I Thought So - A Book of Epigrams

Rudeness And Other Business Opportunities (work in progress)

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Rudeness And Other Business Opportunities (work in progress)
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(This is from my work in progress, "Kitchen Sink Confidential") 
 
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in adapting the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”      
                               George Bernard Shaw 

                               Rudeness And Other Business Opportunities

It is an unfortunate fact that in this country, and probably in some others, there are people who have more money than manners. These people have a tendency to be rude to servants and other inferiors, such as tradesmen, such as myself. It was a difficult problem for me, because I’m a proud person, and not inclined to suffer rudeness, but on the other hand, I had a carriage trade kind of business, and I sometimes found myself in the halls of these shits. Some not only had homes the care and feeding of which required as much plumbing service as ten ordinary houses, but they also had more stuff like apartment houses and office buildings that accounted for a not inconsiderable portion of my business. And another charming characteristic of the very wealthy is that they are generally not price sensitive -- but are accustomed to paying for quality.  

I must say at this point that in general, the filthily rich, although they are not the same as you and me, because they have infinitely more money, are in general very nice, when you deal with them personally. Although above a certain level you are more likely to be dealing with the people they hire to manage their lives. Who are usually also very nice, especially since they’re only spending OPM (Other People’s Money).

I gave the problem of this rude, arrogant, contemptuous minority some thought, over a period of years, and came up with a unique solution that made these relationships mutually satisfying: the Rudeness Charge. I added at least a hundred dollars to the bill for every instance of rudeness to me, and sometimes to my employees. I felt this was a fair exchange because it enabled the customer to not lose my exceptional (and they were) services, while indulging in their snobbery, petulance and ill-breeding with little (on their scale of expense) cost.

There were also occasions on which I encountered ill-bred individuals who were like you and me, because they were not rich, and I never applied the Rudeness Charge in these cases, because they were not worthy of it. I simply made for the nearest exit, murmuring that we were unfortunately too busy, or othewise indisposed, to handle their case.

And I did make exceptions for those under exceptional stress, such as young couples who had taken on remodeling projects that would ruin them. And the terminally ill, the certifiably insane, and tenants who had been without heat or hot water for more than three days.

Once I forgave a couple who screamed at me, because as I was making for the door they apologized, saying that they were I----ian (name of minority concealed) and screaming was just a cultural thing with them, and meant nothing. And they turned out to be lovely people, even if they did have horrible, gaudy taste.

When I did apply the Rudeness Charge, which was a thing that could never speak its name, it gave me a satisfaction equaled by few other moments in a long business career. You might think it was the money, but it wasn’t about the money (believe me!), it was about fair compensation. I felt that I was being fairly compensated for suffering an injury. Call it liquidated damages. Insults, rudeness, slights, contempt -- these things are injurious, and even more so when you must suffer them in silence.

At this point you might suppose that this relates in some way to the folklore (or is it?) about the waiter who spits in the soup (or does something else to it I will leave up to your imagination) of the rude customer. Not a good analogy! Spitting in the soup is not compensation -- because it might be an injury. Suppose the waiter has swine flu, or something worse? Revenge acts for bad behavior are just other forms of bad behavior. I will say that I am never rude to a waitperson, no matter how awful the food or service, and that I cringe when someone in my party is rude, in case I should accidentally be given their entree. Never be rude to your waiter, or to your plumber.

Do you remember the great waiter in George Orwell’s Down And Out In Paris And London? He slips and drops a roast chicken down the dumbwaiter shaft in full view of the hotel diners. He apologizes profusely, goes down to the basement and retrieves the chicken from all the garbage at the bottom of the shaft, and half an hour later, he proudly enters the grand dining room, carrying the same chicken with fresh garnish. Orwell didn’t say that the diners had been rude to the waiter. Why do I love this story so much? I think because it parts the curtain that hides the workings of a class society. It was compensation.