Real English conversations
'The customer is always right, right?

Conversation Transcript

Lori: So, you’ve worked in offices before, haven’t you?

Michael: Oh yes, yes, yeah.

L: What’s the difference between working in an office and say, working on your own at home?

M: Well, I think if you’re working on your own at home, you need to have…The first thing that springs to mind is you need to have self-discipline.

L: Mm hmm.

M: Because you have nobody…if you have a boss, they’re somebody who isn’t there with you, they’re maybe on the end of a telephone somewhere, and they’re not looking over you. I mean, they’re never going to know if you want to nip outside for a fag, or do, you know, any of the things that you might want to—I’m going to have another coffee-break, because I feel like it—you can’t do things like that when you’re working in an office, there’s umm…And there are more distractions I think, because there are other people to speak to, ummm…You know, so in an office, the atmosphere tends to be very much, everything revolves around the work – it’s work, work, work, all the time. It’s more regimented.

L: Do you have to look busy all the time?

M: That depends on your boss. I can…speaking from experience, in the last office that I worked in, yes! I had to look busy, it was really quite silly, even if you didn’t have any work to do and you’d done all your work, you had to look busy, umm…Otherwise, you know, you’d get in trouble for it.

L: Yeah, you know, I worked in a drugstore in the States when I was a teenager; it was my very first full-time job.

M: A drug…A drugstore? We would say a chemist in British English.

L: Yeah, it was…I don’t even know if…

M: Is that a pharmacy?

L: Well they had a pharmacy in the back.

M: Ok, ok.

L: It was called Save-On Drugs

M: Right, no I’m sorry to interrupt, I just wanted…wondered…

L: No, it’s ok

M: The difference with the British and American English.

L: Yeah well, this was the kind of place, they had the pharmacy in the back

M: Yeah

L: They had a liquor department where they sold the wine and booze and…

M: Yeah

L: All of that and then they sold clothes, cosmetics…

M: Ok, so it’s almost…it’s almost like a…a supermarket really, I mean…

L: Yeah they had some food, but it was more snacks, like chips and..

M: Ok, all right, I get the picture

L: You know, you would call crisps, I guess

M: We would, yes that’s right, yeah!

L: And all types of things for the house and garden and pet food and…and things

M: Right, ok

L: But yeah, I worked there as a cashier

M: Mmm hmm…

L: For about a year, full-time. And I can remember how horrible it was to just have to look busy all the time, even when there was really just nothing to do.

M: Ok, so you’d be sitting at your…the cash desk

L: Well we had to stand.

M: Oh no!

L: So you would be standing up for eight hours a day it was, uh, 4 hours…

M: There was no little seat that you could sit back on, or?

L: No, no, you just, you were standing the whole day.

M: Oh, I feel really sorry for you now

L: It was horrible

M: I’m amazed you managed to last for a year.

L: Oh it was, it was such a horrible job, I hated that job so much; you can’t even begin…I can’t begin to tell you how horrible it was.

M: Ok.

L: Just from…In fact, I’m not the kind of person who gets bored...

M: No

L: I never get bored. But if I really think back, that was probably the most boring time of my life, I think that I ever had, was having to stand there in that check-stand doing this mindless job…

M: Oh yeah

L: Running people through as fast as you can while being polite and courteous and smiling, and they would be so rude sometimes, the people who would come through.

M: Ahh…But do you know?

L: Just really rude.

M: That’s something that I’ve often thought about, is that when you’re working…um, in service industry or retail

L: Uh huh

M: They seem to have this mantra that the customer is always right and even if the customer misbehaves and is rude and unpleasant…

L: Yeah

M: Then you, as a cashier or…or…someone, whoever, whatever your role is

L: Mm hmm

M: That you must always be polite, always be courteous, always smile and accept that the customer is always right, even if they’re not.

L: Right, right.

M: And…and I think that’s tough for anybody to take, if…if that’s your job, you know, you have to bite your tongue, as we would say. Umm…

L: Right, ‘cause customers can be, you know, uninformed, or

M: Yeah

L: Ignorant or in a hurry or, or whatever, but some of them were just so rude, horrible, like taking out all of their frustration on the world, I mean I had customers throw money at me!

M: Huh!

L: Because of, for whatever reason, they were upset about something that had nothing to do with me and they would come through, actually throw their money at me.

M: That’s awful

L: That happened a few times.

M: I would…I would…I would squash their shopping. I had a friend of mine, umm, used to work as a cashier in a supermarket and she told me that whenever a customer was rude to her, she couldn’t be rude back, but what she would do is when she would pack the shopping…so she would have the plastic bag that she would put the things in and instead of…they were taught how you should pack shopping, that you put the heavy, solid stuff in the bottom first, so she would do things like, she would take the bread and the eggs and all the stuff that would squash, put them in the bottom and put the heavy stuff on the top of it!

L: Oh, funny!

M: You know, and that made her feel a bit better, to get a bit of revenge, you know and…

L: Yeah, yeah, but in a way, I mean having been a cashier myself, that…I would not dare to do that because that gives that customer just more reason to complain, because that’s such an obvious sign of incompetence.

M: Of course I mean…

L: Putting the eggs on the bottom.

M: It’s very unprofessional, but it’s umm, you know, uhh

L: I would probably try to look…look at their car and then go out and slash their tires or something later on

M: Hahahahaha

L: It’s like I’m mean, vindictive

M: I know that you’re joking, I know you’re joking!

L: You think I’m joking?

M: I hope you’re joking!

L: Just kidding!

Vocabulary List

springs to mind

If something springs to mind, it means that it occurs to you, or that you think of it.


looking over

If someone is looking over you, they are watching you to make sure you are doing what you are supposed to do.



The atmosphere or climate of a workplace is the general character or mood of the workplace.



If something is regimented, it means that it is rigidly structured, usually with many rules (as in a military organization).



In British English, a chemist is a person whose job it is to prepare prescription medicines. The shops that sell medicines are called chemist’s.



American English word for shops that sell prescription medicines. Also called drugstores or druggist’s. The people who prepare the medicines are called pharmacists or druggists.



Booze is an informal word for alcohol (usually strong types, such as vodka and other spirits).


chips and crisps

In American English, chips are paper-thin crispy fried snacks, such as potato chips or corn chips. In British English, these are called crisps. In British English, chips are thicker slices of raw potatoes that are deep fried in oil and usually served as a side dish (such as fish’n’chips).


cash desk

The cash desk (British English) is the place in a shop where you pay for your items.


feel (really) sorry for

If you feel sorry for someone, you sympathize with them and feel sad because they are unhappy.



In this context, to last (verb) means to continue.



The check-stand (American English) is where you go to pay for your items in a shop or supermarket. The person who takes your money is the cashier or checker.


running people through

In this context, to run people through means to move them through the line/queue quickly.



Retail shops and businesses sell goods to the public, usually in small quantities.



A mantra (in this context) is a word or phrase that captures an important idea for a company or business. A company’s mantra is supposed to guide their business practices.



In this case, to take something means to accept it, tolerate it, or put up with it.

bite your tongue

To bite your tongue is an idiom that means you stop yourself from saying something that you really want to say, usually because you would cause trouble if you said it.



To squash something means to crush it with force until it loses its shape or becomes flat.



In this context, back means, in return. For example, “If customers are rude to you, you can’t be rude back or you will lose your job.”


slash their tires

To slash something means to rip or tear it violently with a sharp object, such as a knife. Lori would NEVER really slash someone’s tires (unless they were selfish jerks who totally deserved it).



If you are vindictive, you want to harm someone because you think they have harmed you. You don’t want to forgive them.