thoughts on “In Which I Fail My Duty To Fight Civility Rot…

  1. Jack,

    You already do over & above what most people do in terms of ethics, civility, & education. You do it in your personal life, professional life, & on this blog. There is no need to apologize.

    Thank you for always doing everything you can to do the right thing, and for educating those who do not do the right thing or know what the right thing is…those are invaluable lessons. Your presence in the world makes it a better, brighter place every day.

    And since it’s your normal 7-11, if the same clerk does it again, you’ll have an opportunity to set him straight. 🙂

  2. I assume it was different people parked with headlights on each of the three nights? Who parks and leaves there headlights on for more than a few seconds (the auto-off headlights can take a minute or two, I guess)? Very strange.

    The lack of full attention or eye contact when attempting to interact with someone who is engaged with their smartphone is a daily frustration for me. I’ve had many “conversations” with my 22 year-old stepdaughter that consisted of me asking something, waiting an interminable length of time, getting a semi-coherent response, and then just throwing my hands up as she continues to stare into the glowing small rectangle (I call it her “little rectangular life”). That said, no employee who interacts with customers should interact with their smartphone at all.

  3. Jack, you are already pretty awesome — your Dad has to be proud of you.

    Your standards are already higher than mine, I’ll admit. If there are occasions when you don’t totally live up to them — you are still human, after all.

    You set us an example, both by word and deed, that makes us want to be better people, I think. It’s one reason I still come here every day after nine years (the commentariat is another).


  4. Jack,
    Based on my experience at a T-Mobile store the personnel seem to think they are doing us favor by being available for us to give them money. I want to point out that every phone we have ever purchased after the first ones we paid extra for upgrade support in order to get our data transferred without a hitch. The IPhones we just purchased were the first ones we ever had that required us to enter a password during set up. After trying to use the tech support line at T-Mobile I sought help at the store where we bought the phones to get my trade-in phone wiped clean of personal data and back to factory default. When we arrived another customer raced past us into the store and was immediately waited on. We were put on a wait list. After 20 minutes another clerk walked out of the back and asked us what he could do for us. I explained that we had talked to customer service and the person told us we could bring the phone into any T-Mobile store and they would clear the data and take the trade in. This clerk stated that that was incorrect but he could help us clear the phone if we had the password. I said we never put a password on the phone and the only people ever touching the phone were T-Mobile personnel and either of us so we did not know what he was talking about. He then said he could not help us because it was a Samsung password and he had no way to clear it out. I became frustrated with his response that it was “on us” to figure it out. I tried to explain there was a process to clear the phone but I was having trouble doing it. Each time I tried to finish a sentence he kept repeating “you are not listening to me”. He had no interest in hearing me so both of us got louder. I gave up when he stated that he was not going to let me stress him and his employees out and that I should leave. As I left, he followed me to the door and got within a foot of my face and said don’t come back. Upon reflection, this is a tactic used by ANTIFA – provoke your victim until he reacts, then use his reaction to justify your violence.

    No question about it I was agitated but my agitation was brought on by conflicting stories, a rush to avoid servicing the customer by creating an easily remedied excuse if he understood his product line, and not allowing me to finish a single statement.

    As my blood pressure rose to stratospheric heights I got back to my car to go home. I decided to call T-Mobile so I pulled into another parking lot and made the call. I also tried the clearing process again. (If you don’t have a password Samsung will send you a one-time access code to your email). This time it worked and I got the code. Given that the clerk never attempted to clear the phone initially he was either incompetent or a liar.

    Enroute to another T-Mobile Store in the mall across the street to return the phone we kept the T-Mobile CSR’s on the line. They are highly apologetic but of little effective use. She was telling us we could take the phone to any store (just as another rep stated the night before) and they would take the trade-in and she was going to call the other store in the Valley Mall to let them know I was coming and to assist me.

    When I arrived she still had not been able to contact them as the line was busy. When I told the clerk that we wanted to turn in the trade-in he stated he could not take them because we did not buy them there. I had him speak directly to the T-Mobile TSR and he argued with her. He said I had to take them back to the store where Ray the manager told me to never return and I said that was no longer an option. I explained what happened and he all he kept saying was I’m not Ray. I said I know you are not Ray but you are not hearing what I said about that. Somewhere in the exchange he said I was giving him a bad attitude, threw my RMA (return merchandise authorization) paper down and said we’re done here and walked away.

    Right now, I have spent nearly 3 hours waiting to buy and make operational 2 locked phones that I am stuck with, costing over $1,500 dollars, and having to pay this company that sought to humiliate me in front of other customers. I wrote to T-Mobile and described the situation in great detail and demanded my $60.00 in upgrade support fees refunded. If T-Mobile does not make good on that I will pay of the phones, unlock them and go elsewhere.

    Apparently, the customer service tactic at T-Mobile is to continually interrupt the customer making the same statement over and over until they piss off the customer to make him leave. The only way this will change is if we stop buying from places that care little about you. It may require us paying higher costs but that may be the price we need to pay.

    • Whew! I’m glad I don’t use “smart” phones. I’ve stayed with a flip phone and use Tracfone; I paid ~$30 for the phone and $99 for 1 year of service (1200 minutes, 1200 texts) which is way more than I need as I’ve only used about 12 texts and maybe 15 minutes in 6 months. My wife has an iPhone and I suggested Tracfone – The phone was about $400 and she uses her phone slightly more that I do, so, the 1 year plan was for unlimited talk and text with XXGB of data but she doesn’t use the phone for internet, email, etc so the data is plenty. Besides, you can use wifi for data. That’s way more than she needs too because she hardly uses her phone either but she likes to have an iPhone. Anyway, Tracfone was a good option for us but might not be for everyone. You can pay once for a year then renew each year based on needs – you can purchase minutes, texts, data anytime if you have a plan limit and run out – but, like I said, my wife’s plan is unlimited minutes and text with just a limit on data.

      I don’t remember the full details but the first 6 digits of the sim card you get from Tracfone tells you the carrier. They do use T-Mobile, Verizon and (I think) AT&T but not sure if you can choose as I just bought a plan. My carrier turned out to be Verizon.

      Tracfone might not be a viable option for you but just thought I’d mention it.

      • Edward I have recommended Trac phones to others but my needs cannot be met with Trac phones. I use a lot of data and my phone serves as my GPS with traffic alerts.

      • Steve
        My plan is to pay off the phones and switch carriers if T Mobile fails to respond to letter in a manner that satisfies me. I just want my upgrade support fees back and for the carrier to initiate better customer service training. I was probably won’t be able to assess the latter but If all I get is a contrived apology letter we are done with TMobile

    • That is just despicable. They need to be disciplined if not fired — and yet they’ll be convinced that you were the bad guy.

      I have dealt with AT&T for many years now — I cannot ever recall visiting the AT&T store that they were not polite and helpful. Not always as knowledgeable as I could wish, but still.

      I can also recall being just as exasperated as you, dealing with some other customer ‘service’ organizations. It can be maddening.

  5. “T-Mobile US, Inc. is an American wireless network operator” [currently second under Viacom] “partly owned by German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom (DT), which has a 43.2% share.” So says Wiki, but the complex article as a whole just implies what you already knew — they don’t give a damn.

    Up until this past year, if I was having a problem with T-Mobile, they would say my number was “not recognized.” When asked how they could then accept payment, after much hemhaw, the answer was “we’re still in transition,” meaning various takeovers and reversals of same (also listed in Wiki). In other words, no answer at all. I’ve stopped trying to talk to them.

    AT&T runs my laptop’s wireless service. They are indeed polite to a fault, especially if you love interacting with robots, since it takes four to six hold/please-wait-til-I-transfer-you’s to get to a human … unless you want to pay a bill. They have yet to admit to a local blackout and deny any association with them, even if their logo is clearly visible on their uniforms as they go up and down their hole in the street, dealing with a main cable. But very polite they are, yes.

    No longer deal with Amazon; Yahoo! to follow when I have copied out or sent cloudwards what is archived or otherwise stored there; Google yet to be considered. I am willing to trade off civility for efficiency. So far, no takers.

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