What’s the cost of kindness?

I’ve witnessed something recently which demonstrated just how intolerant we’ve become as consumers over the past couple of years.

I was in Sydney at the beginning of this month on a consulting trip on the weekend of the floods – as a result of this, both my clients were flooded in and had to cancel my consulting visits to their offices.

Bit of a shame for me but stuff happens – mother nature has her own agenda and while we can’t govern her, we can take responsibility for our responses to what she throws at us at times like this. Fortunately my clients are now back in their offices and while the clean up will take some time, no one is hurt and their businesses haven’t suffered any damage. 

On my way back out, I decided to get to Sydney airport early and catch up on some emails etc from there while waiting for my flight; unfortunately an hour and half before we were due to take off, I got an email from Virgin Airlines saying that the flight was canceled and I was booked on another flight two days later which would take some 12 hours to get me home due to a layover in Canberra for most of the day; clearly I’d have preferred not to have the cancelation and an enforced stop so I went to talk to the customer service desk at the end of the terminal. By the time I got into the queue there were already 20 or 30 other people who were wanting to make different arrangements too, the Customer Service team were, in short, flat out trying to calm people and assure them as best they could, but the behaviour I witnessed from one of the passengers who was quite put out by the cancelation was atrocious. 

While I couldn’t hear her words, her raised voice and mannerisms was enough to show how upset she was, and I could see the reaction from the Customer Service rep as she backed away a little from her desk; so much so that after about 5 minutes of being berated by this passenger, the Customer Service team member had to get up and leave the desk and walk down through  terminal in tears… 

No one – no one – has the right to speak to another human being like that and cause them such distress that they have to stop trying to help them and go off to give themselves some time away from the other person, it’s abhorrent.

Once I got tot the front of the queue, I was dealt with by a lovely woman by the name of Cassie. My first question to her was “how are you – how are you really  doing?” and she teared up too, apparently no one had thought to check with her on how she was handling the pressure. This and some further conversation from me was enough to get booked on an earlier flight and some very genuine thanks from her for “caring enough to ask how I actually am” (her words).

The world we knew 3 years ago has shifted and there are disruptions to what we once thought of as “normal”, businesses are experiencing staff and material shortages and things won’t always go our way, and it really doesn’t matter what our circumstances are, or how badly we’ve been inconvenienced, if we’re dealing with people we have to remember that they are human beings first and in the majority of cases they’re trying to help us.

Everyone, not just the consumer, deserves to be treated with dignity, respect and tolerance – in most circumstances (especially ones like I witnessed) they haven’t caused the situation that we find ourselves in but they are tasked with resolving it as best they can; so let’s stop the entitled behaviour, let’s quit demanding to have our needs met and get away from the “me first” attitude and maybe, just maybe, businesses will be able to take down the signs that remind us to be kind to their staff. So how about when we get disgruntled about something from now on, we stop and remember this – the old maxim of the “customer always being right” (it’s also not even true) isn’t a green light to lose our humanity and treat someone in any way other than kindly. 

I headed this article by posing a question – the answer to which is…


But the price of the alternative is a lessening of society.

So Cassie, if you ever get to read this – thank you for your assistance from a grateful passenger. 

I hope your colleague recovered quickly and hasn’t let this incident change her view of the people she talks to in her role, some of us really do appreciate what you do.