Consumer Entitlement: The Dwindling Respect Given to Retail Workers

By Rishi Shah, Opinion Writer

After working at Starbucks for exactly one year, I’ve gauged enough customer interactions to conclude that retail workers today are completely under respected.

Kaitlyn Wilson from the Odyssey writes, “With the amount of hours and labor put into a retail job, the reward doesn’t nearly match up. Most people would believe I’m referring to the amount of pay, but I’m talking about the lack of respect given by customers.”

Most students, like myself, do not expect to earn a living wage from of these jobs. But, this lack of pay should not correlate with a lack of respect; it should be common practice to treat low-paid workers, who essentially serve a customer, with kindness. Not to scrap human decency altogether.

Dealing with rude customers with clear entitlement issues is worse when the employees are trained to maintain respect and poise at all times. Most retail shops have strict management when it comes to customer interactions and this only gives leeway for many consumers to feel as if they deserve everything they demand.  CNET interviewed a former Apple store employee: a company that has one of the most well run and respected retail environments in the industry. The employee has this to say.

“Maybe 60 percent of the time there’s actually something wrong with a product”, she said. “But the point is, they’ll come to you. They won’t have booked a Genius Bar appointment or have looked it up online first. About once a day I was called something derogatory for not knowing how something worked.”

American consumers are generally more demanding than those in other nations and our cultural view of retail shopping has clearly been plagued by, “the customer is always right”. The truth is, the customer is “not” always right when it comes to demanding something they do not fairly deserve.

Ask just about any service/retail industry employee, and you will hear about horror stories of certain customers with entitled attitudes and demeaning tones. For example, the major “Red Cup Crisis” of the 2015 holiday left many Starbucks customers angry as the coffee company was “obviously” against Christmas and wanted Americans to feel the same way when they held their coffee.

An article by Business Insider summed up the debacle, “In November, American evangelist and internet personality Joshua Feuerstein posted a video on Facebook saying that Starbucks ‘removed’ Christmas from their cups’, by picking a minimalist red design. This sparked a small movement in which customers asked baristas to write ‘Merry Christmas’ on their cups”

Being a naïve new worker at the time, I thought of this as an overly exaggerated joke until it actually happened at my workplace! In late November a family walked in and made a mockery of the business I worked for, claiming outrageous things about Starbucks not believing in Christmas and its values, which completely dumbfounded my fellow workers behind the counter.

I was astonished at this outburst and wondered why they even bothered buying a drink at a place they obviously despise! After months of going to school at 7 am and going straight to work until closing (10pm), these bad customers had little effect on my overall day, yet it still baffled and frustrated me whenever a customer made a huge scene over a cup of coffee!


A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 8th print edition.

Contact Rishi at

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