Yeah, so, I graduated from college with a degree in journalism, but the skill I probably use more than anything I learned in college is the one I acquired from working at the movie theater during college: Customer service.
I paid a hefty price for that college education, while the movie theater paid me (minimum wage) to learn about customer service. What a deal.
I’m sure you are surprised to learn that I’m actually kinda good at customer service. Completely normal assumption. I am an assy, sarcastic person. When customers complain, my first instinct is to roll my eyes and say something jerky, but over the years I’ve gotten really good at suppressing that first instinct and going with the second one, which is “how can I make this better?”
I use it a lot in my day-to-day life. As a content and social media marketing manager, I still have to deal with customer complaints in form of nasty comments on our Facebook wall or a bitchy reply on Twitter. Sometimes the complaints are meaner than anything I heard at the movie theater. Writing a complaint email or a mean comment on a Facebook wall gives a customer a little bit of anonymity, a little distance. They write things they would never have the balls to say to my face. The upside is it gives us on the social media team time to craft a thoughtful, helpful response. Also, the customer can’t see me rolling my eyes or hear me saying something I might regret.
I use the customer service skills I honed at the movie theater in my interactions with my bosses as well. I basically treat them like customers. They get a “yes, sir!” or “yes, ma’am” attitude … usually. Well, my bosses now do. A few of my bosses back in the day got an eye roll and a “whatever.”
Now, let me tell you a story of when I was bad at customer service while working at the movie theater.
This is back in the ’90s; back when you had to buy movie tickets at the box office like a goddamn animal. Yes, there was a time when you could not buy movie tickets online. We didn’t even take ATM cards or credit cards back then. Ask your parents.
Some young boys, maybe 10 or 11, bought tickets for something age appropriate. I think it was “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” because kids are stupid. Anyway, these kids bought tickets for “Ace Ventura” and then – for some reason – jumped into “Nixon” … on purpose. I guess the lure of the R rating was too strong. Maybe they thought they would see Joan Allen’s boobs? I’m not sure why.
After the movie, their mom came to pick them up, and they quickly confessed to her that they watched “Nixon.” She marched back into the theater and asked to see the manager, which was me.
She was furious that her kids somehow managed to theater hop and see a rated R movie. I wanted to say, “Dude. They watched ‘Nixon.’ Are you upset that they might learn something?” Instead, I told her that we work very hard to make sure that children don’t sneak into R rated movies and that people see the movie they pay for, etc.
She was still angry. She wanted me to refund the tickets. Now, what I probably should have done was refund her tickets or offer her free passes so she would leave happy. Instead, I said something like, “It’s not our fault if your children hopped into another movie, and they watched the entire film, so I don’t think a refund is appropriate.” Seriously, what the fuck did I care if she got her money back? Was I worried about the box office earnings of “Nixon?”
She started yelling at me, and she started to get in my face. Once again, I should have just given her what she wanted. Instead, something about her demands really pissed me off, so while she was yelling at me I interrupted her and said something like, “This movie theater is not your personal babysitter.”
She did not like that answer.
She practically lunged at me, and another manager showed up just in time to stop her from physically assaulting me. I think he gave her free passes, so she got what she wanted, which really annoyed me.
When I think of that story, I try to remember what happened before it. What was going on with me that day? Was she like the 12th customer to yell at me that day and I had just had enough shit? Most likely I was just hung over. The movie theater was in Chico, after all.