Never would I have thought I’d find validation for my cubical monkeyism in a film. Especially a French film.
(No, I’m not talking about Office Space.)
A Checkout Girl’s Big Adventure (Tribulations d’une caissiere) takes us through the often tedious existence of a checkout girl in a big box store. Solweig might have a degree in literature, but after her father’s accident leaves him stuck in a coma, Solweig has to get a job to pay the bills and support her ten year old brother, Anatole. Any job.
Because really, “Who’d be a checkout girl by vocation?”
She gets yelled at. She gets hit on. Customers complain, compliment, or annoy her. She handles it all with a professional smile, going home each night to blog about it on MissCheckingOut.com, her anonymous blog. The blog has reached a million hits, and growing faster by the day. Checkout girls all over the country are taking her words to heart and starting to strike for better pay, longer breaks, and less harassment by management. She’d better watch her back, though: someone’s out to discover her secret.
Checkout Girl is a romantic comedy, and as romantic comedies go, it’s got light and fluffy down pat. It’s charming, the leads meet cute and look pretty, and since it’s set during Christmastime, it’s got an air of fairy tale to it.
What resonates, though, is the light she shines on customer service work, and how under appreciated and over worked so many people in the industry are. Two of Solweig’s coworkers have second jobs and are still barely making ends meet. They wear ridiculous costumes depending on what week it is (Honey Week has them dressing like bees, complete with antennae) to boost sales.They deal with tyrannical managers and shitty schedules, and they keep their complaints to themselves because in this economy, they’re lucky to have jobs at all.
The entire time I was watching the movie, I was like Finally! Somebody gets it! Customer service jobs are some of the most difficult on the planet. It’s exhausting, having to be polite, patient, and friendly to people all day long, especially when those same people can’t be bothered to extend the same courtesy to you. Reps get yelled at for things they have no control over. Reps explain the same thing, over and over again, in any number of ways, only to have the sneaking suspicion the person walked off as uneducated as they were before.
Which is why, when you have someone who gives you a compliment, or hell, even just makes your phone call that much shorter with a simple request, you breathe a sigh of relief and hope you can take that goodwill you feel and carry it on a little while longer.
Checkout Girl is the last movie you’d think would have any sort of message. But it does, and it’s well worth listening to. Next time you’re talking to a customer service rep, try not to act like you’re smarter than them. Be nice. They might just be nice back and mean it.