Friday, September 02, 2011

The chick in the mirror

A few days ago I wrote up a major frustration-venting over selling to self-professed "Christian" customers on ebay.

Then I decided, "OK, this was ONE obnoxious person, I shouldn't make a big generalized deal over it and rant away about all Christians everywhere." I got it out of my system, fine, no need to post it.

Today I get another one.

Is two prissy Christians my tipping point? I dunno, but however much it sounds like I'm painting a big population with a wide brush, I have experienced this enough to truly believe it:

A great many people who identify themselves, in largely unrelated matters and venues, as "Christians" seem to feel a massive sense of entitlement to correct and criticize every aspect of others' lives.

First there was a book I labored over creating the listing for, with multiple photos and description, to eliminate the possibility that anyone looking at it could find it deceptive in any way.

Specifically, I listed the condition of a 1960 design textbook as Very Good, which it was - maybe never used, clean, crisp and bright - even though it didn't have its original dustjacket. Jackets survive rarely on those old textbooks, since they got much much harder wear than other one-use reading books did.

A potential buyer sent a snotty sarcastic "question" couched in sweetness, in which she (or he?) talked to me as though I were a small and errant child who needed to be Guided about book condition. Unfortunately, before we had a chance to place a "block this bidder" on her (or him?), she also bid on the book, despite making it clear in her email that she didn't want it as it really was. Now, why would she buy it if...?

Oh crap. She wants the title, midcentury design is very desireable right now, but the cheapest with a decent jacket is $64 and she's given up on affording that, so she'll buy this superior unjacketed copy and then...

This was negative feedback just begging to happen.

We blocked her anyway, but too late, so there was nothing to do but close the listing.

Why exactly I was targeted for this Lesson From The Righteous, I don't really know. While most sellers are using stock photos and pre-filled information, I take multiple photos of important features and flaws, and write up this detailed description that Larry says nobody reads. 8~)

I'm under no illusions about that, but it does cover me. I can point to it and say, "But I said there are spine creases. Clearly. Right there. Line two. See?"

The potential buyer did read it. Her sarcasm was employed in informing me that she was Terribly excited!! to find this book with its dustjacket, because you called it VG so it must have its jacket, yay!!! The sarcasm with which she pretended shock that it didn't have one was pretty obvious. She wasn't misunderstanding.

I do know how to deal with creeps, and I know that it's dangerous to assume that they are not really misunderstanding.

I expressed my Deep Sorrow that my listing had been "unclear" and explained, in equally kind and gentle terms, how book sellers will give separate ratings for book and jacket, so books can be rated apart from their jackets, and how you can get actual information from an ebay listing, by merely reading it and looking at the pictures! It's fun and easy too! No no, I was more subtle than that. Really. But when she wrote again, instructing me again, it was time to bail.

What does this have to do with tightywhitey Christians? Why do I think she set out to Improve Our Walk In Truth by leaving us negative feedback so as to obey Biblical Edicts to Admonish miscreants? In Christian Love? Her user name is (I'll deliberately paraphrase and misspell this) a variation of ChrisstianLuv.

Keep spreadin' the Luv, honey.

Honest, I know that obnoxious people come in all creeds and associations, probably in about equal numbers. Sample any group, whether it's Christians or Pepsodent users or vegetarians, and you'll get x-number of trolls who have some kind of need to claim victimhood, or feel big by correcting others, or otherwise cause battles just because they feel like it.

Then today, the sale of one of my brand-new Bibles, which I packed carefully and securely in protective packaging, got slammed for using the recycled materials. Why the customer cares what the mailing box looks like -- holy bleep, I boxed it and padded it, instead of using an envelope -- is beyond me unless it was intended as a gift and even then, don't most of us order a book, take it out of the mailing box and gift wrap/bag it??

In my librarian days, I was in charge of inter-library loans. We'd get loaners of requested books from the state library or from other libraries all over the country and returns were particularly important. Each customer was cautioned that this wasn't just any loan, it was a trust from a distant library which had no authority in our state/county to get the material back with, and that our library could be blacklisted from the inter-library loan system if too many out-of-state loans to our patrons disappeared.

Exactly two non-returns happened on my 10+ year watch. BOTH procured for church matters or activities. In both cases, the borrower took the dismissive attitude that God's Work made return unimportant, and we could go jump.

Christians are assuredly not any more obnoxious than are others, but there's one difference. Other groups don't seem to think that the group itself issues the blanket license to assume authority over others.

A specific license? Sometimes, sure. Vegetarians can cop an attitude about animal welfare and food matters, sewing enthusiasts will critique garment workmanship.

But blanket license? The belief that their Fight For Truth applies to every single aspect of other peoples' work and lives, and that they are called by Jesus to correct posture, parenting and purveyance of ebay goods? I'm seein' it.

While internet selling is a good choice for someone with a thin skin, I still let them get to me on occasion. This has to be about my inner peace. I joke about Opportunities for Growth and how annoying they are, but the advice I want to give these complainers, which is "Start with the person in the frikkin mirror!" applies to me.

Whatever motivates these people -- and this is one stressed-out society right now. We've had more complaints in the last 3-4 years, in relation to vastly fewer sales, than in the whole 1998-2007 stetch on ebay before that -- but whatever motivates them, I have to do my best and then quit caring. I did well by the customer, with secure packaging, timely service and a good deal, and I have to turn him over to whatever version of Higher Power he's into.

Does this sound like something I should have learned many decades ago? I did and I didn't, because it's one of those lessons that come back and come back and come back and come back.....

The lesson being that avoiding criticism by working overtime to please people (in this case, customers) doesn't solve my inner problem of a thin skin. It reduces the number of occasions on which I have to confront it. It's my job to thicken my skin.

Larry pointed out a unique feature of life in our times that I hadn't really thought about. In selling, or any interaction done online, we're not just dealing with the bad (or good) personalities in a limited geographical area. We're dealing with them all over the planet, and maybe in higher percentages. Just as I like to protect my too-thin skin by putting online access to me between me and the buyers, unhealthy personalities can also find the internet protective. They can lob their stinkbombs over the fence and run away unseen.

Which is why the problem always -- always -- comes from a customer whose displeasure I wasn't expecting. Always. The ones I worry about? Never. The ones I think would have absolutely nothing to find wanting?? It's them, every time.


Mike said...

Feel better?

Christianity has always grown fastest among the dispossessed -- those who need something to cling to. That's not intended as a critique of the religion but rather an explanation for why some people with appallingly weak social skills often trumpet their membership in the only club that will have them.

Also, I suspect that the reason you have more problems in recent years is that the Internet is no longer difficult to access. Twenty years ago, the people sitting next to you on the airplane smelled good because the people who smelled bad were on the bus.

southernyankee said...

Um, can we get them all back on the bus now? LOL

Sherwood Harrington said...

There's a bus line that serves, more or less, our San Lorenzo Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I use it occasionally when the truck is in the shop, and I can tell you with some authority that a lot of us are still there.

Mike said...

Sherwood, if you'd shower once in awhile, they'd probably let you fly San Lorenzo Airlines.

Had a girlfriend who was going to college in Northampton and, her first year, she used to take the bus up to Burlington to visit. Only about a three hour cruise, but she invariably arrived with a new story, and it was never about running into Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. After her first year, she took her car down to campus so the visits wouldn't be so exotic.

Dann said...

Is there any religion that does not attract the "dispossessed"?

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Wow, Dann, good question. I should leave it to Mike to answer, if he has time.

But i'm thinking that originally - i mean thousands of years ago - an identity as "The people" or as God's favored was unifying to a community, and gave courage in fighting threats, without growing out of feeling of actual disaffectedness. I'd think most religions grew that way, even if the disaffected were a rich soil for offshoots to grow in as people overran other people.