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The Energy Experiment

May 29, 2012 Leave a comment

My dad called me last night to ask if I like hot sauce and energy drinks.  Okay, well, the hot sauce is irrelevant.  For the record, though, I don’t like hot sauce.  Not because I’m a wimp (I am), but because it’s too vinegary for me.  Anyway, I’m drifting off topic.  The real meat of the conversation had to do with 5 hour energy.  Turns out, my sister swears by it, as well she should.  She’s a mom, a wife, a small business owner times two and a superwoman in general.  It’s kind of a relief to hear that she has a secret energy source.  I personally am not a fan of energy drinks of any kind.  I can’t drink something that tastes like sweetened condensed Mountain Dew, which is exactly what my husband’s preferred brand resembles.  As I discovered last night, my dad is not only not a fan, but he’s an out-and-out skeptic.  And so he enlisted his children to join him as guinea pigs in an energy drink experiment.  This is just how we roll.  If we didn’t have contests, challenges and experiments in our lives, I just don’t know what we’d do with ourselves.

5hourenergy.com

At precisely nine am, I got an email from Dad, saying, “It’s time to drink your drink.”  In three different businesses in two different cities, my sister, my dad and myself all simultaneously chugged a 5 hour energy.  And I do mean chugged; I’d sooner sip on drain cleaner or savor a cup of spit as taste that sucker.  I have to admit that I was slightly concerned, since I had just recently finished my morning coffee.  I figured I’d be twitching and shaking in no time.

I waited and I waited, until suddenly I realized that my 5 hour energy ran out two hours ago.  What?  Where’s my energy, dammit?

When I heard that my dad’s results pretty much mirrored mine, I drew my conclusion.  It’s just caffeine, y’all.  My dad and I are heavy coffee drinkers.  I could have coffee for a midnight snack as little effect as caffeine has on me, and I’m pretty sure my dad bleeds coffee grounds.  The energy shot contains roughly as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, which is enough to perk you up for a while, unless you already drink gallons of coffee every day.  Then it’s just like spitting in the ocean.

So, I’m still not sold on energy drinks.  Coffee works as well, and it tastes a whole heck of a lot better.  I admit, though, that there is one brand that intrigues me, and so my experimentation may not yet be over.  Fuel in a Bottle, here I come.  I could use a little more “wooo” in my “wooo.”

1045theteam.com

Winning for a Minute, then I Suck Again.

May 28, 2012 6 comments

For the past couple of days, I’ve been feeling pretty darn good about my mothering skills.  One of the most basic and most difficult things that parents have to do is feed our children.  By feeding them, I mean making them eat what we want them to eat.  It’s been a good weekend for feeding around here.  Our weekend menu:

Saturday:

I’ve no idea what anyone ate for breakfast or lunch, since I was at work, so we’ll just assume that they ate something at some time roughly close to meal times.  No one was starving when I got home, so we’ll call it good.  For dinner we had grilled burgers and hot dogs.  A no brainer.  Naturally everyone was happy and ate away.

Sunday:

Somehow I missed breakfast.  Maybe they ate breakfast?  I dunno.  Everyone slept late, then sat around in their pj’s for a while.  Again, no one was in my face whining about pending starvation or wasting away on the floor in front of me, so I have to assume there was some cereal involved.  I do know that my oldest broke into MY brand new box of cashew bars and boldly ate TWO of them right in front of me.  Brat.  Lunch was leftovers and since we cooked far, far too much food the night before, everyone was still good.   Dinner was when things started getting really good.  We served tandoori style chicken, couscous and tossed salad.  Oh, and naan bread.  Can’t have tandoori without naan.  They ate like refugees.  Literally.  I had to tell them not to eat like refugees.  The important thing is that they were eating, and they were eating a somewhat exotic and healthy meal.  Winning!!!  There were no leftovers and I left the table with that happy, contented feeling of competence that couldn’t be dimmed even by sweeping couscous off the floor.

Monday:

Strawberry banana crepes for breakfast!  They’ve been asking for crepes for a while, but, blah, they’re kind of a pain, so we’ve been putting them off.  We had honey vanilla Neuchâtel filling with strawberries and bananas, finished with a honey drizzle.  Oh Lord, now I’m feeling downright fancy!!  My children are so sophisticated and we’re such great parents!  We must be doing things right!  Because, we all know, when your child is eating the way you want them to, that is the greatest of all parental accomplishments.  Don’t ask me to explain it, it just is.

Then comes lunchtime.

I have in my refrigerator right this moment, fried chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, ham, chicken salad and tossed salad.  In the cabinet is peanut butter.  Guess what.  There’s nothing to eat for lunch.  These are the moments when I wonder why we bother.  Kids are fickle little beasts, especially when it comes to food.  It doesn’t do to get too excited when your children start eating the food you make, because they can sense it and pounce upon your weakness.  As soon as it starts going well, they’re going to start hating everything again. 

I was proud for a minute and now I’m paying for it.  Hubs invoked his mother’s wisdom, “If you can’t find anything to eat, then you must not be hungry.”  Makes sense to me, but not to the whining little beast who’s about to fall down from malnutrition because there’s nothing to eat.  I’ve learned my lesson.  When the moments of great eating happen, enjoy them and savor them, but do not allow your self-satisfaction to show.  Those contrary little guys in your house will make you suffer for it.

5 Fun Kid Products (brought to you by manufacturers who hate parents)

May 28, 2012 16 comments

I spent a good bit of time watching cartoons yesterday.  Well, I wasn’t actually watching them, but the TV landed on the Cartoon Network, or Boomerang or something and no one cared enough to change the channel for the longest time.  During this time, nothing held my attention so much as the commercials.  There is some bizarre stuff out there for kids.  Neat, interesting and pretty darn cool if you’re four years old, but just plain ridiculous if you’re a parent.

Image courtesy thinkgeek.com. As one child pointed out, “Ew, what if it gets in your butt?!” Indeed.

Topping the list of horrors is Squishy Baff.  First and foremost, I am opposed to the inability to properly use the word “bath.”    If you haven’t seen this, it’s some kind of chemical that you pour in the bath water that congeals and turns into a tub of goo.  My descriptive powers fail me.  When I saw the commercial, I shrieked loudly enough to bring the entire family into the room.  Why would you bathe your child in this?  It looks like alien slime.  What marketing genius invented a product that not only requires a second bath for your child, but also surely requires you to clean your bathtub?  I’m sure it appeals to kids, because they’re known for loving weird, gross stuff, but I cannot for one second fathom a parent getting on board with this. 

Oh, Sweet Jesus. Image via neatoshop.com, but I strongly disagree. “Neato” does not come close to describing this.

Next up is Doggy Doo.  It’s a game where you feed the dog, then he poops and you get to scoop it up!  Are you effing kidding me.  Honest to God, I thought this was a joke.  Are we so out of fun ideas for kids that we’re just going to make them play with dog doo now?  It’s disgusting and it offends my not-so-delicate sensibilities.  If kids really want to clean up dog poop, I feel like most of us could provide them with some real life experience.  Of course, most of us don’t want our children playing with poop, even if it is fake poop.  I don’t know about you, but when my children were young, I was pretty adamant about the fact that poop is not a toy.

Via happynappersinfo.com. Sabotaging nap time one kid at a time.

Happy Nappers are similar to Pillow Pets, but I’ve chosen to focus on Happy Nappers here for two reasons.  One, they make noise and two, the song on the commercial gets in my head on some kind of evil repeat function.  Okay, so this isn’t such a bad idea on the surface, but I suspect that the inventor doesn’t have any children, or has TV-style children who happily go lie down for a nap with no protest.  Rule number one of parenting is make them sleep.  It’s hard enough to make a kid take a nap without giving him a toy!  In theory, these stuffed animals go into their house and serve as a pillow during nap time.  Then you can ring their “sleepy sounds doorbell” and take them out to play!  It sounds nice, but I remember nap time very clearly and I know darn well that no toy is going into its house for nap time.  There were times that I literally had to clear all toys out of my child’s room to get him to lie still and quiet, I sure as hell don’t need a nap time toy that comes with a freaking doorbell.

Via asseenontv-superstore.com. Go ahead and buy it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Moon Sand is marketed as a play sand that molds like play dough and doesn’t make a mess.  I can speak from experience on this one.  Anything that is called sand, is probably going to behave like sand.  Yes, it does have some molding qualities.  It also makes a God-awful mess.  My kids played with it one time, then it mysteriously vanished from my house.  Unless you have a sand table or sand box, do not fall into this trap.  (The sand trap, hardy har.)

Look at them. They all look like they’re up to something. Photo courtesy of shopasseenontv.com

CuddleUppets are blankets that are also puppets.  It’s a clever idea, but if I’m being honest, they scare the shit out of me.  The last thing I need is to wake up in the middle of the night and find my blanket looking at me.  As a parent of children who had better than their fair share of nightmares, this just seems mean.

Call me old-fashioned, but what’s wrong with blocks, Legos and plain old baby dolls?  Those toys are only boring until your child uses their imagination, which takes roughly two seconds.  Our kids don’t need weird, gross stuff that makes life difficult and/or creepy for the parents.  Let’s bring back the plain wooden block and Legos that don’t come in a prefab kit!  Baths with plain water and nap time with an ordinary pillow and a blanket without eyes!  In short, let’s stop the insanity, mommies and daddies out there.  Let’s boycott this weird stuff and get it off our TVs.  If you want your kids to play with poop, that’s your business, but I kind of feel like it should be done in the privacy of your home.  (But please don’t let your kids play with poop.)

Bully, Bully

May 27, 2012 3 comments

Bullying is a hot topic right now.  Every school my kids have ever gone to has claimed to be a “bully-free zone.”  It’s serious.  Kids are committing suicide because of bullies.  Kids are miserable and sad for no reason.  It’s one of many fears that a mother has.  My son had one incident this year with some other boys, and his teacher emailed me to tell me about it, then took care of it.  I’m pleased to say that there were no further incidents.  On the other hand…

My daughter told me the other day about some girl at school who has been trying to make her life miserable for the last four years.  I’ve known about this for a long time and it’s always been relatively minor manipulation and mean-girl-ness, so the best advice has been to avoid her.  However, this year, they have a class together and this rotten little brat has been grabbing my child’s bag, going through her possessions, then STEALING them.  She always gives them back, eventually, but theft is theft.  As you might imagine, this news raised my blood pressure to stroke level.  My first instinct was to drive to this girl’s house and tell her mother what’s what.  With my fists and feet, if necessary.

However, I’m a grown up and I strive to be a reasonable person, so I emailed the teacher and the principals to give them an opportunity to deal with it.  I was not terribly pleased with the way it was handled.  First order of business was to move my child far away from this girl in the class, and that was no problem.  However, the principal then decided to pull my daughter out of class and ask her about the situation.  He then called me and told me that my kiddo didn’t want him to do anything about it, so he guessed everything was okay.

What.

Now, you have to understand that my kid would rather set herself on fire than bring any attention to herself (which, ironically, would draw a lot of attention, but I digress).  She likes to fly under the radar, like many twelve-year-old girls.  She was horrified to have to talk to the principal and downplayed everything, hoping it would go away.  This is a tactic that you might expect someone who works with middle-schoolers to recognize, but no dice.  I had to explicitly tell the principal that I didn’t care what my kid said, and quite frankly, I don’t much care what she wants, because this is completely unacceptable and I expect it to be handled, swiftly and thoroughly.  I mean, really, who wants to be the one to rat out a bully?  Retaliation, anyone?  As the adult, it’s my job to rat her out, anyway.  Bullies must be outed.  And if it escalates, well, then, we’ll deal with that, too.  My preteen daughter might not have a full dose of courage, self-confidence and outrage just yet, but I sure do and I’m not going to allow anyone to take advantage of her kindness and timidity for one second.  I’m disappointed that the school was willing to let it go just because a kid asked them to.  Even if you can overlook the nasty comments, the rumors and the invasion of privacy, and no one should overlook that for a nano-second, there’s still the issue of theft.  This girl is a thief.  If she’ll steal pens out of someone’s purse today, what’s to stop her from stealing a cell phone or car keys tomorrow?

We ended up in a pretty satisfactory place, in which the principal will talk to the girl in question, and put the data in the school computer to ensure that they won’t ever have classes together again.  I know darn well that she’s always going to be a problem, but for my girl, avoidance is the best approach.  I wish she had the courage to speak up and defend herself, loud and proud, but she’s not there yet, and all I can do is wait and coach her at home.  I hope she learns a valuable lesson from her cousin, who won’t hesitate to throw things at people who call her names.  (Way to go, darlin’, I am so proud of you.)  I know that probably sounds bad, because mothers aren’t really supposed to teach their children to throw things, but you can’t play fair with bullies and that’s something that my sister and I have understood from day one.  So, I’m sharing with you the things that I’ve learned through trial and error, and the things I’ve learned from my sis, who is badass mom #1, about dealing with bullies.  I hope if I keep preaching it, my babygirl will eventually find it in herself to scream and throw things, no matter who is watching.

  • Strike back with a vengeance.  Bullies don’t understand subtlety.  If they’re spreading lies, then speak the truth loud and proud.  If they ever, ever dare to put one finger on you, then put to use all the dollars I’ve spent on karate training and make sure that they understand that you will not be touched.  Not ever.  Not a push, not a shove and not a finger in the chest.  Make your stand, make it early and make it memorable.
  • Tattle.  Bullies do their best work in the shadows.  They’re counting on you to follow the kid code and not rat them out.  Do it.  I guarantee that you’re not the only kid they’re picking on.  Be the brave one and speak up and everyone will eventually respect you for it.  Not saying that it will happen right away, and this is where you have to find your courage to do what’s right.  No one, no one, should expect a child to resolve bullying by themselves.  That’s why you have parents, teachers, aunts and uncles, cousins, guidance counselors, religious leaders, all and any adults whom you can trust.
  • Let nothing slide.  Bullying often starts out as a minor thing.  Don’t allow even the small stuff, because, mark my words, it will get worse.  Someone calls you a name?  Throw a bottle of water at them.  You might get punished for a perceived overreaction, but you’ve made your point.  Sometimes you do have to sink to their level, because that’s all they understand.
  • The things that bullies say and do are a reflection on them, not on you.  Bullies have a problem, a big one, that is all about their own life, self-worth and self-image.  The things they do and say don’t have anything at all to do with you, and everything to do with them.  Don’t ever forget that.  Being bullied does not mean that you deserve to be bullied.  It just means you landed in the firing zone of someone who doesn’t know how to deal with their own problems.

While I’m on the subject of bullying, I would encourage all parents to always consider the possibility that you might accidentally be raising a bully.  Just like it’s important for us to talk to our children about how they are treated, we have to remember to talk to them about how they treat others.  I don’t like to blame a lot of stuff on parents, because we do have a hard job, and we’re bound to screw up sometimes, but this is really, really important.  If you believe that your kid might be mistreating others, you must, must, must face it and correct it.  I don’t think that there are bad kids, I believe that there are kids who are misled and don’t understand the consequences of their actions.  The incident with my son?  Probably just a case of ten-year-old boys trying to impress each other.  They were corrected and the behavior stopped.  The deal with my daughter’s thief?  Well, it’s very possible that this girl’s behavior has never been recognized and/or acknowledged, so it’s just getting worse.  Behavior that is ignored may as well be behavior that is encouraged.

One last word about it, then I’m going to try to find my lighter side again.  Parents, remember that no matter what your schools say on the subject, you can’t rely on them to always do the right thing by your kids.  They may not have all the information, they may not understand the situation, in some cases, they might want to sweep it under the rug, whatever.  I will say this, though.  I’ve not always been totally satisfied with the way schools handle things, but every time that I have called them and set forth my expectations and/or demands (usually demands, because that’s how I am), they have taken action.  Speak up.  As the parent, it is first and foremost your responsiblity to be your child’s advocate.  It’s not the school’s job.  It’s your job, it’s my job.  When our children are grown and we finally see what kinds of adults they become, no one’s going to talk about how well or how poorly the school raised them.  They’re not likely to thank the schools for giving them the life skills that they need.  I expect the school to teach my kids Algebra, because I cannot.  They expect me to raise my children, because they cannot.  If we work together, my children will grow to be happy, well-adjusted adults who know how to find the value of x and won’t take shit from anyone.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hot Potato, Hot Potato: Four Kids’ Shows that I Secretly Love

May 21, 2012 9 comments

Any parent knows about the torture of children’s programming.  My daughter went through the Teletubbies stage, during which I felt the need to rip my eyeballs straight out of my head and stick chopsticks into my eardrums.  My son is currently nurturing a life-long adoration for Pokemon which confuses me far more than any cartoon ought to.  Hubs accidentally turned on Little Einsteins yesterday and in the fifteen seconds it took to turn the channel, my brain went completely numb.  The good news is that it’s not all bad, or, if it is all bad, there’s at least some that I can remember fondly.  For the most part, my kids now watch a lot of the same shows that we do, and I find myself in the bizarre position of missing some of the preschool drivel that is permanently imprinted on my brain.  There are some shows that my kids have now outgrown that I still secretly want to add to my DVR’s auto-record function.

The Wiggles

via sharetv.org

I will be ridiculed, but I loved the Wiggles.  They sing fun and clever songs and more than one time, I found myself playing the CD when my kids weren’t even in the car.  I also harbored a secret crush on Anthony Wiggle, but that’s better left unexplored.  My son loved all things Wiggles for a good couple of years, to the point of developing an Aussie accent, then he suddenly outgrew them.  I was bereft.  No more Big Red Car?  No more Captain Feathersword?  Whatever shall I do?  The answer still eludes me, even though the child in question is now old enough to be horrified that he ever watched such a show.  When I’m alone in the house, you may hear the haunting refrain, “Hot Potato, Hot Potato…potato, potato, potato.”

Blues Clues

via epguides.com

I don’t mean to diss Joe, but we were fans during Steve’s reign.  How I miss Steve and Blue, and Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper and the whole crew.  This is another one that had songs that have stuck with me.   It’s hard to get the mail each day without singing the song, “Here’s the mail, it never fails, it makes me want to wag my tail…”  Well, you know the rest.  It’s a great show for kids and it’s got a charm that even moms can appreciate.  It’s one of the rare shows that teaches preschoolers valuable things without inducing maternal eye rolls and brain numbness.  How I miss you, Blue.  You’re the best dog, ever, AND a blue girl dog, to boot.  There’s one in the face for blue-is-for-boys.  Bawr-bar-bar!

Drake & Josh

via citv.wikia.com

This is really a terrible show.  I often considered banning it because of the very terrible light it shone on parental roles.  These boys need a firm hand, to be sure.  But they’re charming and it’s hard not to like them.  The are trouble makers, but not really bad trouble makers.  I’ll be honest, the show itself isn’t really anything special, it’s the theme song that sucks me in.  I’m beginning to see a theme, aren’t you?  Anyway, Drake plays a mean guitar and it was a pleasure to see Josh outgrow the chubby, goofy kid role.  But mostly I like the song.  It also gave the world Miranda Cosgrove, who moved on to iCarly and introduced the novel concept of spaghetti tacos.  Not bad for one silly sitcom.

SpongeBob Squarepants 

 I’m going to tell you a secret.  I love SpongeBob so much that I have him tattooed on me.  I still have SpongeBob DVDs that I refuse to part with.  That quirky little kitchen sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea has captured my heart like no other. (All the other sponges living in pineapples under the sea totally suck.)  He’s so innocent and full of joy – it’s just so endearing.  He’s incredibly loyal to everyone from his dumb friend, his mean neighbor and his greedy boss.  Couldn’t we all learn a lesson in appreciation from SpongeBob? Also, you guessed it, I like the songs.  F is for friends who do stuff together, U is for you and me, N is for anytime and anywhere at all down here in the deep blue sea! 

Maybe I’m nostalgic for my children’s preschool days, but I don’t think that’s it.  These shows are better in retrospect, methinks, and much easier to enjoy when you don’t have to chase an insane toddler with a leaky diaper.  I just like them.  I do mostly enjoy adult shows with developed characters and an intricate story line, but sometimes there’s something to be said for simplicity and fun, silly songs.  The bonus is that I get to embarrass my kids by singing these songs often and loudly.  And so the circle of life continues…

Parenting Advice that Works

May 20, 2012 6 comments

Oh, it’s in the news, it’s on the internet and it’s at the water cooler and in the parks.  Advice for parents.  Everywhere we go, someone is there to tell us what to do, how to do it, and why our way is wrong and our kids will grow up to be deviants, or more probably, serial killers.  How could I resist throwing in my two cents?  In my almost-thirteen years of being a mommy, I have gained two bits of knowledge that will never fail any parent and now I am going to share them with you, my faithful and wonderful readers.  You’re welcome.

  1. A frozen waffle is a perfect snack for a teething (older) baby.
  2. None of us really, truly know what we’re doing.

Number one is something that I didn’t discover until my second baby and it’s such a good trick that I seriously considered having more babies just so I could use it again.  Make sure your baby is old enough not to choke on it, then waffle away.  I would like to give you an age range here, but at the time I had a teething baby and a toddler.  It’s a miracle that I even remembered what a waffle was at that time in my life, let alone how old the kid was when I gave it to him.  Anyway, it’s glorious.  And I’m so super-proud of this advice because it’s one of those things that I thought of all on my own in a desperate fit of shutting up comforting a fussy kid.  I don’t have a whole lot of these.  In fact, this is kind of the only one, but I shout it from the rooftops.  Frozen waffles FTW!!

Number two is something that I always suspected, but have, in recent years, come to believe whole heartedly.  We’re all winging it.  Even, I believe, the so-called experts.  There are certainly people who qualify as experts in child rearing, but they are not experts on my kids or the dynamics in my family.  I think we’d all do better to take their advice as suggestions, not rules.  We could all use some ideas for dealing with the myriad issues that accost us as parents.  Suggestions are always welcome, because if you haven’t had at least one moment of complete despair and “I have no idea what to do now,” then I suspect you’ve been a parent for approximately two minutes.  When I was pregnant with my first, I read all the books and did all the research.  Imagine my surprise when I got a baby who didn’t behave like babies in the books.  I was pretty sure I got a broken one.  Oh, she was a difficult baby and I was at a complete loss for 99% of her first few months.  That was when I realized that books were not going to help me through this adventure of parenthood.  The only think I could really rely on was my gut, my instinct and my great desire to do nothing but my best for my baby.  Once I started just doing what worked and stopped worrying about doing everything the “right” way, things got a lot easier. 

I have not always done the right thing at the right time, but I have two very wonderful, smart and funny kids, so I can’t have done it all wrong.  The best advice I have for any parent is just do what you think is best.  Of course you should be educated and informed, but you should not ever feel pressured to do anything any certain way just because someone else said so.  This is your life, and your children’s lives and you’d better believe that if you don’t follow your own heart, it will end up eating away at you.  You have to get a thick skin and be prepared to receive advice, smile and nod (unless you enjoy a good fight debate), and then do whatever you darn well please, however you choose to do it.  Lord knows we have enough on our plates without trying to please the world.  If you’re not mom enough for Time magazine, then screw them.  I am sick of hearing all the mommy wars and they should be ashamed of themselves for fueling the fire.  The choices we make as parents are personal ones and should not ever be up for debate or judgement.

It’s high time that parents stop buying into this nonsense.  It does take a village, but I won’t be a part of a village that is pointing fingers and questioning my choices.  Why can’t we help each other and support each other, even if we don’t always agree?  We’re all in this together.  We all have the same goal, but that doesn’t mean we must all take the same path to get there.

Customer Service: You’re Doing it Wrong.

May 19, 2012 6 comments

Last night I bought groceries and my cashier did not speak one word to me until she told me my total.  I don’t need to chat while you’re ringing my groceries, but it would be nice to be greeted.  After all, I don’t have to shop here.  I could just as easily spend my money somewhere else.  Would it really kill you to be nice?  Make me feel a tiny bit welcome?

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that good customer service is a dying art.  It’s now the exception, when just a few short years ago, it was the rule.  My earliest jobs were all customer service related.  I rang up groceries, I took fast food orders and I waited tables.  More recently, I have spent the better part of ten years in corporate customer service management and development.  Believe me when I say that I never intended to make a career of serving customers, but I fell into it accidentally and discovered that I’m pretty darn good at it.  I’ve recently moved into another, much less thankless, division of my company and since I am now denying the world of all my top-notch customer service skills, the very least that I can do is pass on my great knowledge and tell everyone what to do.

Without further ado, as written by the Queen Grand Master of Customer Service, please see the following guidelines to quality customer service.

Be friendly.

We all have bad days.  We’re all grumpy sometimes.  We’re all tired sometimes.  We all have times that we’re angry, frustrated and/or sad.  You don’t have to be a little ray of sunshine.   You do have to act like you’re a little ray of sunshine.  You are representing your company to every customer.  Smile, be friendly, and pretend that you’re happy to interact with them.   A big part of your job is being friendly to customers, no matter how unfriendly they may be to you.  You must always be nice and smile.  That’s your job.

Apologize.  A lot.

Inevitably, something is going to go wrong and you’re going to have an irate customer on your hands.  It might not be your fault.  There might not be anything that you can do to fix it.  This is the time when you apologize.  Repeatedly and profusely.  It doesn’t matter if it was your fault or not.  Once again, you are the representative of your company.  Your company failed this customer in some way; therefore it’s now your job to try to make it right.  If you can’t make it right, then at the very least you need to act like you give a damn.  Apologize like you mean it, whether you do or not.  People will remember a sincere apology and effort to right a wrong for a lot longer than they will remember the wrong.

Shut up and listen.

When you do get those irate customers, they’re probably going to want to tell you things, a lot of things, about why they are irate.  They may tell you these things very loudly and they may tell you very rudely.  It’s a natural instinct to want to defend yourself and make this angry person shut it, as quickly as possible.  Resist the urge.  Hear them out.  People want to be heard and they’ll feel a lot better about everything once they get it all out.  I promise you, if you try to interrupt, they are going to make you regret it.  They don’t want to hear what you have to say, they want to TELL YOU THINGS.  Just ride it out.   Sticks and stones, you know.  Just last week, I had the thrilling opportunity to hear a harsh, loud and insulting rant about how much my company sucks and how very unprofessional I am, all because something entirely out of our control disrupted dude’s schedule.  There are no words for how angry I was.  I quite literally wasn’t seeing straight, and I certainly wasn’t in any condition to form a coherent response.  I wanted to force choke the asshole.  But what did I do?  I listened to him until he wore himself out and then responded, “I apologize.  I know it’s an incredible inconvenience.  I wish I could do something, but at this point all I can do is apologize.”  Why did I do that?  Why didn’t I let loose with a well-deserved tirade on his unreasonable ass?  Because he’s my customer.  That doesn’t make his behavior acceptable, but it makes it necessary for me to learn to deal with it in a professional way.  I triple dog dare this fool to run across me in my personal life, but that’s a whole other topic.

Know your role.

If you’re working in customer service, then your job description, quite simply, is to serve the customer.  Most of the time, this entails you performing your normal duties.  Some of the time, you’re going to have to go above and beyond.  Unless the customer wants their bartender to change the oil in their car or some equally absurd task, then it’s your job to do everything within your power to make your customer happy.  This will probably be annoying, inconvenient and, in general, make your life difficult.  Do it, anyway.  Without your customers, you don’t have a job.  If you go that extra mile to help them out, they will likely be your customer forever, allowing you to keep your job and pay your bills.  Win, win!  Disappoint them?  You’ve lost them forever and you have failed at your job.

You don’t have to care; you just have to act like you care.

I am not a people person.  I don’t enjoy the company of a lot of people.  I don’t enjoy the general public and, to be perfectly blunt, I don’t really care what their issues are.  It’s hard for me to dig deep and really, honestly and sincerely care a whole lot about a customer’s problems.  There’s a bright side, though.  It doesn’t matter if I care and it doesn’t matter if I like these people, because I do a bangin’ good job of pretending that I do.  You do not have to, and will not, like everyone.  You don’t have to care a lick about whatever their problem is.  All you have to do is put on your happy face and pretend that they’re your best friend for a minute.   Even the most miserable people on earth have nothing bad to say about someone who smiles and says hello.  And who knows?  You might even be the bright spot in someone’s day.  Who can resist that opportunity?

Working in customer service is not an easy job.  If on some days it feels like the primary job requirement is the ability to take a verbal beating with grace, well, that’s often the case.  However, that’s no excuse to do a poor job.  You don’t have to like your job any more than you like your customers, but you’re accomplishing nothing by spreading the discontent.  I don’t know about you, but I have to deal with enough unavoidable unpleasantness in my life.  I am certainly not going to seek it out at my market, restaurant or entertainment venue.  I want to spend my time and money at the places that make things pleasant for me, the customer.  No one should expect their service to be perfect, but everyone wants to feel as if the effort to make it perfect is there.  It’s not rocket science.  If you smile and say hello, they will come.