Rude customers are annoying – but can we small business owners do more?

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We have read about the aviation industry issues with unruly passengers. Most of these problems are due to frustration with wearing masks. But unfortunately it’s not just the airlines that experience rude customers. Small businesses across the country also have this problem, and it has nothing to do with masks.

Related: Most small business owners are middle-aged, not “cool kids” the media loves

Christopher Morales, owner of the Golden Crown Panaderia, a bakery and sandwich shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has seen a significant rise in unruly customer behavior this year.

“One of my employees was scammed by a customer that we don’t take phone orders and with the current state of affairs, trying to get employees is very discouraging and it makes me angry when people are so rude to the people who work,” he posted on social media, according to a local television station.

“No one deserves to be treated like this. Nobody does.”

As incidents like this increased, Morales stopped taking phone orders altogether.

In Brunswick, Maine, the owner of Joshua’s Restaurant & Tavern vented his frustrations on Facebook. “Whatever juju there is in the universe right now – the great people are extra nice and the jerkwads are extra silly,” he Posted.

The owners had this advice for customers: “Don’t yell if your order doesn’t run out in 15 minutes. Have some common sense and empathy. We’re not going to pay for food because it took too long when you were told there was a wait. We can’t control the weather. We have no control over raspberry vinaigrette being out of stock. But most importantly, we don’t accept that EVERYONE is LESS THAN CITIZEN when we talk to our employees. Be kind to your fellow human beings.”

Relief! Talking about the customer who is NOT right.

Farther down Cape Cod, Massachusetts, things don’t get much better. According to the Star Stand, customers were so rude in a restaurant, that the owners decided to close for a day to give their employees a break. They then begged their guests and patrons who were swearing, arguing and threatening to sue to “treat us with kindness and understanding” and to “stop making team members cry.” Other restaurants in the area also reported abusive customer behavior, with one restaurant owner begging for “a little mercy.”

The owner of a barbecue restaurant in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, says the abuse by customers has become so bad that his employees now read an agreement to each customer when taking an order. The agreement stipulates that the customer will be given an initial warning of bad behavior and then asked to leave if it happens a second time.

“We will be nice to you and treat you with respect. We deserve the same because my servers, my staff, we get negative feedback when it’s not justified for everything we’ve done,” the owner told a local news channel.

The root cause of these incidents, and many others like it, more or less boils down to one thing: a lack of staff. Small businesses across the country are struggling to find workers as demand surges after Covid and many workers choose to stay at home for a variety of reasons, from persistent unemployment benefits to lack of childcare and a general reluctance to return to the workforce. world as Covid and its variants continue to make people sick and claim lives. Impatient customers who are tired of waiting for service take their frustrations out on the frontline workers.

Of course, there is no excuse for this kind of behavior. And many people sympathize with these small business owners trying to get back on their feet after an unprecedented economic recession last year.

But before we blame those “unruly” customers and those “lazy” employees, is it possible that we – as small business owners – also share the responsibility of the current situation? There is an acute shortage of workers and it is difficult to find good people. But this is a matter of supply and demand and when supply becomes tight, costs inevitably rise.

So are we paying enough to attract those employees? Are we offering the right benefits? Have we considered raising hourly wages, improving our health insurance, arranging work-from-home schedules, expanding paid time off, providing mental health care, helping with student loans—all things that larger companies do to fill their payrolls? Or are we still paying and doing things the same way we were before the pandemic started. If that’s the case, I understand why many entrepreneurs lack help.

Of course, many small businesses will say that these things cost too much and can’t be afforded. And I agree that these are difficult obstacles to overcome. But come on, we’re smarter than that. There are tax credits for employment opportunities, forgivable loans for Small Business Administration and many others government funding programs still available to help. There are very affordable contactless outlets and other self-service technologies that can help us reduce overhead.

And we can always raise our prices. I see many higher end restaurants do just that and keep paying customers because a) we recognize these are inflationary times and b) sure we are willing to pay more if we get our food while it’s hot and continue to have a good dining experience at your restaurant. I think customers understand that these are extraordinary times and understand the cost pressure we have.

As with all problems there is never one specific reason or one specific solution and ‘rude’ customers are a good example of this. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior. But if it’s caused by employees not coming to work, then maybe it’s not just the employees who are responsible. Perhaps we, as small business owners, also need to take some responsibility for the problem and make adjustments in our businesses to solve it.