Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Snarling v. Smiling

The FSP family is on the road, and having the age-old discussion about whether it is more effective and satisfying to snarl at airline personnel or whether it is better to smile and be nice, even in the face of unbelievable incompetence.

We have this discussion in other contexts as well -- e.g., when dealing with obnoxious colleagues and students. The MSP in the family is a snarler; I am typically more nice. It's unclear which way the offspring will go, but she is considering her options.

Comment moderation and posting will be intermittent whilst we roam.

16 comments:

marykaykare said...

We travel a *lot* and my method is firm but polite til I have what I need and *then* I snarl. Snarling beforehand seems to get you selected for Secondary Screening rather more often than is accounted for by random chance.

MKK

Anonymous said...

Lucky for you! You and MSP can play good cop / bad cop. That's probably better than snarling or smiling.

Good luck getting where you're going. That's not so easy these days.

mapletree7 said...

Don't forget the third option: crying!

RJ said...

Smiling, definitely.

Snarls are contagious, and will, somewhere down the line make someone else miserable.

Smiles can be contagious too. In any case, it's just good grace.

Also, one advantage of being super polite and nice when others screw up is that you get to feel smug and superior.

TorontoPDF said...

Smile...Otherwise you could be selected for 'secondary screening' at security...

Anonymous said...

I've been a geek pretty much since I was born, and that means I've wasted hundreds of hours on the phone with only occasionally competent tech support folks. I've gotten it down to an art, I think.

I start by playing the dumb blonde (...I did *this* and *this* but *that* just isn't happening - can you help poor little me, big smart tech man?) and usually get good results. If it's a difficult or unusual problem, I often have to lead the tech to the solution that I already knew about (...I read on a forum that *** will fix the problem, would you mind ***ing for me?) If neither pitiful or helpful works - if the tech is an idiot or rude - I'll either escalate to a supervisor or call for another tech. With a supervisor, I am clear and direct and have only rarely had to be forceful (or snarly.) Being right helps a lot.

I apply this basic strategy pretty much anytime I have to deal with marginally trained folks. Being nice at the outset costs me nothing, and often works. Snarly is sometimes necessary, but is hardly ever the best place to start.

chall said...

I would say that I am smiling and nice at first with airline personal/travel people since you actually need their help and trust me, they have power to make lots of things go away. After a certain amount of smilies though, I turn into "I am sorry for sounding this but really, I don't understand why it is impossible and please if you could be kind to help".

And then it is the snarl/very cold sholder. But seriously, most of the times I get along just fine with "Please could you help me with this... " and as a kicker I can always throw in "Its Dr X" and that combined with my youthful looks usually does the trick.

from my personal experience behind the counter I wouldn't lift a finger to help the rude ones but the nice ladies or men who smiled and almost apologized for distrubing- sure enough! "I think we can upgrade you?!?" ,)

Anonymous said...

Competence in a job shouldn't depend on someone being ingratiating. This shouldn't be about getting someone to "help" you out of the goodness of their hearts. It should be about them doing their job well because it is their job, while you keep out of their way and be as cooperative as possible. I refuse to flatter someone to get them to do what they should do anyway. Next thing you know we'll all be expected to pay bribes just to get normal service. You don't want to go down that road. Women learn to be pleasant and ingratiating in order to get what they want because they are otherwise powerless. If you are any kind of feminist, you should have more dignity than to do things that way, in my opinion.

Rachel said...

I'd think that anyone who'd worked in a service industry would agree that anybody who is rude immediately gets downgraded mentally into the "total bastard" category.
Personally, I'd then deal with them much slower, and much less helpfully. Because - guess what?

You only have to do this *once*.
I have to do this *all fucking day*. Dealing with total bastards only makes this harder.

(I used to sell ham. If people were nice, I gave them free samples and 'accidentally' didn't weigh all of their food, so they paid less. Because people are so rarely nice to the people that serve them.)

Ms.PhD said...

I've seen both methods work. I think it's like anything else- you have to develop the skills.

I guess I try to be like MaryKayKare, although I grew up watching only snarling, so I have a lot of catching up to do in terms of learning.

And then when all else fails I'm like mapletree7. But who isn't?

Heck, I'll try anything if I'm stuck in an airport.

I don't think this is a feminist issue. Almost all the most successful men I know are charming bastards who know how to sweet-talk everyone into giving them what they want!

Although, come to think of it, the ones I know who gets the most bang for their snarl are the big, physically scary guys who can hunch their shoulders just the right way and look threatening (nobody needs to know that they're actually big teddy bears).

But we can't all be as big and scary-looking (and male) as they are, and admittedly that type of tactic doesn't work for women!

That is a feminist issue.

Anonymous said...

But why should anyone have to sweet talk or bully anyone into doing their job? Giving people extra food or not weighing their food is just stealing from your employer. I wouldn't brag about that. Working slowly or slighting people you take a dislike too is also slacking, abusing your position. Some people take pride in their work and wouldn't abuse their position to help or hurt others. Doing either perpetuates the problem. I am a professor, but I don't take it out on my students when I have a bad day, so why should a service worker do that to me (unless I bribe them by being really really pleasant)?

toby said...

People only snarl at others less powerful than them. So it's a bit like bullying.

Men with big shoulders are the same as women with pretty faces.

Having had many horrible jobs, I am always nice to people who 'serve' me. Sometimes it pays off, eg airline upgrades.

Pale Face, Dark Heart sounds like an entertaining read. I'd buy it :)

Anonymous said...

"But why should anyone have to sweet talk or bully anyone into doing their job?"

Because service workers are often given impossible jobs to do (FSP's description of serving 100 people lobster at the same instant) and blamed for things that aren't their fault (like the fact that lobster claws are sharp).

I'm not a snarler (incapable of it, almost), and I sometimes get shorted because of it (because, frankly, squeaky wheels do get oiled, even if the service person spits in your soup, at least you get your soup, or at least don't get charged fr it).

A Grad Student said...

Oh my goodness, smile. People who work for airlines don't (generally) try to screw you, there are just bad outcomes built into the system. On one of my last trips a woman in front of me was nearly yelling at the gate agent about how it would be his fault if she missed her connecting flight. Arguments about O'Hare runways being CLOSED, i.e. her connection wasn't leaving either, had zero effect. She did not get offered a meal voucher, needless to say.

Cherish said...

Snarling...definitely snarling. I try to be nice, but then I have an incident like the one where they stuck me and kiddo in one row and hubby in the other. When I agreed to switch after the flight had taken off, the attendant came back later with a, "Can't you handle being apart from him for just two hours?" and other rather condescending comments.

I'm never being nice again.

Kaleberg said...

Smile. A million years ago on another planet airline work was pleasant and prestigious. Nowadays you don't want to work for an airline. You really don't, unless it is as the CEO in which case all you have to do is write down a lot of zeros and cash the check.

The vast majority of problems I encounter at airlines are the faults of the airlines, not the poor bastard behind the ticket counter or at the boarding gate. Much of the time these people hate their jobs. They are in the middle of a sandwich comprised of their blood sucking mismanagement and the oppressed masses in steerage.

You don't have to suck up to them. All you have to do is acknowledge that they are people too. They did not delay your flight or screw up your ticket or lose your bags because they hate you. The most effective attitude is 'welcome to the club; we have a problem'.

Concentrate on what you want, aside from the emotional release of venting your anger and frustration. There is usually only so much they can do, but often they will surprise you. Over the years I've gotten bonus points, upgrades, vouchers, moved to better flights and even overnight accomodations by focusing on problem solving. I can vent later. That's what blogs are for.