The story of Dante’s Inferno paints a picture of the 9 circles of Hell, each of which holds it’s own form of punishment for those who sinned in life. The epic poem was completed in the year 1320 by author Dante Alighieri and while it’s considered to be a timeless masterpiece, it’s quite apparent that Mr.Alighieri left out one last circle of Hell. I’m not sure if it was because this circle of Hell was too soul-wrenching to write about, or if he just forgot, but beneath the first 9 circles of Hell lies the most torturous and unforgiving of all – more abysmal than Limbo, more unquenchable than Lust, more vile than Gluttony, more restless than Greed, more wrathful than Anger, more sullen than Heresy, more disorderly than Violence and more pitiful than Fraud – the 10th circle of Hell lies just beneath the circle of Treachery where Satan himself resides. The 10th circle of Hell is a place where all hopes and dreams perish, where the grasp of the mundane wrings out every ounce of happiness in the soul – it’s a place with such a depressive atmosphere that even the strongest willed individuals are forced to contemplate suicide – it’s a place where you’re forced to resign every slither of human decency and are required to accept any and all belittlement. The 10th circle of Hell is a place where the Fallen Angel himself won’t dare visit; it’s a dark, depressive place called “Customer Service“.
Unlike the sinners that reside in the first 9 circles of Hell, the lost souls of the 10th circle aren’t there because they were sinners, they are there out of their own free will as a last ditch effort for survival in life. The realm of retail and customer service offers the lost souls a slim chance at earning just enough money to get by – but this meager pay is actually an insulting disproportionate amount when compared to the pain and suffering that they must endure day-in and day-out. The lost souls of the 10th circle encounter two torturous creatures on a daily basis: The vile customer that act as if they are Gods and Kings that can disregard any and all acts of human decency, and the monstrous individuals known as Management that utilizes cut throat tactics to further their own agendas. These two abominations ensure that the lost souls of customer service face a constant bombardment of stress and unhappiness.
The Atrociously Abominable, Hate-filled Customer
The lost souls of customer service have only one function in life: to serve the creature known as “the customer”- to wait hand and foot for the next order, to stand patiently in silence as the master finishes their phone call, to make sure the customer has everything they need. At best, the feeble associate will be ignored by the unholy beast and, at worst, they will be forced to endure verbal assaults. The customer trudges into a place of business with their inhuman sense of entitlement and their wicked demand that all else must halt so they can be serviced. May the Heavens above forbid that the worker is even the slightest bit busy with another task, or even worse, caught having a conversation with another lost soul – the beast will lunge in a furious rage if they see this!
Plastered above the doorway leading into the void is an archaic sign that reads, “The Customer is Always Right“. This saying is repeated to the worker on a constant stream – even in the face of belittlement and condescension, the worker must offer a sincere and heartfelt apology, even if there was no fault on the lost souls behalf.
“The music is too loud”
“I asked for NO tomatoes”
“What’s taking so long?”
“Why is this product so expensive
“I could just go somewhere else you know”
The customer is, obviously, an all knowing entity that is incapable of making mistakes and is aware of every nuance of every service of every business that has ever existed ever. With that in mind, the lost soul must always act with unwavering kindness and dedicated helpfulness while communicating with the unholy beasts; if there is even the slightest slip of emotion by the worker, the vile customer will recoil in shock and terror and will scurry to the nearest supervisor in hopes that the worker will be punished for their transgression because may God strike down any lost soul of the 10th circle that shows any fucking semblance of human emotion.
For every 10,000 wretched customers there appears to be a beacon of hope that is the elusive friendly customer. Not only does this individual not give the lost soul an attitude, but they seem to go out of their way to make the worker feel appreciated; this holy-light asks the lost soul if THEY need anything. “Maybe the world isn’t as bad as I think“, the lost soul thinks to himself when he encounters this beacon of humanity – but this elusive shimmering light is nothing but a curse disguised as a blessing, crafted by the Devil himself to torment the lost souls of the 10th circle. The friendly customer is but a lure that seduces the lost soul into believing there are customers who actually care about the feeble worker, only the be ripped away and replaced by yet another offensive and repulsive customer.
The Management Monstrosity
The second creature that lurks in the realm of retail and customer service is one that is seemingly more unsavory and disheartening than the loathsome customer. This wretch seems to thrive on the misfortune of those around them, utilizing every opportunity and advantage, no matter how unfair, for their own gain. This miscreant lacks empathy and the willingness to see things from various perspectives – this skulking enforcer in Hell is known by many names, but most commonly refereed to as “Management”.
The monstrosity known as management stomps through their workplace shielded by their titles and pay grades, immune to thoughts, opinions, and perspectives of those deemed lesser. Their vindictive blood coursing through their self-important veins ready to slash the hours of any employee who calls out, ready to seek the blood of any associate caught wronging a customer, and ready to wield the power of “formal discipline” to anyone not acting in accordance with procedure. Shackled by numbers and figures, the monstrosity is incapable of free thought – their only function is to perform to the liking and approval of “corporate”. It’s said if you listen close enough to a passing monstrosity you can hear them whispering to themselves, “The customer is always right .. the customer is always right“.
The monstrosities of management weren’t always so wretched – there were once as innocent as the lost soul trying to survive. However, the monstrosity sealed their fate when accepting a supervisory position that offered higher pay and higher responsibility. What seemed to be a way of escaping the 10th circle only sank them deeper in the consuming pits of retail and customer service – as time wore on the monstrosity lost all memories of being the lost soul of an associate, and became the lifeless void they are today. The dreams of a once hopeful individual now perish in the flames of profits, procedure, and performance.
Faced with another day of interacting with vile customers and monstrous management, the lost souls of the 10th circle begrudgingly punch into the time clock one more time, with little hope that it’ll be the last. They dream of a future where they can hold pride in what they do, a future where they aren’t paralyzed by the thought of “another day at work” – but the chance at salvation is ever so dim in the black-void of customer service.
If you’re one of the unfortunate lost souls that dwell in the realm of customer service: remain steadfast and know that it doesn’t have to last forever.