How to Deal with this Type of Situation (Confrontations)

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  • #1
WWGD
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Hi All,

I was at a store today when a woman (not quite a lady, by the way she acted) got
upset at a store clerk and started shouting at him. Worse than that, she claimed the
clerk's (alleged) poor behavior was a result of the clerk's nationality ( I live in the U.S,
clerk is recognized as a non-citizen from his heavy accent). This is a cowardly thing to do , because workers cannot fight back, because they risk being fired (customer is always right, etc.)

I have been in the store, and the clerk has always been polite and helpful with me. I thought of confronting the lady, but then the situation can escalate out of control, and the clerk may end up losing his job. But I want to send the message both about taking a stand against racism and about not fighting with people who cannot fight back. I also worry about losing my temper and having things escalate from my input. I ended up doing nothing and feel like a coward. What could I do next time something like this happens?

Any Ideas?
 

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  • #2
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAHgErVZw1Q

Anyway, I think you shuold have confronted the lady, but I understand that you didn't. I would like to think of myself as the person who would stand up for other people, but I know that the reality is much more different. You're not a coward for not standing up, rather you're a normal person: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect Maybe you will remember this experience and do something next time. But don't beat yourself up over it. You did what most other people would have done due to psychology.
 
  • #3
Evo
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Being in the US, she could be carrying a concealed weapon and shoot you, I wouldn't put anything past a person that behaves in such a manner, you never know and not worth finding out. She could have a crazy husband/boyfriend outside that she might complain to about you and who knows what they might do to show you that you can't tell their woman what to do. (yes I watch a lot of 'true crime' shows on tv) :redface:

I would put in a good word to the guy's supervisor and tell the guy next time you see him that you thought he handled a bad situation well.
 
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  • #4
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The problem I've found with the "next time I'll do differently", is that the next time something happens, the situation is different, and it'll happen at a time where you're caught off guard, so you may end up not doing anything once again, and then later you'll be kicking yourself for not doing anything.
It really bothers me when something like that happens and I don't do anything. It makes me feel exactly as you feel. Maybe next time something like that goes down, just think to yourself how you're going to be losing sleep over it if you don't do anything, and just do it.

Sure, you can go around assuming everyone has a gun, but you've heard the saying "It's better to die on your feet than live on your knees"? Especially when your chance of being hurt or killed in a situation like that is really quite low. If you can live with yourself having not stood up to anyone because they might hurt you, then fine. But expect people to walk all over you. Bullies continue to bully people because no one stands up to them. If you gave that woman hell for talking to someone like that, maybe she'd think twice before doing it again. Or maybe she'd realize just how wrong it was of her to do that and be ashamed of herself and change her ways. Unlikely, but it's worth a shot.
 
  • #5
lisab
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I would say something. I can't help it, witnessing crap like that makes me incredibly angry.

Years ago I'd have been quite confrontational, which isn't wise. I'm trying to be more mellow in my advanced years. Trying.

I'd probably say something like, "Hey, you may be having a bad day, don't take it out on this guy. He's just doing his job," but with COLD steady eye contact. I'd also likely reassure the clerk, like, "Her attack was unprovoked, you did nothing wrong. I'm happy to let your boss know what I saw."

But I've been in situations where I chose to overlook it -- made me feel like garbage for the *longest* time. I found it's better to do something so I can sleep at night.
 
  • #6
WWGD
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@lisa b: I agree, but part of the issue (tho, I admit, not the whole issue) is that I worry about blowing up, maybe having the cops come in and getting the clerk fired; it has happened a few times. I admit I also want to avoid these situations. There are moods when I am in control of myself, and then I would trust myself to be able to be firm but polite. But in many others, I would get really nasty , I may say something really insulting to the offending party, and then the situation may escalate out of control. But yes , @leroyjenkens, you have a valid point, and I agree with you.
 
  • #7
256bits
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@lisa b: I agree, but part of the issue (tho, I admit, not the whole issue) is that I worry about blowing up, maybe having the cops come in and getting the clerk fired; it has happened a few times. I admit I also want to avoid these situations. There are moods when I am in control of myself, and then I would trust myself to be able to be firm but polite. But in many others, I would get really nasty , I may say something really insulting to the offending party, and then the situation may escalate out of control. But yes , @leroyjenkens, you have a valid point, and I agree with you.
Perhaps 3% ( I am sure the number is low ) of the general population are able to see a situation, control it, and diffuse it, without having the situation possibly escalating to the point where the police HAVE to be called in. Due to a various factors such as a domineering presence, a commanding voice, a large stature, their attire ( such as the the soldier in the video ), or whatever, some people can voice their opinion which will be acknowledged. Others, like most of us, will be dismissed, accused of interfering, or become the brunt of an verbal attack, let's not hope physical.

Most people do not have training in handling a situation such as this, and as is evident, the first emotional response is to take sides, choosing one person as a victim and feeling empathy, and the other as a victimizer. If one does decide to act, it would be human nature to confront the person perceived as a victimizer, bringing oneself into part of the playout, with no idea where that will lead. Confrontation, in some cases may be the incorrect choice.

The police, in similar, usually attempt to talk to both parties to gain all the pertinent facts possible before coming to a conclusion as to who is at fault. You don't have to do that. You could try saying something stupidly funny to the lady to relieve the tension such as "Don't days like this really make you wish you were in Kansas?" Hopefully she will get flustered, think someone else is understanding her situation ( you didn't say so but she will think it ) and calm down a bit.

If might work, even if you are in Kansas.

Anyways, if I ever witness a situation such as you described, truthfully, I will probably forget what I just wrote and either say nothing and feel bad or bark at the bad person and feel just as bad..
 
  • #8
WannabeNewton
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Just mind your business and move on. That's the NYC motto.
 
  • #9
verty
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@lisa b: I agree, but part of the issue (tho, I admit, not the whole issue) is that I worry about blowing up, maybe having the cops come in and getting the clerk fired; it has happened a few times. I admit I also want to avoid these situations. There are moods when I am in control of myself, and then I would trust myself to be able to be firm but polite. But in many others, I would get really nasty , I may say something really insulting to the offending party, and then the situation may escalate out of control. But yes , @leroyjenkens, you have a valid point, and I agree with you.
I'm hearing excuses here. Saying something like "hey now" could be enough to divert the attention of this woman to yourself, she'd say something like "mind your own business, this is the USA and I'll say what I damn well please" but almost certainly she would not continue with her racist remarks.
 
  • #10
Evo
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I'm hearing excuses here. Saying something like "hey now" could be enough to divert the attention of this woman to yourself, she'd say something like "mind your own business, this is the USA and I'll say what I damn well please" but almost certainly she would not continue with her racist remarks.
Have you been to the US? If they're convinced this person's religious beliefs are wrong, or equate him with being a terrorist in waiting, it can quickly turn ugly. Also depends a lot on which part of the country. Never underestimate the stupidity of such a person.
 
  • #12
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When I see a situation similar to the one in the OP I usually apologize to clerk for the offenders lack of: intelligence, patients, uncontrollable temper, mean spirited nastiness, intolerance of others who look different etcetera. I try to sum it up with a bit of humor.

That way I don't have to feel guilty and the next time I am in that store I am not just a another face in the crowd. There will be clerk there that gives me a big smile.
 
  • #13
reenmachine
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I would mind my own business.People behaving like this woman are pissed off at life in general , and there's many of them everywhere.If you want to intervene everytime you encounter such a situation you're in for some overtime.Seems like taking a lot of risks for a low reward , since nobody was in apparent danger and the woman was the one looking like a fool , not the clerk.

Obviously maybe you're a strong person who isn't scared of the risks , then by all means do it , but be careful dealing with hateful individuals , they can have weapon and a short fuse , so the situation can escalate out of proportions.
 
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  • #14
WWGD
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Thanks for all your comments. After thinking it through a bit more, I think the best thing to do may just be to ask, matter-of-factly, to the abuser something to the effect of : why are you so angry (and saying nothing if/when s/he replies)? This is more likely to induce the abuser to reflect on their action than anything else I can think of. Interesting that this is what someone had explained to me was the goal of nonviolence resistence as practiced by Gandhi , MLK, others, i.e., to get the perpetrators to look into themselves ; an equally-aggressive reaction to abuse is likely to either escalate the situation and/or distract the abuser from thinking things through. And I don't think shaming is an effective tactic except in a few situations.

Now, let's just see if I can actually react this way next time....
 
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  • #15
davenn
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EVO said:
I would put in a good word to the guy's supervisor and tell the guy next time you see him that you thought he handled a bad situation well.
spot on response, Evo :)


DAve
 
  • #16
StatGuy2000
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To the OP:

My suggestion would be to not directly intervene unless the store clerk in question was in actual physical danger by the woman you spoke of (in which you should dial 911 or otherwise get help). Given that it is the US, you shouldn't ignore the possible that the woman was armed, and confronting the woman may well have led to further escalation which only would have put you in trouble without necessarily helping the situation.

I don't want to sound callous, but part of the responsibility of store clerks (or any service professional) is to know how to deal with handle difficult, rude or obnoxious customers in as professional a manner as possible, and from what you described he seems to have done so.

If you feel bad for how the clerk was treated, you can always tell him afterwards that he did nothing wrong and behaved in a professional manner, and put in a good word with his boss telling him he did a great job handling the situation, just like Evo has suggested.
 
  • #17
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I am white and my son's Mom is black. Today was the first day I dealt with an issue refarding racism. A member of the family sent an e-mail about "not getting the Negro involved," then writing "Whoops, I meant Obama." After another variation of this comment, it was pretty clear to me he was talking about my son. This was my written response:

"Is the whole skin color thing still an issue for people? I know it might be at one point for my son. Thanks for bringing up the racism thing with your Negro comment. I will be working on it with him so it doesn't slow down our progress again. I would much rather continue our conversation on physics and chemistry than use our precious time for this racism lecture. Perhaps I am young and naive in thinking that we will be able to change how others think based on the examples we create. Oh well."

Typically when I need to calm someone down I tell them "excuse me, that is not nice. Is everything alright?" Doing so, you have consisely identified the problem and made them think about the situation. Usually they talk a little and cool down. This can be followed up with an "I understand completely. How do you think we can fix this?" Here you have sympathized with them and invited them to control the problem you made them think about earlier.

This is Austin, Texas by the way. You can walk around and people will smile and say hi to you because that is what you are doing.
 
  • #18
Curious3141
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAHgErVZw1Q
The comments on that video depict a more typical cross-section of responses (including the really ignorant and bigoted ones). And I don't think those commenting were actors.
 
  • #19
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Hi All,

I was at a store today when a woman (not quite a lady, by the way she acted) got
upset at a store clerk and started shouting at him. Worse than that, she claimed the
clerk's (alleged) poor behavior was a result of the clerk's nationality ( I live in the U.S,
clerk is recognized as a non-citizen from his heavy accent). This is a cowardly thing to do , because workers cannot fight back, because they risk being fired (customer is always right, etc.)

I have been in the store, and the clerk has always been polite and helpful with me. I thought of confronting the lady, but then the situation can escalate out of control, and the clerk may end up losing his job. But I want to send the message both about taking a stand against racism and about not fighting with people who cannot fight back. I also worry about losing my temper and having things escalate from my input. I ended up doing nothing and feel like a coward. What could I do next time something like this happens?

Any Ideas?
You received a lot of good responses here. The thing with situations like these is you never know how things will pan out. It is easy for others to tell you what you should have done but you know yourself -- and keeping yourself safe is not cowardly. I never think it wise to enter an argument directly between two others. I have been in many situations similar to this and I usually enact the management of the business to make sure they empower their people, and do not tolerate abuse of any sort or racism against their employees. I believe employees should not feel the need to be silent when being attacked whether it be sexual, racial, or anything else. In this instance, the clerk should have been empowered to decline conducting the customer's transaction because of her abusive behavior without fear of consequence. Most places I have worked for take this stance. No tolerance for abuse against their employees--even ending relationships with abusive customers and involving law enforcement when necessary. It is the responsibility of the employer to protect their employees, I cannot see how that responsibility should fall on you who are a customer as well.
 
  • #20
George Jones
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I live in the U.S, clerk is recognized as a non-citizen from his heavy accent
How does this make a person a non-citizen? My wife speaks English with a small accent, her father speaks with a somewhat stronger accent, and her mother speaks with an even stronger accent, yet they are all Canadian citizens. Is there some rule in the U.S. that prohibits those who speak English with an accent from becoming American citizens?
 
  • #21
WWGD
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How does this make a person a non-citizen? My wife speaks English with a small accent, her father speaks with a somewhat stronger accent, and her mother speaks with an even stronger accent, yet they are all Canadian citizens. Is there some rule in the U.S. that prohibits those who speak English with an accent from becoming American citizens?
You're right, I meant a non-native, but the point still stands.
 
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