Tuesday, July 24, 2007

May I Help You?

Back when I was first married, I worked in a family owned Mexican restaurant. (Teela's Tacos, if any of you lived in Springville about twelve years ago.) I was the assistant manager, and one thing that we adhered to with strictest attention was courtesy to the customer. If we heard any of our employees being the slightest bit rude to a customer, they got called down for it. It just wasn't done.

I don't know what's happened to change the way fast food employees are trained over the last decade, but I honestly do not believe some of the things that have been said to me, just in the last year.

Last summer, I was paying with a check and the boy at the window asked to see my driver's license.

"This is expired," he said.

"There's a sticker on the back," I told him, referring to the perfectly legal sticker issued by the DMV which extends the expiration date. He didn't know what I meant.

"Oh, yeah? And what does that do?" Contempt and derision oozed from his voice.

"It means my license isn't expired."


He disappeared back into the window, to reappear. "Well, your check cleared," he announced in a tone that suggested he thought it wouldn't.

Let me just say, that if I had not been in a hurry, I would have called his manager over to the window and had a few words.

1. You train your cashiers to flip the license over and look for the sticker. I'd bet about 50% of licenses out there sport a sticker like that, and if you don't know what one is, you have no business to be working a till.

2. You never, ever speak to a customer like that. You maintain your cool and your professionalism at all times, and if something arises that concerns you, you call your manager over and have them deal with it.

That young man left that particular establishment (I wonder why) and has gone to work somewhere else. Whenever I am at the other place and see him, I take care that he's not the one to help me. (I wonder why)

Just yesterday, I was in the drive-through of another establishment. The sign read:

Chalupa $1.79
Chalupa (beef or chicken) $2.79

I ordered a chalupa.

"Beef or chicken?"

"Just the regular one."

A pause. "Ma'am, do you want BEEF or CHICKEN?"

Okay -- I can understand that he didn't get what I meant, so I said, "The $1.79 one."

Another pause, while he gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. "Ma'am, I do not know our items by price." This said very rudely.

I went ahead and ordered a chicken one. What I really wanted to do was curse and yell, but I had left the house for the purpose of relaxing, and what's relaxing about cursing and yelling?

Now, here's the thing -- when I worked at Teela's, I did know every item by price. All the employees were encouraged to make themselves as familiar with that order board as possible. If someone came through my line and ordered the regular one, I would know in a flash they meant the $1.79 one. If they said "The $1.79 one," I would know what they wanted. I didn't rely on the computer to tell me how to think. And we would never, ever speak to a customer through our teeth.

I have worked in the food industry, and I know that the people behind the counters are not just placed there for my ultimate convenience. I understand that they are people with thoughts and feelings too, and so I treat them accordingly. It would be nice to have the favor returned.

It does not matter whether I am dining in a drive-through or at a table with a cloth and silverware -- I expect and deserve to be treated with respect.


Shanna Blythe said...


I completely agree. And if they don't know what you are talking about it is always better for that employee to say something like, "I'm not sure what you are talking about, but let me find out", kind of thing.

I sometimes wonder if the increase in rudeness has anything to do with the "get them through the line ASAP" kind of philosophy. I don't mind that philosophy as long as it doesn't interfere with treating your customer--like a customer. They're the reason the business stays in business!

Tristi Pinkston said...

You're so right, Shanna!

You know, I'm looking at the taco picture I put on this blog and it's making me hungry . . .

Karen Hoover said...

I'm in full agreement, Tristi, and have noticed much the same thing. I still work in the food industry (bakery) and wouldn't even THINK of treating people the way so many do around me. Happy customers come back. Unhappy ones don't.

I've also noticed a distinct lack of pride in a job well done. For some reason, very few people seem to care about what they're doing anymore. Every day I work, one of the bakers comments on how happy they are I'm decorating donuts that day. They are very emphatic on praising me up to the manager because I take the time to make things look NICE. So it takes me a little longer. Isn't it worth it to have something appealing? I think so, and they agree, even to the point of hammering that into the head of my manager when he praises the others for their speed.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but it's nice to be appreciated when you try hard to do a good job.

Tristi Pinkston said...

You make donuts, Karen? I knew I liked you . . . :)

We were eating somewhere (I forget now) and the employee bent over backwards to take care of us. I asked to see her manager and told him what a fabulous job she had done and that I appreciated her dedication to doing her tasks politely and efficiently. It shocked her out of her gourd. She recovered quickly, though, and said, "So, do I get a raise?"

You go, girl!!

Now, Karen, about those donuts . . .

Stephanie said...

I miss the old days when customer service was just what we expected. Now I shop at stores that have no customer service for the sake of keeping prices low. I always tell my husband I would rather pay a little more and be treated well. Let's start a revolution to bring back good old-fashioned customer service.

Karen Hoover said...

Yes I do, Tristi. I work at one of the only scratch bakeries in Tooele. If you're ever out this way, let me know and I'll hook you up. :D Scratch donuts are WAYYYY better than the frozen kind.

G. Parker said...

That is so true!! We used to own a pizza delivery or take out store. We worked VERY hard to make sure our customers knew we cared about them. I hate it when I have a smart alek kid be rude. It's one of the reasons I enjoy being a mystery shopper!!

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