In any business, no matter the domain, there will always be some element of service. When you picture any kind of customer service representative, what comes to mind is an overly-cheery person chirping away on the phone to a disgruntled customer. It may seem hyperbolic, but having worked in several customer service industries, I can attest to its tricky balance of authenticity and acting. But the skills that you can come away with through a service job can be invaluable when applied to everyday life. Here are some of the things I learned on the job.

1. Become a character

Customer service reps can seem utopic. But the people that work in customer service are not so different from everyday people. They don't have superhuman levels of patience; they don't have an extraordinarily high pain tolerance. Mostly, they're able to reason with unreasonable people because they make a transformation. "Becoming a character" may be over-exaggerating the point, but working in service requires you to put on more than just a happy face. It's a performance, just like being on stage. You can think of it like a switch that you turn on, to turn into your cheery self, able to combat even the most banal of administrative woes.

It gives you the opportunity to momentarily forget your personal issues and take on a positive persona. This can be helpful in real life in almost every situation, from a first date to a corporate presentation. Adopting a positive attitude is not being "fake," but projecting your best self onto your audience. We all want to come out on stage looking great, right? Plus, having a positive attitude can also reduce stress!

2. Always have an answer

Customer service people never have all the answers. But it's their job to be hubs of information and assurance. That means, even if you don't know the answer to a question, you have to assure the customer that you will find out, or direct them to the person that will know the answer. But whatever you do: don't lie. A lot of times, people think it seems weak to tell someone that you don't know the answer. But it's a lot worse of an idea to make something up and have to deal with the fallout after. At the end of the day, most reasonable customers appreciate and respect your efforts, even if their problems aren't solved immediately.

In life, always having an answer makes you appear even more confident. But when it comes to big decisions, don't feel that you have to provide an answer right away. Consult with your best sources of advice and then come back with a day that you will have your answer. Remember, the longer you take to respond, the more effort it seems that you are putting into your response.

3. Don't argue

Now the lawyers in the room might disagree with me, but the negative energy that's created during an argument is not healthy for either party, especially in a professional environment. If you're dealing with an unruly customer, you need to know how to de-escalate rather than fuel their fire. People love to complain, and the next step after complaining is ranting. And then, hopefully not, throwing stuff. Your job is to speak in a calm and respectful demeanor and not blame the customer.

Arguments happen in life all the time; they're a part of humanity. But greatly reducing arguments will also reduce your cortisol levels. No screaming, just speaking.

4. Burn your ego

In the service industry, it quickly becomes clear that you are an ambassador of a brand, a representative of a company. That means, you have to sacrifice a bit of your personal identity. It's not a bad thing! It just means that your job is not to be the winner in a situation or prove that you're right. Your behaviors should directly align with the better good of the company which you represent. So you must act for the whole, even if that means letting go of your ego just a little.

In life, we are faced with certain choices that require us to consider the bigger picture over ourselves. Just suck it up and write about it in your memoir.

5. It's not personal

Whenever you have a conflict at work, it's easy to blame yourself. But most of the time, customer complaints have everything to do with things out of your control. You're just the messenger, remember, not the king. When a customer is going off on you, they're not accusing you of having bad character or being a bad person. They're just frustrated with a usually minor banality and have no personal agenda against you.

Similarly, many things in life will be your fault, but you can't take them personally. If so, you'll start to ruminate and bog yourself down, sabotaging your chances of success. The best advice is to leave it in the past, and move on.

Customer service is not an easy profession, but teaches a variety of useful skills when dealing with problems in the real world. So put on a smile and prepare yourself to be patient. Your kindness will be rewarded.

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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.