As I have started to go out to restaurants and stores, I have noticed several instances of unacceptable behaviors towards waiters, salespeople, and other customer-service personnel. The loud blowup about a wrong order or slowness of service made me think about what people feel entitled to, like getting the expected services in a timely manner. In The Boston Globe (7/16/21) I read that “some restaurant owners in Massachusetts described customers who are lashing out at employees when they can't be seated right away or endure longer wait times for their food.” These customers’ behaviors made the staff cry.
The area designed for impulse control — the frontal cortex — shrinks as one ages, and one has less patience and becomes more irritable and quicker to anger. “Grumpy old men” as well as “cranky old women” is a reality for many. This loss of impulse control also expresses itself by inappropriate comments and actions.
Today’s service providers respond differently than a generation ago when those who served endured harassment for fear of losing their jobs. In those days, the mantra “the customer is always right” prevailed. Today the customer is on notice that by law the workplace must not be a hostile environment. Workers today feel free to quit, knowing that employers are scrambling to find and retain employees.
Entitlement has two aspects: one is the right to benefits specified especially by law or contract; the other is a belief one is deserving of certain privileges and special treatment. While thinking about entitlement I came up with several categories:
Entitlement is a class issue. The proverbial 1 percent is most prone to feeling entitled to the world’s privileges — all too often at the expense of the people who have not had access to neighborhoods with good schools, affordable healthcare, and opportunities for jobs with decent salaries.
Entitlement is a gender issue. As a female college graduate in 1948, I wanted to be a doctor, but was told I was not going to be accepted at a medical school given my gender, so I did not try. Today 50 percent of medical school graduates are women. A generation ago women broke barriers as they began to feel entitled to equal opportunity at work. The struggle goes on today for equal pay and freedom from abuse. Moreover, a generation ago, men felt entitled to belittle women who had little leeway to object or to be believed. The “me too movement” is making a difference.
Entitlement is a race issue. Our generation is experiencing a new push for equality by people of color as they look for the same respect, safety, opportunities, treatment, and privileges as white people have. “Black Lives Matter” is an effort to raise consciousness at the unfairness of a system which allows discrimination.
Entitlement is a religious issue. In the middle of the last century, Jews were not allowed to buy property in La Jolla. In the past, universities had quotas for Jewish students. Today universities have quotas for Asian students. Only a fixed number are accepted; this, too, is now changing.
Entitlement is an educational issue. People who attend elite colleges are more likely to land well-paying jobs and positions of power. Poorer students may not have computers and may not be able to follow class lessons online, the only way to learn during the pandemic.
Entitlement is an issue of location. During the pandemic, virtual learning through access to the internet was not available to all communities, which prevented may students from being able to learn online. When I lived in New York City in the 1950s and ’60s, some co-op apartment buildings would not accept black people.
Entitlement is an issue of policy. The hiring and promotional policies in both business and government are often discriminatory.
Try the following exercise. Make a list of what you thought you were entitled to in your life, but did not happened. Has your list changed over the years? How would this list be different today?
The first step in dealing with lack of entitlement is awareness. The second step is action, the implementation of this awareness. Some people do not realize that they are entitled to certain rights and, therefore, do not demand them. Others are denied their rights due to the prevalent culture, generation, lifestyle, education, race, gender, religion, etc. We should all be involved in helping to make this awareness a reality. Let’s remember the Golden Rule: the principle of treating others as one wants to be treated.
Our Declaration of Independence entitles us to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I would like to add … and equal opportunities for all!
Natasha Josefowitz is the author of 21 books. She currently resides at White Sands Retirement Community in La Jolla. Copyright © 2021. Natasha Josefowitz. All rights reserved.