Where did our manners go?

As I was pulling out of a drive through restaurant yesterday, after a brief exchange the older woman leaned out the window and warmly told me to stay warm out there with a smile.  A brief encounter but I felt this woman’s kindness and genuine caring coming though.  As I pulled out I began to ponder why had that struck me and why did it frequently happen to my husband and I?  You see we have restaurants we go to where the servers try to get our table, at retail locations I shop the associates come over as soon as I walk in to stop and say “hi” and ask how things are going (I may not have shop there a lot or have bought anything in months).  So why is that I wondered that I can have such a warm experience almost every time I go out.

I think part of it is that we always are polite to the associates we come in contact with.  Even when ordering though a speaker we are always there with our please’s and thank you’s so that by the time we get up to the window the associate is killed with kindness.  Even on the occasions when they are obviously flustered and maybe having a bad day we are still super polite.  I have noticed in awe that at times they seemed so shocked and surprised that someone is polite to them.  That made me wonder when we all stopped being so polite.    I say this because I have experienced the other side of this.

I recently in the last 6 months decided to take a retail position at one of my favorite stores.  A store by the way where I would frequent, even though I didn’t buy most times, but was friendly with the associates to the point that the manager offered me a job with them.  So I took the job, in the hard to get into store, so I would have a chance to get out of the house a couple of times a week and have fun with people.  One of my favorite things to do is shop and now I got to do just that and even more than get paid to do it I now got an amazing discount on my favorite clothing line for my family and I.  I tell you this because I do my job for fun and I look forward to going into work and yet even I can leave feeling frustrated when I get home.

I realized that as I was driving away from the fast food place that I may be one of the people that makes it nice to go into work because lets face it people can be mean.  My favorite customers that come into the store aren’t necessarily the ones that spend the most but the ones that are nice and polite.  I think sometimes people think that because that associate is being paid to help them that they should have to ask them with a polite “please” but rather tell them since in essence we work for them.  I frequently find a sense of entitlement amongst the people who come into the store.  No let me give you a bit of background.  It is my goal to give every customer a great experience and leave smiling.  Whether they buy anything or not.  I go to work for fun so I want the customer to have fun.  It’s shopping!  I go to frequent trainings and read lots of books in the area of improvement, primarily for my other industry, and one of my favorite is a book called The Collapse of Distinction by Scott McKain.  I picked this up after hearing him speak and I suggest that if you ever have the opportunity to hear him, go!  So while I do believe there are bad associates out there, I am not really sure anyone sets out to not take care of customers and to an extent I think we have a chicken and egg thing here.  I believe that if we are polite and friendly and use the associates name you will indeed end up having more positive experiences as a customer.

I know from my experience the days I come home feeling frustrated are on the days where I have one to many customers who are condescending and rude.  My favorite example of that is when one of the people I went to college with came in and I swear took pleasure in ordering me around and left her fitting room full of clothing wadded up on the floor.  Maybe that is how she always is but she did make a comment about what I was doing working here. I told her because enjoy it and it allows me to be home with one of my favorite people, my son.  But, it doesn’t matter if I chose to leave a career and work there or not.  Or that I took the job for fun and don’t need it for the money.  Would it make me any less worthy of politeness if that was the job I had to do?

I think thats the part that really struck me.  When we are dealing with people does it matter why that person works there or that they are any less of a person simply because the job pays less an hour than what you make?  Maybe it is also the area I live in that tends to be more affluent but I would be willing to bet this goes on across the country.  My good friend who is a psychologist and I were talking about it one the phone the other day and said “wow they must be really unhappy”.  I say that because if you’re the one working you have to know it isn’t about you, that customer does that because they feel it is the way they will feel better about themselves. In contrast if you are a customer who feels like customer service has just gotten horrible these days and everywhere you go the sales associates are terrible, I would humbly make a suggestion that you take a step back and see if you might be contributing to your experience.  Make an effort to be polite to everyone you come in contact with, if you need something ask politely for it, say thank you, and if possible use their name.  You might be surprised at what you find.

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One thought on “Where did our manners go?

  1. I agree. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who are unnecessarily impolite. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to smile, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and my grandmother always said that as long as someone has a job, they are contributing to society.

    I am sorry to hear that your college acquaintance treated you like that, but agree with the psychologist – that person must be unhappy, and is projecting their unhappiness on you.

    I think, unfortunately, people do not have jobs that they’re happy with, but you’re lucky, and perhaps that individual just didn’t understand the concept of happiness (whether in a job or at home). You are lucky that you have both, and more so, that you recognize it.

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