Fact #1: Oregon is one of the only two states in the nation that prohibits regular gasoline consumers from pumping their own gas (the other is New Jersey).
Fact #2: Gas attendants who manage the pumps in light of Fact #1 are the second most unique characters in the state (behind the homeless coffee snobs, of course).
Fact #3: I grew up in Minnesota and I’ve traveled across most of the nation by car, so I’m no stranger to self-service gas pumps.
The gauge read less than an eighth tank full. When I stopped by the gas station after work yesterday, I stood at the pump to enter my payment information. A middle-aged mustachioed gas attendant shouted from three pumps down, instructing me to step away from the pump. I shot an inquisitive glance and casually informed him that I was merely swiping my credit card so that he could pump gas for my car as soon as he was freed from the other customers’ attention.
When the attendant made it to my car, I was scolded for “screwing things up for me, buddy,” by entered the payment information. Mind you, I did not even remove my car’s gas cap or reach for the pump’s handle. I could be wrong, but I’m quite confident I did nothing even close to illegal. To be overly protective, the attendant built a rule-fence around the law-fence to ensure it wouldn’t be crossed. The guy was the Pharisee of gas attendants.
I’m Not Your “Buddy”
As he proceeded to enter my payment information and pump gas into my car, he insisted on referring to me as his “buddy” at the end of every sentence. I don’t appreciate the overuse of the term literally, but he literally called me “buddy” at the end of each phrase and question. It may be his energetic attitude, or his mindless default, or his nervous tick, or any number of reasons.
Could I cut the guy a break? Sure. Is it possible he had no time in such a busy shift servicing a ceaseless stream of vehicles? Absolutely. Am I reading too much into this situation? I have an analytical bent, so it’s likely. But this got me thinking about what good customer service should look like.
When Customer Service Goes Too Far
This interaction with the gas attendant told me five things:
- He did not trust me as his customer.
- He communicated superiority rather than assistance.
- His constant reference to me as his “buddy” overstepped polite customer service interaction. It was tacky. And creepy.
- Calling me a pet name like “buddy” after scolding me translates to diminutive, parent-child treatment.
- He was more concerned about me “screwing things up” in his system than he was about providing professional service.
My point is not to use this platform to merely point fingers and complain, but to call to question how customer service should look. Isn’t business about providing the best product and service to customers, while providing value and making money?
Can customer service go too far? For those of you who work in customer service or run a business, how do you see this?