Assholes Around the World

24 Mar 2004|Davis Masten

Over the last 15 years I have conducted my own personal survey around the world. This is not to be considered scientific nor confused with anything other than anecdotal evidence. I have asked hundreds of people in a wide variety of settings of people who deal with the public. Those people on the front lines of commerce where their job is to have close encounters with people who pay. The question typically goes something like this: “Excuse me, I know this is a bit odd as a question and may seem a bit inappropriate but do you mind if I ask you something? What percentage of people that you deal with in your work are assholes?” I typically smile sympathetically at this point and continue. “I don’t mean people having a bad day or just stressed out due to travel or something, but are just assholes to the core?”

What do you think? What’s your experience? The first 50 times I asked this I expected someone would hit me, run, start praying or who knows what. But every single person has engaged me with some serious level response to the question, once they get over the surprise. Maybe I preselect individuals who might answer me, I don’t know, I have done when it strikes me. Its just another reoccurring theme that pops up and leads me to fascinating or at least amusing observations. Fortunately I am easily amused.

So do you have your answer? Ask the person next to you if they have to deal with the public. I started this years ago waiting for an international flight. There was another business class flyer who was so rude, I told the person behind the counter that I wished I had a video I could play back to this asshole so they could see just how bad they were. On behalf of all US citizens I apologized for letting this guy out of the country to inflict his wrath on others. I really wanted to send the video to the guy’s mother. What has happened to the concept of shame? I digress but my point is that people on these front lines have to put up with an amazing amount of crap.

My findings range from less than 1% to about 30%. Now granted the 30% was with the complaint person at the Hertz lot in Detroit. Her explanation was that by the time people made it back to her office they had sifted through the mere travelers with often legitimate complaints. It took me over a half an hour to get this out of her. She was helping me in a very good natured way on my car problem, her candor actually made me like both her and Hertz more. Man I don’t want her job.

So much for range, where is the median or mean? I think it hovers in the 8-10% range. To market size this for a second, assume there are 6+billion people on this planet. If the 8% holds then we are talking about a half billion assholes. On the one hand, be surprised that you have not encountered one today, particularly if you work retail or customer service. But being a glass is half full kind of guy, I rejoice in there being so few. While I think we all have inner asshole potentiality, I am glad that most humans focus more on love and the pursuit of happiness.

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