When Customers Attack

by TTMK on March 19, 2012 · 5 comments

I was taking a commuter train recently, and saw a situation that got me thinking about how money issues can involve perfect strangers. Or, perhaps better stated, involving strangers that are imperfect.

Background

When taking a commuter train out to the back and forth from the city (Chicago) to suburbs, particularly during the rush hours of the morning and early evening, people tend to be relatively quiet. You’ll normally see people doing any number of quiet activities: working, texting, web browsing via smartphone, sitting back with headphones on, reading, and maybe even sleeping. You might hear a few people engaging in quiet conversation as well. On occasion, however, you’ll get a person who has a loud conversation on their phone, or with another passenger.  On those occasions, you can’t help but hear them.

The Situation

I happened to be sitting in a “quiet car”, which was designated as a train car in which passengers were supposed to be quiet during rush hour. This is something that might be safe haven, so to speak, for those who dislike any potential for a noisy train ride home.  Frankly, I had no idea such quiet cars even existed, so I didn’t know that I was in one.

Anyway, during the train ride, another passenger got a phone call and started talking. She was a woman who might have been in her late 30’s, who appeared to have concern in her voice and in her expression.  Since the rest of the train car was quiet, her phone call was extremely noticeable.

The Conflict

After what seemed like perhaps a minute, a gruff, heavy-set man who seemed to be around 55, with a salt and pepper beard, leaned over to the seat in front of him where the woman was sitting and on the phone. He didn’t get too close to her, but spoke in a rather loud, deep voice and complained about the woman talking on the train.

He went on to complain (paraphrased here) about how she “shouldn’t be talking on the phone since this is a quiet car”, and that she “can walk over to another car if she wants to chit-chat”.

The woman paused her conversation and seemed flustered and nervous all in the same instant. She said (paraphrased again) that she “didn’t know it was a quiet car, and sorry but I’ll be off the phone in a few minutes”. Then she turned around and resumed talking.

That didn’t sit well with the guy, who complained even louder about how he (paraphrased) “paid for a ticket expecting a quiet ride in this car”, and that she should get off the phone and stop disturbing other passengers.

That seemed to bother the woman, who told him that her son is sick, and she was just checking on how he was doing. She added that she was sorry it bothered him, but a quick call was more important than his quiet train ride and it was no big deal.

After the call she sat quietly, but seemed quite annoyed. The guy sat there red faced and seemingly quite annoyed as well. Then, he got off one or two stops later.

My Take

On the one hand, the rules are that people are to be quiet in that train car. Thus, some people might have chosen that train car for that reason. The woman on the phone said she didn’t realize this, which I believe since I didn’t know it either. However, she kept on talking despite being made aware. Thus, the other customers – including that man – paid for something that they weren’t getting due to the lady’s action.  Once could call it a customer harming another customer’s experience.

However, I think that the guy was wrong in this case. Sure, he was right that she was breaking the rule. And yes, she knowingly violated the rule despite being asked to comply.  But in my opinion, her talking on the phone for a few minutes to check on sick child is more important that the happiness of the other customers.

I mean, I just don’t see how someone could be that annoyed by a parent having a discussion about a sick child. In this case, the parents needs come first, even if it means that the passengers don’t get what they paid for and are inconvenienced.

As I walked out later, and the lady was still on the train, I made eye contact and told her that I didn’t mind her phone call at all. She just said nodded without saying a word. Maybe she was still mad or was caught off guard.

My Questions for You

Who do you think was right – the man wanting quiet and his money’s worth, or the women ignoring him to check on her sick child?

What would you have done if you were in the woman’s situation?

Do you think that there are some times when it’s okay that we don’t get what we pay for?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Daisy March 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm

I think that guy was picking a fight. Some circumstances dictate that you can’t have everything you want; I know silence is golden but he must have had something else bugging him to be THAT bothered by one phone conversation.

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TTMK March 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I think the guy was being unreasonable too. Good point that it might have been something else bothering him, that’s often the case with people who lash out like that.

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SB @ One Cent At A Time March 20, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Thats an awesome picture to accompany. I don’t think the man was wrong. His demands were legit. His only fault is he was a bit agitated. Its not a gender bias, had she been a ‘he’ I would also have said that she should have gone to another car to talk after knowing.

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TTMK March 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm

SB – I think you’re probably right about there being no gender bias there, but I do think that the guy got a little too upset. Technically he was correct, but technicalities don’t always dictate the way we should do things in all circumstances.

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Nancy May 4, 2012 at 11:21 am

I think they were BOTH wrong. The man was entitled to politely inform the woman on the phone that she was in a quiet car and ask her to end her phone call. However, he needed only say it once and not continue to disrupt other passengers with his complaints about this woman disrupting other passengers. The woman, upon learning she was in a “quiet” car, should have ended her conversation immediately and moved to a location where she could talk and then call back. I don’t ride a commuter train, so I’m not completely familiar with the rules and the setup, but I imagine she could have switched cars at the next stop, if not immediately. I, too, am a working mother, and my children have been sick from time to time, however, that is no excuse for rude behavior.

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