December 9, 2014
It’s the season of goodwill, kindness and giving. Unless you work in retail or the service industry or happen get in the way in which case fuck you it’s the season of aggressive self-interest.
I worked in retail once, for about three hours, after which I was ‘let go’ and advised that I probably shouldn’t attempt to work in retail again as I didn’t have the requisite social skills. I’m not going to disagree with this advice, my ongoing relationship with not working in retail is working out just fine for both of us. I do however really feel for those who do have the requisite social skills and have to deal with selling things to the great British public over the holiday season. The workload and shitty hours suck but that’s just the stale biscuit base onto which the mouldering cheesecake is built. The closer the Christmas countdown comes to the big day the more some people start to transform into screeching, selfish, entitled pricks with no sense of scale. I’m not sure what the exact date is because my copy of the cunts calendar never turned up, but there’s a date after which it becomes socially acceptable to treat shop staff like the dregs of society you always assumed they were. It’s clearly the assistant’s fault that you didn’t plan your shopping early. It’s also their fault there’s a queue. It’s their fault you have no idea what to buy for your nephew and it’s their fault you are acting like a colossal arse. None of these things could possibly be your fault.
It’s not just shop staff who make your life miserable. Designers and techies try our best to make you cry as well.
It happens every year, yet I always seem to forget about it until the next time round when it leaps out on me like an angry stress weasel robed in the hate-farts of a thousand marketing managers. Everything’s cool. Everything is under control. We’re winding down for Christmas, making plans to see friends and family, then starting as a slow trickle, building up to a flood they attack, the bad-planning zombies. Like an episode of the Walking Dead, but duller and more confusing. They rise up from nowhere, the marketing managers in need of urgent sign-off. They have somehow forgotten that Christmas happens. I accept it’s only recently it’s become a bit of a thing, but they seem aware of Black Friday and I’m sure that only started happening here THIS YEAR. They need to get their campaigns for the new year signed off before they can disappear wherever it is these people disappear off to over Christmas, so a sudden flurry of frantic phone calls and garbled confusing emails expecting quotes and timelines to be delivered RIGHT NOW. No time to get a brief together, no time to discuss exactly what’s required just give them the numbers so they can get the client to scrawl an agreement and they can stagger off to the office Christmas party to inhale free booze and bitch about that time Derek from accounts accidentally flashed his winky at the MD of Seiko.
Fine, whatever here’s some rough numbers, go to your parties, have fun. Eh? No, you can’t agree that as a final cost with your client, you’ve not actually told us what you need because you “don’t have time”. When do you need it? When in January? The first of January? Really? You didn’t think I might like to take some time off over the festive period myself? Oh, veiled threats. That’s nice. What’s that? I’m in tech so probably don’t have friends or family to spend time with anyway? Nice. My time’s not really that important compared to yours? Oh, ok then.
A real life conversation this week. One of many similar. A request for a piece of tech came in during the second week of December, launch date already agreed with the end client – first week of January, cost already agreed with end client – far lower that actual value. Having politely suggested that maybe making these agreements before discussing the feasibility might not have been the most tip-top planning the response was “you’ve got five weeks, surely that’s enough”, further suggestion that we may already have other things to do, and oh, there’s also Christmas which we were planning to take off just sent things down the dark path. Let’s not stray too far down that path, it brings the screaming and the crying and the desire to move into a forest away from technology and anyone who has ever had anything to do with branding.
Here it comes, can you sense it? I can always sense it before it arrives. Best way to deal with it is just relax and accept it’s going to happen. It shouldn’t, but it does. The suggestion, the attempt to shift the burden, the idea that the responsibility should change hands and in turn we should change our plans. Could we not, just you know, work through. Not on Christmas day obviously but the other days we can’t possibly have anything of value to do, because, you know it’s down to us to fix it when someone else screws their planning so badly they would otherwise have to put their hand up and take some responsibility. Dear Sirs, I appear to have ceased to give any flavour of fuck about this opportunity. I am off to find someone with a sense of empathy to talk to.
I sympathise, I really do. I’ve been there, a pushy client wants a thing, you don’t really understand what the thing is and the best way to get a thing is to point at the nearest person and make it their problem now. But then I stopped being 12. I have a four year old son, all he wants for Christmas (aside from a massive pile of toys) is for me to take some time off to spend with him and his mum, if you seriously think your campaign is going to prevent that you should take a good long stare at your empty soul.
I know. I know. I really know this is getting out of hand. I know the obsession with manners and treating people acceptably is going to get me into trouble. I also know I’ve pissed off clients, some to the extent they are no longer clients. I care because I don’t want my family to have to live in a skip on the A4 and I’m slowly dragging us there, but you, YOU can help stop this and I really want you to, I don’t want my child growing up in a skip with rats for friends (no offence to rats or people who live in skips). Help me with my Christmas wish.
Please don’t take offence, but for Christmas what I’d really like is for people to stop being selfish, finger pointing entitled pricks. It takes a bit of practice but we can all get there, here’s some handy tips.
1. Look up ‘empathy’ and understand it. Here you go, I looked it up for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy you’ll need to do the understanding yourself. In short, remember that other people are actually people, real actual humans with real feelings and everything.
2. Find yourself berating a shop assistant, designer, developer, postal worker, or ANYONE ELSE over a situation caused by your own bad planning? Stop! See point 1.
3. Find yourself berating a clerical worker, hairstylist, fishmonger, or ANYONE ELSE over a situation that was out of both of your control? Stop! See point 1.
4. Trying to shift the blame onto someone else for a situation you caused? Stop! Take some damn responsibility, also, see point 1.
5. Attempting to co-erce a builder, web-designer, piano tutor, or ANYONE ELSE into giving up on their time to fix problems you have caused? Stop! See point 1.
In general try to obey the tenets of Wheaton’s Law. It’s best all round.
Think you may have been a bit of a dick to someone lately? Why not try and balance that out a bit, do something positive:
Be excellent to each other!
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