I had an experience at work a couple weeks ago which has stayed with me.
I had a table of 3 come in to eat and I took their order, brought them their food when it was ready, checked in on them a couple times. All seemed fine...UNTIL she came up to pay and complained with quite a bit of anger. She felt I had been "abrupt with a rude tone" when I was taking their order, which I of course was by no means trying to be. I tried to apologize, which she did not seem to want to hear at all from me. I found myself getting more upset due to her tone and manner. I started to tear up
(which is not normal for me, but I was a bit PMS'y)
at which point she got even angrier and said "see you are getting upset right now" which implied I had been upset or moody before. Just for the record I was having a great day and was not in a bad mood like she thought. Of course I am going to get upset when someone is face on attacking me and what I believe to be my character. I can only guess that my tone when taking their order had been non- friendly to them for some reason, but what I find interesting in retrospect is how abrasive her tone was when talking to me. It was like she felt justified in being so rude and confrontative as in her mind I had treated her that way.
After she left I asked my co-worker her opinion upon the whole exchange & she felt I had been sincere with my apology. She felt that I had made every attempt to pacify & please this guest and made the comment that "come on it is just food!"
So, since then I have listened with more awareness to not only my tone, but those within customer service in my daily life. I think as a whole we expect so much from the people who wait on us, be it at the store or a restaurant. Take a moment to reflect on the fact that they are people also. Yes, they are there to do a service, but remember they are people too. I would bet that if you give them a smile or polite word they will return the favor!