'There You Go' Doesn't Get It

for the week of February 26, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

Does anybody else get as bent out of shape as I do about rudeness in the marketplace? Maybe it's just my pride. Perhaps I'm wearing my feelings on my sleeve. But I don't think so. People really are treating one another poorly.

You go, say, to a fast-food place for a sandwich and drink. You wait your turn to place an order. You step directly in front of the cashier/order-taker and wait to be greeted or otherwise signaled that the person is ready for your order.

There's no greeting. There's no eye contact. She stares down at the register-menu, waiting for you to take the initiative. So you say, "Good morning!" No movement. No eye contact. No response. You speak again, "Good morning!" more determined now to get some sort of response from the standing corpse behind the counter than to place an order. The clerk mumbles something and stares at you like you're a suspect for being Jack the Ripper. "What do you want?" comes the question sounding more like a dare than an invitation.

Your morning had been going well. You went into the store feeling great and looking forward to a quick bite to eat and getting back to work. Now you're exasperated by a bad experience in a place where you were giving business to a store whose front-line employee treated you like an intrusion into her private world. Your good mood turns south. Then, to make the experience perfect, the fellow at the end of the counter shoves the tray with your drink and sandwich across and says, without looking up of course, "There you go."

"There you go" isn't the correct response to a customer. How about "Thanks a lot!" Or "Enjoy!" Or but surely this could be too much "We really appreciate your business. Come back to see us!"

Maybe the clerk had a bad morning at home or was treated poorly by a customer earlier in the day. But should your clientele be punished for that?

Letting down on pleasant greetings, phone manners, and sincere gratitude for someone's patronage is a prescription for failure during today's soft economy. People who don't treat their customers with a modicum of respect and civility don't deserve their business and won't keep it over time.

Mother Teresa used to say that she saw the face of Christ in the sick and dying she served. It would be a good beginning for the rest of us just to see a fellow human being in those we meet and to treat them as we'd like to be treated.

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