Thursday, 6 September 2012


Can I have some service please?!” I ring the bell. Ding! Nothing. No cough or 'Coming! Be right with you Madam.' from the room beyond. “Service! Service!” I holler, jamming the bell with my finger, ding-ding-ding-ding-ding...I let out a deep sigh of indignation. “Thank you. Have a nice day.” I mutter, as I read the sign taped to the counter: If at first you don't succeed, try again. I guffaw sarcastically. The small print underneath says: We can also be contacted by phone and email. Er, when??? I've tried and received the standard response: 'All our operators are busy at the moment. Please try later.' Email replies have been the same: auto-generated. Arrggghhh, this is driving me insane!

Rational people give up sooner, think 'oh well, forget it. I'll go elsewhere.' Those half-crazed from failing to get a response get madder. They think, 'If I try this, maybe I'll get through.' Write. Redial, hold the line. Countless times. Complain. A game of persistence. The foreign voice reading the script can't comprehend your deviations. You speak louder, faster. Not slower. Lose your patience and wring the phone. Cut yourself off, slam the phone down in its cradle. The matter is not resolved. Shops fare a little better, except you get that stare if you, god forbid, ask where something is. Interrupt their shelf-stacking or a cosy chat. A huff, a frown, that look of can't-you-see-I'm-busy. Sometimes you get the other look, the duh-I-don't-understand-you. Face blank, I can't help you. The tired old line, 'We don't stock that.' Then you spy it, do a dance on-the-spot. Eureka, you found it!

Where has service-with-a-smile gone? What has happened to our attitude? When I say 'our', I refer to us - all of us- as we all use the service industry. At some point we've been the employee and/or customer. Played each role. How do you act? Did you still continue to treat others as you would like to be treated? Do you get frustrated? Do you assume different attitudes? Become more demanding or surly? As customers, are you unreasonable? As employees, are you bothered? I have an example I'll like to share which happened in a branch of Wilkinson. I was standing in line, the next one but one in the queue. In front, a 40-something man, was about to be served. We'll call him Nutter 'cos that's what it said on his t-shirt. Nutter was rude to the middle-aged female cashier, expecting her to unload his brimming basket, pack his items in plastic bags and be quick about it. The request to empty his basket went down like a lead balloon. He has to do that as well? His language brittle, jaw clenched. Eyes shifty. The cashier scanned and packed, Nutter grudgingly handed a note over. Exited. My turn, I had to comment: remarked on her patience, wished her a better day. Said she was relieved to be clocking off. I understood. I emphathised.

Where has being human gone? Where is the service in dealing with 'real' people?