San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Remember what’s important during holidays

By José Miguel Zamora

Once again it’s that time of the year. The stores have set up their Christmas decorations, you hear Christmas jingles everywhere you go, and most of all you see everyone getting their Christmas shopping done – time to shop till you drop. 

Unfortunately for me, I work at a call center doing customer service for an online retail store, and believe me, this time of year brings the worst out of people. But this job has given me a lot of perspective on what I really value the most, and it’s something I would like to share with you all.

It starts just before Thanksgiving and it’s over around Jan. 7, the dreaded holiday season that every customer service associate loves and hates for good reason: The hours grow longer but the paychecks get fatter. We have to work the days everyone else has off, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, but of course we are paid double to do so. 

The downside to working these days – besides the fact that you have to work – is that consumerism has led to people becoming obsessed with getting all the great deals and buying a bunch of stuff (half of which they will return), and they get madder the closer the holidays get. When things don’t work out the way they want them to, they call and yell at you, the associate who represents the evil retail store that wants to ruin their holidays. But they never stop to think that while they are enjoying their holidays, you, a fellow human being, are sitting in your cubicle, apologizing and trying to fix every problem people throw your way on a day that should be a holiday.

I received a call that I feel illustrates very well how our vision of the holidays has been distorted. A customer had not received his camera the day he was supposed to receive it, and we informed him he would receive it the following day. Upon receiving this notification, he called us because he was leaving the next day at 3 p.m. on vacation and needed the camera to take pictures of his vacation, which meant that in order for me to help him I had to guarantee that we would deliver this item before 1 p.m., which is when he was leaving for the airport, and if we could not do that, we had to reroute the package to where he would be and get it to him the morning of the following day. Unfortunately, the item had already shipped and was in the hands of the carrier, so from my side there wasn’t much I could do, and because of the holidays the carrier was not willing to make any adjustments to ensure the item would be delivered before 1 p.m. No matter what option I offered, the customer yelled at me, saying it was unacceptable and that I was ruining his vacation.

After that call ended, I thought about how insane his arguments were. Sometimes I wish I worked for “Screw You Inc.” so when people call me to say, “You ruined my holidays,” I could reply, “Yep, that’s what we do. Would you like me to send some people to put all the snow you shoveled this morning back on your driveway?” Trust me, retail stores are not trying to ruin your holidays; on the contrary, most of them will do everything in their power to make things right. 

That is not the point I am trying to make, however. We have given the gifts too much power over us, and now they are completely indispensable. Material things are taking over the importance of the holidays. As someone who sees people cry and scream over this every day, you cannot convince me otherwise. What I want to get across here is that people are what’s really important. Your family and friends last more than three months, and they won’t have a better version of themselves launched on the market by next year, and sure, sometimes they aren’t everything you wish they would be, but you have to give them credit for being there for you. 

So if you are going to call customer service during the holidays to complain that your package did not arrive, please focus on everything you do have rather than thinking about that one thing you did not get. If that is too much to ask, then think of it this way: Would you rather spend Christmas fighting and yelling at a customer service agent over a package that did not arrive, or playing with your kids and spending time with your family? If you choose the first option, there is nothing I can say to stop you from calling. But I can ask you to be nice, because the person on the other end of the line didn’t have the option of turning down time with his family, and that’s something I hope you will keep in mind.

Happy holidays!

José Miguel Zamora, 18, was born and raised in Costa Rica. He attended the European School in San Pablo de Heredia for 14 years and graduated in May from the International Baccalaureate program. He currently resides in Santo Tomás de Santo Domingo de Heredia and is working in a call center while waiting to get into the University of Costa Rica to study law.


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The Tico Times welcomes submissions for the Young Writers column from writers 18 and younger. Submissions should be a maximum of 500 words and may be emailed to Weekend Editor Meg Yamamoto at Accompanying art or photos are welcome. Please include a brief bio indicating the writer’s age, nationality, school and place of residence.

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