One of the websites I frequent is called Not Always Right: Funny & Stupid Customer Stories. I've linked to it on here once or twice. People who work in customer service submit stories of customers who make unreasonable demands or illogical requests, blatantly try to steal, make inappropriate comments, or are too busy being angry and yelling to understand they're being given a deal or discount.
I've noticed an interesting trend in some of the stories that have gone up on the site recently. The basic exchange is this: Customer realizes employee is gay and makes horribly insulting remarks. Straight coworker/manager pretends to also be gay and thus successfully scares bigoted customer away.
Here are a few examples:
- On the Straight and Narrow (Minded)
- From the Odd Couple to the Applauded Couple
- Sticking to One's Guns
I'm not sure how to feel about these stories.
On the one hand, I think it's evidence of progress that these straight folks are not only accepting of their gay coworkers, but are not afraid of being seen as gay themselves.
On the other hand, I'm not sure this is the best possible approach to dealing with someone who has a problem with gay people.
If this person has such a deep-seated fear of gay people that they would literally flee from a store upon learning that more than one gay person is working there, is this kind of approach dismantling or confirming that fear?
When the straight coworker puts their arm around or kisses the gay coworker, it seems to me to reinforce the misperception that gay people want to shove their relationships in your face. Rather than emphasizing that gay employees are just normal employees who want to do their job well and not be mistreated by customers, it makes it seem as if gay employees are all about showy public displays of affection.
Wouldn't it make you uncomfortable if any employee was serving you and their significant other came up and started touching them and calling them pet names?
Perhaps it's impossible that the customer in question could have their mind changed by this single encounter, but I can pretty much guarantee that scaring them off by making them think the store is overrun by gay employees is not the way to do it.
In several of the stories, the customer appeals to a manager or other employee with the apparent assumption that this (supposedly straight) person will agree that a gay individual should not be working there. By pretending to be gay, this person misses an opportunity to show the customer that there are actually straight individuals who have no problem working alongside a gay coworker. Instead, it "explains" to the customer why this other employee has no problem with it -- because he/she is gay, also.
This other story, by contrast, shows what it looks like when a manager actually speaks up calmly and lets a customer know their discriminatory remarks are wrong, rather than "camping it up" to scare the customer away.
Also, it's telling, I think, that those who submitted stories felt the need to clarify "I'm not actually gay" or "the other employee in this story is straight." If the point of the story is really "Isn't it funny how we scared away this prejudiced customer?" then it shouldn't matter that much whether both employees were actually gay or not. But the clarification smacks a bit of "Look at this great sacrifice I made for my coworker!" It also indicates that this person is willing to pretend to be gay to come to their coworker's "rescue," but they don't actually want to be mistaken for being gay.
And because it's not something that you, straight person, have to deal with on a regular basis, you can laugh about the incident and post it online. You don't have to worry about this or some other angry, deranged, gay-hating person getting you fired, or possibly even causing you physical harm, some time in the future.
The truth is, I think it takes a lot more guts to stand up to someone spewing insults at another person and say, "What you are saying is wrong and hurtful" than it does to say, "Oh, is my boyfriend helping you?"
It takes a lot more commitment to get in there and argue in defense of another person than to simply scare away the bothersome person. It takes more nerve to tell someone they've crossed the line and need to leave than it does to hope you can freak them out and get them to leave on their own.
That's what I think about these stories. What do you think?