Dear Person Whom I’ve Asked For Help (i.e., retail clerks, salespeople, customer service reps, tech support folks and anyone else in the position of answering questions, solving problems or fixing things for people):
If I ask you for help, it is because I either can’t find what I’m looking for, or I don’t know the answer, or I need help solving a problem. I am not trying to get you to do my work for me, nor am I being lazy, nor am I necessarily stupid and incompetent. I am, however, most likely already embarrassed, irritated, stressed out, frustrated or otherwise not my usual cheery, agreeable self. Responding to my request for assistance in an annoyed, irritated, impatient, snarky, frustrated or condescending manner does neither of us any good and certainly doesn’t move our interaction toward a positive outcome.
I get it that you deal with idiots all the time, and you’re right, the item I’m looking for or the solution to my problem is most likely pretty obvious, to you, anyway. I understand that you might be right in the middle of something important and don’t want to have to drop everything to work on my problem. And since I’m already frustrated, I may have started our interaction off badly by letting my irritation show in my voice and my attitude. But I asked for your help because I thought you were the person who could do that. If you’re not, please point me in the direction of whomever can assist me and I’ll take my request elsewhere. Don’t make me feel worse than I already do about the situation.
Despite what you might think, I’m fairly self-sufficient and would prefer to handle things on my own if I can (online shopping and self-service checkout line, anyone?). If I knew how to fix whatever it is on my own, I wouldn’t have asked for your help in the first place. Making me feel bad about my need for assistance (or my decision to ask you for it), only encourages me to stop asking you and to find someone else who can help me. In other words, to take my business elsewhere. If you’re in the business of helping people or if we have a working relationship, you may not see that as a problem, but it certainly doesn’t endear me to your product or service or brand or company. It just makes me determined not to do business with you in the future.