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Sunday, May 29, 2011

25th May - The way we were

I know that when you look back in time, things are rosier, skies bluer, smiles brighter and whatever else Gladys Knight tells us our memories should be. I can remember lots of bad times as well, embarrassing moments, things I could have done much better etc.

Whilst in Cornwall, not only was there a greater love of food, there seemed to be a slower pace of life. Every pub or restaurant we ate in had a note on the menu, asking customers to be patient, as each meal is cooked from scratch. 'Dear impatient person, real food does not go ping when it is cooked. However simple a menu is, it is prepared with the care that good food deserves. Get over it, you're probably on holiday, so relaxing is what you are supposed to do, not run at 100 miles an hour.

One of the things that you forget you've missed is customer service, untl you experience it again. You know the sort of thing I mean, 'Good Morning', 'Can I help you', 'Just call if you need anything', 'Please', 'Thank You'. None of these need a lot of training, and used to come naturally to all of us whether customer or seller. So why do banks and other services think that dialing a line to Bombay constitutes service. You usually have to key in birthdate, postcode, card number, account number, inside leg measurement before you even get to the person reading from a script.

Its only when you see service do you realise what has gone. In a M and S Outlet, (not even the stores) in Barnstable, The women enjoyed talking clothes so much to the customer - me, that they helped me chose accessories for a purchase I had made. In another instance in Prestos in Cornwall, a forgotten takeaway coffee was replaced with a smile.

Maybe its because the customer is important to them because of the huge tourism industry. I'd like to think that it's because they are so isolated from the rest of Britain and the world that they aren't poisoned by bad manners and can't be bothered attitudes that inflict the rest of the retail industry. I really can see why people give up their lifestyles to go to live there, even though the wages are low, and houses unaffordable.

I've seen it elsewhere as well. In Chicago young men in their twenties hold doors for you. In New Zealand, the place that many think time stopped in the 50's, a rather large rotund lady got her only pair of trousers wet and needed to replace them, and went into a ladies outfitters to get some new ones. They didn't stock her size, and so the assistant rang another shop, asked if they did, and gave her directions to it. I thought this was a lovely story, so told people about it. One of which was a shop assistant. She responded, 'What do you expect, we only get minimum wage you know.' And they don't in Devon or Chicago or New Zealand?

What they understand is the bigger picture, be polite and helpful and people come back and buy something, which means more money for the business and job security - simple isn't it? Treat people as a human being and they respond positively.

We could get something of this back if we all want it, hence the choice of song: The Way We Were - Gladys Knight and the Pips (better than Big Nose).

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