We live in an age of instant gratification. Want to check a fact? Type a question into Google and know the answer in seconds. Want to know what your friends (or distant acquaintances) did over the weekend? Check social media. Want to feel validated about how you look today? Take a selfie and let the likes pour in. When so much is instantaneous, it is natural to have high expectations and feel entitled. We expect things to go our way, that other people will make our lives easier, and for quick response rates to our requests. It is easy to expect a lot of “yeses" – but sometimes we need to take no for an answer.
This has been made most apparent to me through the experiences my friends and I have had working with the public. For instance, my younger brother recently worked after-school at a large grocery store. It is astounding the number of times he has come home with a story about an outraged customer who lashed out at him because the store ran out of a certain product: “How could you run out of chicken wings? You’re a freaking grocery store!” or “This is ridiculous, do something about it!” As if a shelf stocker of the grocery store has any control over inventory and how quickly products are purchased. As if it is OK to yell at a high school employee who is just trying to do his job.
Or consider what waiters and waitresses go through with rude customers. One of my friends waited tables last summer, and the stories about customers she dealt with were ludicrous. People accused her of causing problems she had nothing to do with, or had little control over, and their complaints were often rude. She got criticisms about spotty silverware, lukewarm food and long waits -- all things a waiter or waitress may help you with that do not require impoliteness. But do not think all complaints are valid; a customer once accused my friend of eating part of her meal when she put it in a to-go box. The person waiting on your table also cannot control everything that goes on in a restaurant or its kitchen, yet they bear the brunt of customer interactions. When wait staff comes to your table with a smile and tells you they have no control over something, recognize that they are just people trying to do their jobs. They cannot make everything go your way.
Rude customers who cannot take no for an answer extend to other public interaction jobs as well, like retail shopping. There are always those people who come into a store mere minutes before closing time and leisurely browse as if they have all the time in the world. Employees cannot ask them to leave because technically the store is still open, but all they want is to be able to close on time and go home at the end of a long day. Then there are those who look inside a store past closing time, see that people are still shopping, and demand to be let in even though the store has already closed. Why do people feel so entitled that they think a store can stay open extra time just to please them? Store hours are not suggestions, and employees want to end their shifts more than shoppers need to browse.
I also saw this same problem when I worked at a library. A loudspeaker announcement 15 minutes before closing reminded patrons to budget their time if they wanted to check out any materials. I cannot count the number of times people came strolling up to the checkout desk two minutes to closing, wanting to check out a slew of books and every DVD in a television series -- oh, and they just happened to forget their library card, too, so could you look up their card number? I know librarians who have refused to check out materials after the library is closed. This leaves patrons irritated; even though they had no trouble ignoring the library’s hours, they take offense when employees simply enforce policy, and no one wins.
But that is the moral of the story; sometimes, you cannot win. Things cannot always go your way and you cannot always put yourself first before other people. There is a difference between a determined will to succeed and wrongly placed entitlement. Learning when to take no for an answer is a skill, one that others around you will be grateful for.