I received an email from Carol asking for advice about how to deal with a rude salesperson. This is what she wrote:
Barbara, I experienced something I’ve never felt before last week. My husband and I have been having trouble with our alarm company (batteries not fitting, not being charged when they were checked by the store who sold them to us and being directed to buy a certain battery then later being told we needed a different one for different sensor.) My husband set off the alarm three times and one of his explanations was that he stopped to pet the cats. The company technician sat down with me to tell me (ever so sympathetically) when you get a certain age, “the brain” starts to …” I wanted to smack him across the face or at least, kick him where it hurts. Is there a way to shut down little punks like that? I’m glad the guy said what he did. It gave me a chance to prepare for future “assaults”. Until I think of something better, a couple of my responses might be:
• Do you know what ageism is? It is when you perceive some one’s age and make assumptions about their behavior based on your perception. Guess what? I don’t think you’re anywhere near qualified to make a judgment like that.
• Think before you talk, do you even listen to the things that come out of your mouth?”
•You sound like you have delusions of adequacy when you make a statement like that.”
I’ll keep trying.
Signed Carol (ticked off baby boomer)
This is what I suggested to Carol:
I think the most effective thing you can do is to speak up. Silence gives approval. In a no nonsense tone of voice correct the offender. Look the person straight in the eye and make clear you are “all there.” You may be called a crabby old goat, but so what?
We live in a rude, crude, culture with an over abundance of unthinking morons. Some people never learn. If dealing with a male, (yes, young women can make the same faux pas) don’t “haul off and kick him where it hurts” It’s tempting, but not a good idea. If you wind up in court charged with assault and you lose, your advanced age will not shield you from a harsh sentence. We are all equal now, young and old. Sharing a prison cell with tattooed Debbie Doper who chews nails and spits rust, will not be fun.
If the offender is an employee of a business that should have policies in place that establish proper communication with ALL customers, write to the head of the company and express your displeasure with the employee’s remark. Don’t send an email; write a letter. Tell the head honcho you want to know what will be done to correct employee ageist behavior. A company that wants your business ought to be concerned about proper employee-customer interaction.
Sooner or later everyone will have to deal with hurtful, condescending, or just plain stupid remarks. Don’t tolerate ageist remarks said in jest or however intended. Go ahead, be crabby. Sometimes that’s the best and only way to effect positive change.
How do you (or would you) deal with people who make rude comments about your competence?