General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

No, I am not "faking" an injury

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B/G: I work at a gas station as a supervisor; my duties include unloading freight, stocking shelves, pumping gas, operating a cash register, and basically anything that needs to be done in a retail environment.

In the autumn of last year, I had what turned out to be fairly major surgery on my elbow. I was off work for 2 months, went back half-time for two months, and am now back full time. I am essentially 4 months into a 12-or-more- month recovery. (Can provide more detail on the surgery via PM if needed). The surgery was on my dominant arm, so it's been a rough ride.

Per my surgeon's orders, I am to follow my arm on what I can do, so basically in the mornings before it starts to ache, I am comfortable lifting/carrying stock, etc. By the afternoon the pain sets in, and I am better off working the register or doing paperwork etc. My boss is 100% on board with this, as are my coworkers. The problem, unfortunately, is coming from the customers.

As I've mentioned before, I live in a VERY small town, where everyone knows everyone's business. Every customer who comes in the door knows I was off work for a long time, knows it was because of surgery, and can see the huge purple scar on my elbow. The surgery site is still bruised & swollen, and by then end of a work-day it looks like someone hit me with a bat.

However, when customers are asking me to bring them items from the back, or asking me to fill their vehicles, and I politely direct another employee to do so, many customers go on the attack. "I can't believe you're STILL milking that surgery", or "Oh, right, your arm huuuurts soo much. I'm going to tell your boss how lazy you are". These things are not said in jest, and my boss has told me that several customers have claimed that I denied them service. (Again, boss is not taking these claims seriously as she knows my situation).

How can I firmly tell customers to back the heck off? I am not comfortable explaining exactly what was done to my arm, as it is gruesome and still upsetting to me... and it is also none of their bleeping business.

I have tried joking: "Oh, yea, I'm totally milking it. I smash my elbow with a brick every morning just to maintain the swelling, ha ha", I've tried complete silence... and nothing is working.

Help :(

That's horrifying. I can't imagine claiming someone is faking an injury, especially to that person's boss! Your responses would get your point across to anyone who wasn't quite dense, but I think you're past that point now.

Generally, I don't think it makes for a good customer service experience to confront customers -- but you shouldn't have to put up with abuse, either.

My suggestion is to be very direct. Make eye contact, and say to them in a pleasant but clear voice: "Why would you think that? Why would you say such a thing?" Then stop talking and look at them for a response. Make it clear you really want to know.

It's rare that someone will respond to this, but if they do say anything, say something like this: "I am not faking anything. I have a legitimate medical injury. Believe me, I don't enjoy having limited mobility. Rest assured I will go back to all of my duties as soon as I can."

Then move on ... go back to your work. If it happens again, repeat again.

Only the most churlish people will do this over and over again. All you can do is be polite and direct.

Having severely fractured my left ankle last Sunday, and looking at 2-plus months of recovery (not to mention 2 surgeries). I am angry on your behalf, OP. That is boorish behavior!

Tea Drinker:
Can you "joke" back with them, something along the lines of "That's funny, I don't remember you going to medical school" or "I didn't realize you were hiding in my doctor's office during my last appointment. I'd better warn them that the place is bugged"?

that's terrible! I am shocked that people will actually go to your boss.

I wouldn't joke about it. I would go with silence. OR i might say (to those who threaten to go to my boss) "sure. Sue is in her office, right up those stairs."


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