This morning I stumble out of bed and head to the bathroom. In this new technological age that we live in, I actually reach for my cell phone even before I attend to nature’s calling (did you see how delicately I worded that? You’re welcome). The first thing I note is that there are no frantic calls from my oldest daughter, which means that she made it in safely to work. Usually, I will then just spend a brief moment on Facebook and Twitter to see if any life-altering world event has happened while I slept. Then I will check email, the weather and maybe eBay. We make our living selling on eBay, so it is really like going to the office, so often I will avoid checking the app until I have taken my youngest kid to school. Today I made the mistake of checking in first thing.
Immediately I notice several messages regarding a fairly expensive item that someone has purchased and we shipped out several weeks earlier. I’m expecting maybe that the item was damaged in transit or something to that effect. Although I am a fastidious packer, very occasionally there will be an issue with an order. With some trepidation I open the first message. The customer starts out by calling me Sir which I take to be a good sign because at least they are trying to be polite (although despite the onset of excess facial hair that menopause has delivered, I am actually a Madam). They then go on to say that the delivery company has told them that we wanted the order back and is sending it back to us, and then proceed to tell us that the package is legally theirs, blah, blah, blah. Say what? I have no idea what in the hell they are talking about.
Like, I haven’t even peed yet (oh dear, now we are going down hill), I am not prepared to debate the legal ownership of a package sent on eBay. But I’m a fairly nice person and I figure we just need to iron this little problem out. I explain to the customer that we have had no contact with the shipping company and have not requested this order back. I unwisely provide our telephone number so they can pass it onto the delivery company, and feel that I have done what I can to help. I’m a bit bothered by the weirdness of the transaction, but I move on with my morning. Stupidly I check my messages again before I head to the car to drive my kid to school.
Apparently my answer did not satisfy the customer; now they are really angry. They state that the delivery company said we would have had to request the order back and this is their item, and then they say lots of mean stuff after that but your delicate eyes don’t need to read those words. Now I’m getting upset. I literally did nothing but ship an item, on time and packed well I might add, and now I have been pulled into some kind of Days of Our Lives, Shipping Edition.
On some level I do understand that this person is freaked out that they aren’t going to get the order they paid for. In order to try to assist, I head over to the local office for the shipping company. They track the item and it turns out that they attempted to deliver the item three times and then held it for two days for the customer to come pick it up, which the customer did not do, so they sent it back. Unfortunately in the process, some lovely person did put on a tag that said that the shipper requested the item back, which is total horse pucky (I’m cleaning it up for you again, that’s how I roll).
Then I call the shipping company’s telephone number to see if I can reroute the shipment and they tell me I can’t. I then message the customer and tell them all the information I was just told by both the in-house office and the 800 number. The customer responds with a very angry message telling us if we don’t get the item to them, we owe them everything they paid and an additional sixty dollars on top of it. WTF? I’m literally shaking because this went south so quickly.
My husband jumps in and involves eBay. After reading all the messages and tracking the item fully, eBay rules in our favor and says the man has a responsibility to pick up his order and he is out the money and the item. My husband thinks this is a fair and karmic ending, but I actually do not. Even though eBay closed this case out, I go to Paypal and return the man’s money excluding the shipping, because this item will eventually make its way back to us. The man is blocked and we should have no further dealings with him. But still, the entire situation brings up the question, why do people feel the need to be so rude?
I understand this man’s concern, but the way he handled it could have cost him a pretty penny if I wasn’t a fair person. If the man had messaged me and been polite, we would have worked out a way to reship the item when we got it back. We just would have had him ship to a different address or he could have provided the gate code for his building, but instead he lost his shit and ended up threatening us, total strangers. How have we gotten to this place?
The internet seems to have taken away people’s abilities to see others as human. Instead, it has become a place to let your insecurities feed by demolishing other people using your keyboard. It is a place where displaced rage can be visited down upon anyone whose viewpoints are different than your own. People can wage war with one another because there are no repercussions generally. The only weapon your opponent can use is their computer. If this man was face to face with my husband, I guarantee he would not have been nearly as vocal, but the anonymity of the keyboard made him all powerful.
I see this so much with my daughter’s YouTube channel. My youngest child is an animator and she loves it, and she is damn good at it. She has her own channel where she has created a story-line for her own characters and she has about 60k followers and gains more every day. Her channel is barely PG, but mostly G-rated. She is very aware that many of her followers are young teens and tries to keep the content up to a level that is appropriate. There is no swearing and no sex scenes. So if this is something a person is into, this is a great channel to follow. If it isn’t your thing, move on to something else on YouTube, right? You would think, but that isn’t how it works.
When my daughter puts up a new video, she has hundreds of hours of intricate work put into drawing that story, so you would expect that she would get compliments–and she does. The glowing reviews flow in, but so do the nasty, mean-spirited comments. Sometimes I read the comments and I’m flabbergasted (yes, I did use that word, and no, I was not born in the 1920’s). If a person watches one of her videos and doesn’t care for it, why don’t they move on? But they don’t, they will write the vilest messages and then have full-on arguments with her ardent supporters. What does a person get out of that? Everyone walks away feeling like shit…especially the artist who just put all this effort into something you have just smudged with your darkness. I don’t get it.
The truth is though, it isn’t completely the internet. If you met my husband’s aunt, she is the authentic in-person rude. Weirdly she has a heart of gold, but if someone triggers her temper, whether it be a stock person at a grocery store, a waiter at her favorite restaurant, or even a family member that looked at her wrong, she will lose her shit. She will scream and yell, and turn beet red in the face. If there is something within reach to throw, it will be flying at you in seconds. It doesn’t matter that you are completely innocent, if she perceived you did something wrong, you will be on the receiving end of her wrath. Once her tantrum has played out, she is happy as a clam and moves on with her life, leaving her victim broken.
So even before the internet, there were Aunt Mary’s out there, but the internet has allowed all the closeted Aunt Mary’s to come out of hiding. On the internet, it doesn’t matter how physically strong you are, it only matters how well you use words. My daughter tells me to ignore these people, but no matter how hard a person tries, those unkind words still needle in and leave a stinging wound.
What’s the solution? I don’t think there is one. Blocking an internet troll helps for the moment, but for everyone you block, several more take their place. I guess we all have to develop tough shells, but that makes me sad because my capacity to think of other people is what makes me, me. I don’t even take satisfaction in knowing that my eBay customer could have paid big-time for his rudeness. I’m just sad that he felt that he needed to attack in the first place. His attitude feels like a small piece of a very abnormal puzzle that is starting to be accepted as normal.
I guess I will just have to be one of the people that choose not to buy into this new behavioral norm. I know there are others that do that also, my daughter being one of them. In battle, the one who gets the last jab in is the winner, but maybe the world will get to the place where the one that can walk away with their integrity is the winner. I’m not sure that will ever happen, but I can always hope because that is the kind of person I am.