Always be kind to workers, no matter the setting

The customer isn’t always right.

A phrase I often hear repeated is “The customer is always right.” Many people treat this phrase like gospel truth when they are paying for goods or services. After all, we should expect high levels of quality and service when we choose to spend our hard-earned dollars. Ever since department stores in the early 1900s started using this phrase to increase business, we seem to have accepted it as a normal part of life.

But the customer is not always right. Customers can be misinformed. They can be confused about products they buy or the services they purchase. Sometimes they can be downright dishonest and mean.

Recently we’ve seen a wave of news stories about customers behaving badly. Grocery store customers are yelling at cashiers. Diners at restaurants are shouting at their servers. Airline passengers often make life miserable for their flight attendants. Most of the time these complaints have to do with masks. It doesn’t seem to matter to these customers that the people they are verbally abusing aren’t in a position to change masking policies. They want to scream at someone, so they scream away. I would have hoped that these incidents were less common here in our own community, but my conversations with restaurant workers here in town tell me otherwise.

The Apostle Paul might serve as a good example for us as we think about our behavior toward workers. Think about this brief story from Acts 16:25-28: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’”

If Paul can show kindness and compassion to someone whose job it was to keep him imprisoned, then I certainly hope we can all find some kindness and compassion for the people whose jobs it is to bag our groceries, serve our meals, and attend our flights. Treating people with respect is not just a Sunday morning activity. It is part of our call as people of faith in every moment. And sometimes it is a kind word from a stranger that tips the scales toward someone choosing to follow Jesus.

So no, the customer is not always right. Only one person was always right in his life, and I don’t remember him ever being described as a customer. I do remember him being described as our Savior!