So in the past, I was teaching in a Hagwon in Seoul Korea and I was very excited to teach because I really enjoy teaching. So I was doing my best to inspire and encourage a class full of students. However, a lot of students in hagwons don’t want to be there, especially during a summer vacation. I obviously knew this, so I kept this in mind and tried to build a relationship with the students in my class. In one particular class, there was a student who really did not want to be there. If you have any experience teaching, you can tell right off the bat if a student is unhappy about being there. You can tell by their body posture, their facial expression, and sometimes they make it obvious with sounds. Deep breaths, sighs, moving around a lot in their desk, and just having this expression of anger. And how they have been cheated by their parents or something like that.
So I had one of these students in one of my classes. And I understand that a student can be upset about being at a Hagwon. However, if it disrupts the class and influences the others in a negative way, I need to stop it. So this student did things to challenge my authority. I did everything I could to talk to the student and try to help the student feel welcome. In the end I brought it up with my manager. I was like, this student does not want to be here and explained a bunch of situations. My manager assured me that things will get better and that he/she would speak with the student. And I was like, okay, I mean, what else could I have done in that situation though. But then the student ended up causing other students to show up late, miss parts of the class, and even wrote swear words on test sheets. So I went back to the manager again and explained the situation.
What was happening was that the Hagwon was doing everything they could to keep this student who obviously did not want to be there, and he was showing very obvious signs (oh, this was one incident that really encouraged me to start my own business,). So the next day I arrive and apparently the student and two others came really late. So my manager took them aside and had some kind of talk. After lunch, all of the students came on time. And I was just going to teach the class. But then my manager asks to speak to me, and I was like, okay. So I go out and my manager hands me 3 chocolate bars. And I’m like, “what are these chocolate bars for?” And my manager was like, “I think it would be a good idea if you gave these chocolate bars to those 3 students who were kind causing trouble”. I was like, “what? why would I give students who were misbehaving chocolate bars?” And my manager was like, “well, it’s a good way to encourage them.”
Okay, I think I told you enough of the story. But bribing students to be “good” or to keep them quiet is something I am so against. What does that teach the students who have been listening and following the rules? Is it fair to them? In my opinion, this is not just. This is so unfair to the other students who were actually being good. If we are to give chocolate bars to students, then at least to students that are being cooperative.
I truly believe that everyone should be treated equally. I do believe in equity, which is giving special treatment to those that need it, but only to a certain degree.
Now, as a customer, I have witnessed many events where another customer would complain about such and such. They would say, “hey, what is taking so long, why am I not being served?!” And then right away, even though my friends and I got to the restaurant first, that person would get served. And if I don’t have a friend who is outspoken in the group at the time or I am with non-confrontational people; we would just wait and be served after. I sometimes do say something, but for the most part, I understand that the restaurant may be understaffed or the store may be really busy, because I have been in that position as a restaurant waiter before. So I do my best to be as empathetic as possible. But then there are times where I am unable to restrain myself and complain.
But for the most part, I stay quiet and patiently wait to be served. Because I think people deserve a break.
So these are two types of incidences, one being in the classroom and one being in a business, that I have witnessed growing up. I have seen tons and tons of these types of incidences where the people who complain always get something more than those who stay quiet. I know that in life, it is those who ask for things that get things, but I strongly believe that people who are cooperative and polite should not be shafted. That is why I always do my best to remember the quiet ones as a hagwon owner and a business owner. If I as the owner of a business make a mistake, then I must own up to it. But if a student is causing trouble in my class or in my school, then they will be disciplined just like everyone else. If I can’t manage that student and he/she ends up disrupting the class/school, then that student has to go.
I remember in Teacher’s college, I was taught to reach every single student. However, I have come to the realization that I cannot reach every single student, but I can reach some students, and those students are the ones that I will teach. And this also goes for my customers/clients. I have accepted the fact that I cannot please everybody. So if I come across a customer who I believe is rude or is asking for too much of my time/energy, then I make it very clear to them that we are not the store for them. Why should I use my limited amount of time and energy for customers who I believe are asking for too much. That time and energy should be saved for my customers. I do my very best to serve my customers, but I strongly believe that not everyone is my customer.
And just because a customer asks for a discount, that doesn’t mean I have to give it to them.
It’s funny how some people ask for a discount and then get offended when they don’t get one, especially in Korea. I commend people for asking for things. I am naturally not good at asking for things, but I have been training myself to do so. And obviously it does not feel good to be rejected, but I think there are people who are used to getting what they want. If I were to just give the people who asked for a discount and make them feel as though they are the only ones getting special treatment, then what about all of the other cooperative customers who just quietly pay? I believe by giving in to hard to handle customers, I am actually mistreating the customers who quietly purchase things and are respectful of my time. I believe it is so unfair to my quiet cooperative customers, so I don’t give discounts to any of my customers. I just try to keep a reasonable price and do my best to serve the customer.
Another thing that I don’t stand for in any of my businesses is being talked down to from the customer. I don’t believe that the customer is number 1 and is always right. I do believe that customers must be served and that I am there to help them as best as I can. But if they have a request that I cannot meet, then I cannot meet it. And for the record, I do my best to go out of my way for customers, but there are some people out there who basically want to walk all over you and have you smile for them while they do it.
I am running my flower business as if it will be present for the next 20 years. That means I am looking to expand it and hire employees. One thing I don’t like about some businesses is that they are all about the customer. I mean, yeah, customer service is important, but so are the employees. I don’t think any customer has the right to be rude to an employee of any company, but it does happen, and it happens quite often. I am reminded of a scene in a Korean drama. There are two people who do not like each other. And one of them so happens to work in a coffee shop and the other person comes in as a customer. The person who comes in starts trouble and the person working at the coffee shop stands up for herself. Then the person who walked in as the customer asks for the owner of the coffee shop. She the says, “what kind of coffee shop is this? You are not training your employees right!” And the owner just tells the innocent worker, who actually didn’t do anything at that time, to apologize, without even hearing her side. When I saw this scene, I just got so angry. Like, who cares about the employee right? Because the customer is the Queen/King and my employees are their servants. Honestly, I just hate seeing things like that.
My dream is to have a company where the employees are respected by the employer and the customers. That is why I don’t take attitude from customers. I am actually quite patient with hostile customers and help them at least 2 or 3 times. But once they get to pushing me 2 or 3 times, then I thank them for considering us and tell them to find a shop that fits their needs. Obviously my employees also have to do their best in serving the customers, but they shouldn’t be disrespected in the process. So I’m doing my best to weed out customers who are not a good fit for Flower Gift Korea. And I have probably weeded out 4-5 people in the last year which isn’t that many. So I’ve been lucky thus far. And when I was running my Hagwon, I weeded out about 4-5 people as well.
In the end, you need to take care of your physical and mental health. And sometimes you just have to weed people out. It’s all about the long game in my opinion. And you need to stay healthy and sane to run a business for the long run. Well, this is just my philosophy and it is what I need to do for my businesses. What about you? What’s your take on all of this?