I keep hearing people say that customer service is dead. It’s part of that all-too-human tendency to think that everything in the past was better than what we have today. But for every apathetic kid that I have to nearly bribe to help me, there are dozens and dozens of kind, generous, hardworking people, doing their best to make my day just a tiny bit easier, and in a way depending on my happiness to earn a living. Having worked in the retail world for many years, you might think that I’ve become bitter and jaded. You might think that I am always looking for an escape with one foot out the door. But in that store, that retail environment, I have learned more about humanity than I ever did in school. I’ve heard it said that if you want to know how a man will treat his wife, watch how he treats his mother. I believe that something similar can be said about retail. If you want to see how patient, courteous, engaged, and appreciative a person can be, watch them during a stressful retail transaction. Over the past couple of years, many people have told me their horror stories about life behind the counter. Work a week in any store and you’ll have some too, I promise. But that’s not what interests me. What does interest me are the scores of other people who enter and exit our stores and our lives and change us forever. I’ve never been one of those people who likes to hang pictures up at the office. But I do have two that I see every day. One is of my wife, the other is a photo of two of my favorite customers. Some people put their faith in politicians, while others tie their hopes to the triumphs and failures of scholars and athletes. I’ll put my money on the guy behind the counter.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.