Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Teaching Courtesy: Be a Little Nicer to the Waitress

Be a Little Nicer to the WaitressHave you ever noticed how closely children watch their parents?

Let me first back up to a few months ago when we were remodeling our kitchen I bought a new garbage disposal and arranged for an installer to come put it in for me. The appointment was for 9 am but the time slipped by until the workman was an hour late. I had things to do and as I waited for him to come and do his job (which I'd already paid for at the store) I got more and more irritated until when he finally pulled into the driveway and rang the doorbell I was ready to get downright snippy with him.

But the funny thing was that when I opened the door all my rude intentions disappeared. He apologized for being late, saying that he'd drove in from the valley--a good hour drive--and got to work putting in my new garbage disposal. It occurred to me that the mere $50 I'd paid Lowe's to have him do this job hardly covered the cost of the gas for the round trip to my house, let alone the cost of his labor after Lowe's took their cut of the money. He looked tired and worn out but was polite and helpful. In fact, the salesperson who'd sold me the appliance had failed to tell me that I needed a certain piece of hardware for the installation. The workman kindly told me he had extra parts in his van which he gave me for no extra charge. For goodness sake, he probably lost money from the whole experience.

By the time his visit was over I was ashamed at myself for my initial irritation but was grateful that I'd at least had the self-control not to be rude. It surprises me, however, how many times I see people treating those in service-oriented jobs with appalling rudeness. It's as if some people think that if another person is providing a paid service that they're also being paid to be abused. Ticket agents, sales people, bank tellers, coaches, flight attendants, secretaries, waiters, they all deserve the courtesy that they're expected to afford their clients.

I hear complaints that customer service is a dying art but it seems no less accurate to say that the customers themselves aren't winning any points for manners. For example, I've always thought that to wait tables, even in the nicest restaurant, would be a tough job. You're on your feet late into the night, you're always trying to go faster, you're the middle man between the invisible kitchen and the hungry patron and you're often paid primarily out of tips. If the woman bringing me my dinner accidentally messes up my order, given the stress of the job I should certainly be able to cut her some slack. But if I'm rude to her what's my excuse? I wasn't getting my dinner fast enough? That's the way a child would respond, but it's surprising how many adults think that a little hunger justifies belligerence.

Rudeness is never justified. As soon as you stoop to sarcasm, offensiveness, disrespect or even plain old "speaking your mind" you've lost whatever high ground you may have had. If the service provided was poor talk to them about it or don't give them your business in the future, that's your right as a customer, but once you've said something belittling you've committed a worse offense. I've heard someone say that you can tell the measure of a person's character by what they do in private but character is no less defined by the way that one treats those in public who are working for or serving them. What has happened to the Golden Rule?

Which brings me back to my opening thought. Children watch adults and copy what they see. The guaranteed most effective way to teach a child to be polite and courteous is to practice what is preached. All the lectures from teachers and anti-bullying school programs in the world won't have half of the effect of a mother or father who have learned to keep their temper under great provocation.

For goodness sake, a good part of my job is being a laundress, waitress, short-order cook, janitor, chauffeur, tutor, banker, seamstress, gardener and teacher. If I want my children to respect what I'm doing and recognize the value of serving others, a good place to start would be to treat people who serve me with some kindness and respect. So on behalf of waitresses everywhere, let's teach our children that everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt and a little compassion.

***

Congratulations to Elizabeth who won the beautiful hedgie mug from Purple Petunia in last week's Saturday Giveaway.

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50 comments:

Cocoa said...

Hear, Hear!! You never really know what another person is going through. Kindness does matter, courtesy does too. Great post!

Veronica said...

Yes I am so with you. I worked in a restaurant and the waitresses were constantly complaining about the snippy customers.

Never, I repeat Never, snip at your waitress. There are way too many things that can be done for a rude customer's food.

Erica Douglas said...

Well said! I actually find that being super nice to waitresses results in my having a much nicer time, as in turn they are usually super nice back.

It's invaluable for children to learn that it's nice to be nice, and not only because it makes you feel good too.

If only we could all be teaching our youngsters what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. I am sick and tired of going for a meal (alone or with my 18mth old daughter) to find that there are children jumping around everywhere.

When we are out, at the least, I expect Erin to make a concerted effort to use cutlery (which, for the most, she is capable of)to stay seated during the meal and to be as tidy as is possible for an 18mth old. I think she will thank me when she finds herself in dining situations when she is older and she can hold her own, I know I am grateful to my mum.

erica@littlemummy.com

Mary Alice said...

Amen. There would be so much less stress, so much less violence, so much more kindness if we all woke up each day and determined to live that day with courtesy and compassion.

dcrmom said...

I'm so on your page. We all need to give one another the benefit of the doubt, eh?

snarflemarfle said...

Amen! I always try to be extra nice to service folks. I'm happy I don't have to do it and being nice just makes everyone happier.

And even if the cashier (who just got reamed by an obviously irrate customer) is still in a bad mood and refuses to "come with me" in my good mood, hopefully she'll remember that there was a bright spot in the midst of a bad morning.

Melissa Garrett said...

YES! I've worked many years in customer service - as a daycare assistant, a grocery store clerk, a bank teller, a customer service rep for GMAC insurance. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone YELL at me for something not my fault. When I was 17 and was working at a market, I actually had a customer call me a b*tch because SHE thought she made a money mistake (we had to count my drawer and everything, and she was the one at fault). I was 17!! And she was much older. Thankfully I have VERY polite children but the day that they are rude to someone else is the day I know I have failed as a parent.

Incidentally, my older sister is one of those people who yells to get her way. I think it makes her look like a complete idiot.

Tammy said...

Great post! I haven't worked a lot in customer service positions, but I've worked them enough to know that getting angry with the "middle man" does not do any good!

Summer said...

A fantastic post. Well put.

Julie Q. said...

Yes, the kids are always watching. Thanks for writing about this (what good is a blog if you can't make the world a more courteous place?) I loved the story about the repairman because I've done the same thing: stewed and gotten ready to complain and then when I hold my tongue, I remember to see things from the other perspective. It's a great skill that I hope my kids can develop.

gretchen from lifenut said...

Another amen.

I waited tables in college and it is a damanding job. Some wait staff do it because they like it...but most aren't slinging hashbrowns to Table Six because it was their childhood dream.

I only made $2.15 an hour, plus tips when I waited tables. People don't realize tips pay real bills.

They also don't realize that the waiter or waitress must pay the busboys and the bartender out of the tips, too. I didn't know that until I waited tables.

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

This is so true... And something my hubby needs to read and remember as well. Not that he's a rude person by nature, but he gets frustrated and irritated easily and isn't shy about showing it - I hate the impact that has on our kids...

I'd add something else too - so many service and customer service people are used to hearing complaints all day long - I like to take the time to praise great service and give kudos where due. It feels so good to make someone else's day by recognizing them like that! :)

Babystepper said...

I love this post. Exceptionally well-written, just btw.

I worked as a bus-girl at a busy little cafe in Colorado in high school. Hungry people can be incredibly rude. I remember one lady stopped me and said, "Honey, my homemade stew is much better than this. I'm afraid I got a little snippy with her myself and told her that homemade things are supposed to taste better so that people want to go back home.

Janet said...

Thank you for this post. I, too, waited tables through college and beyond (my 'real' job didn't pay all the bills). I hate to say this, but the worst groups to wait on were a bunch of women together. Separate checks and no tips, lots of refills, and things sent back not because the order was wrong but because they had CHANGED THEIR MINDS! Ugh. People would pay me to take a table full of women just so they wouldn't have to deal with them. One time I waited on a couple who were quite nice, but the man paid and left a cash tip, and the woman picked up part of it and took it with her. He didn't see this. I think that waiting tables should be a required high school course. One semester in the food service industry, serving, busing, hostessing, the whole works. I try to be very nice at restaurants and usually overtip just because almost always there is a table next to us who is giving the wait person a hard time in a variety of ways.

On the flip side (sorry this is so wordy!) I don't think wait staff are being trained properly these days. We had to memorize the menu and "follow" someone with more seniority for a couple of weeks before we ever got our own tables (making $2.01 an hour - no tips - sometimes your mentor would share but not usually). I'm not seeing that in some places. We were at a McDonald's in South Carolina on our way to the beach last month and the amount was $1.91. I gave the young man $2.01 and he didn't know what to do with it. Told me I'd given him too much money. And the sad part of that is, that he didn't even have to figure that out because the cash registers do that for you now.

one more and I'm done. I am happy to say that while I consider myself a general failure most of the time as a parent, both my children (ages 3 1/2 and 2) say "please" and "thank you."

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Amen and amen! So absolutely true.

And it's also so true what children pick up on from their parents - even that which isn't expressed verbally. Kids are so intuitive and things that may seem insignificant to us can be very significant in their eyes.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

You never know what circumstances a person is working under either. Wouldn't you feel awful if you were rude to someone who was fumbling everything and then found at that someone they loved had just died, or they'd just been fired, or anything else? I always try to think about that when suffering less than perfect service.

I am always trying to get my kids to understand that service should never be met with anything but gratitude. So, when I give you your shoes don't you dare yell at me for bringing the pink ones instead of the blue ones, and say thank you before you dare say anything else!

JAM said...

You are so right. I wish I had a dollar for every time I called someone down who was browbeating a cashier at Walmart or somewhere for nothing.

They always turn on me like their gonna kick my butt, then see that I'm bigger than them and their spouse put together, and they shut up. If they still won't shut up, I tell them to go get the manager and I'll be glad to explain to the magager how they've been a jerk to someone they know can't defend themselves for fear of being fired.

I hated bullys when I was a kid, and I hate them more as an adult.

I just taught my daughters that if a waiter was rude or insensitive, then take it out of their tip, or leave none and explain to them why.

See? I got fired up just reading this.

Jordan (MamaBlogga) said...

To add to the chorus, you're right on both points. Not only is it really important to be kind (to everyone!), but our children will learn how to treat others by watching us.

My father ALWAYS makes an effort to be kind to service people—noting their names (from their name tags), calling them by their names, saying please and thank you. People that he sees routinely (cafeteria workers at his workplace, hardware store employees, etc.), he learns about their families and their circumstances, and asks about them routinely.

I believe he usually would tell me that you should always be nice to people who handle your food ;) , but it was definitely more than that with him. I know I've surprised (and probably scared) more than one person by remembering their name (on the phone) or reading it off their name tag and using it.

People like to be treated as . . . PEOPLE.

Coralie said...

I worked my husband through seminary by waiting tables and tending bar. I can tell you that nice customers usually get better service. And even if you have a really bad server, tell the manager, as politely as you can, and you'll usually end up with a better experience than snipping at the bad server who will just do those terrible things Veronica mentioned.

lynnae @ from under the clutter said...

Well said. I wish I could have handed a copy of this post to a soccer coach last Saturday. I watched in horror as one of the coaches for the opposing team argued with a ref on the sidelines....with all the 9 and 10 year old girls watching.

Kelly said...

Well said.

I'm another former food server. I waited tables through high school, college and at least one year of my marriage.

There's just no excuse for rudeness. Ever. Even if the service person you are dealing with is being rude, you don't have to resort to their level. You don't need to roll through the mud they are bathing in.

The Not Quite Crunchy Parent said...

great post! It's important to teach our children to respect and honor others and too frequently we find that one DOES catch more flies with honey than with vinegar1

wayabetty said...

What a great post as usual! I agree with you wholeheartedly on being polite and respectful to others and you'll get it in return. And that's what we have been teaching our children. You get better results by being nice instead of nasty, I think.

Besides, I wouldn't want the waitstaff to spit in my food. ;-)

nutmeg said...

So true! As a veteran teacher tired of disrespectful children, I commend you for setting strong examples for your kids.

Momish said...

Oh thank you! I worked in service for so many years (waitressing and retail) and was always appalled at how people treated me. I try to keep that in mind when ever I find myself getting upset or angry at the situation, not the person!

It is true, the kids pick it all up. We were at a restaurant the other night and my daughter (who is two) told the waitress who came to clear the plates, "here, let me help you with that." Then she passed the plate to her. I almost fell off my chair!

Online Gaming said...

I agree...if you can't be kind to a waitress you are a piece of (insert bad word)

Cagey said...

Bravo!

Besides working some retail and McDonald's, I used to be a CSR myself - for Sallie Mae. Folks are RUDE, let me tell you.

As such, I bend over backwards to be nice to whoever it is that answers the phone. I never pays to be rude. Because I am nice to CSRs, they are usually nice right back. I have some really nice stories of how folks have gone out of their way to help me - I even got an unasked for credit from Sprint once - simply because the CSR felt bad for my situation.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I remember being told that you can tell a lot about a person's character by how they treat those who are paid to serve them. Rude to waiters? Probably rude at home, too. This was given to me as advice in dating, to watch how my date treated the staff when we went out, but it's pretty applicable all around, I think.

jubilee said...

So true, so true. Great post.

Whenever I say something I shouldn't, I am immediately reminded that I will probably hear the same remark from one of my children.

Being rude shows others that we are thinking only of ourselves. Being kind on the midst of conflict shows compassion.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Excellent points! We ALL need to be a little kinder and more forgiving.

I find it interesting that a lot of your anger and frustration dissipated as soon as the worker apologized for being late. I am the same way. If someone will merely take some responsibility for their actions, I am a much happier camper ... although I know I shouldn't get so peeved in the first place.

I still think customer service is a dying art ... but yes, the customers also need to do their part.

qofd said...

I hear complaints that customer service is a dying art but it seems no less accurate to say that the customers themselves aren't winning any points for manners.

I completely agree. I put myself through college waiting tables and though I have seen quite a few customer service folks who could use some blunt-force education in playing nice I've seen equal numbers of customers who need to be taught that people in the service industry deserve to be treated with respect and not as indentured servants.

edj said...

Great post! I join the others in applauding it!
I can never understand people who view others (waitresses, etc) as beneath them. It's one thing to be frustrated with bad service or a mixed up order, but quite another to express that rudely. You're quite right--kids are watching. Plus, we never know what's going on in the other person's life.

crazyclarks said...

thank you, thank you, thank you!!! some friends and i just had this same conversation last night but you said it best! thank you for a wonderful reminder, you're awsome!

Terri said...

I wholeheartedly agree.

Heather said...

You said it!

Danielle said...

Ohhhh!!!!
It's been so long since my last visit. The site looks great, real minimal.

I have moved to my own domain after a break from blogging.

As always wishing you and yours health, balance and joy.

Anonymous said...

Three of my children helped pay for schooling by waiting tables. I have seen how hard they work, what they put up with. I always tip 15% for a bad job and up to 25% for good service. Next time I come in, I am served with a smile!! MomM

Lisa Milton said...

Amen!

chelle said...

So enjoyed this post. I agree modeling behaviour is so important and treating people with respect is ever so important.

tiff said...

That was an excellent post! It is so true. Why be rude? There is no need for it. We don't know what others are dealing with in their day to day life and who are we to order another human around?

Also true is that children learn what their parents practice.

Thank you for this.

Geo said...

Fantastic post. I will put this in my pipe and smoke it.

The Wooden Porch said...

This is a great post. I'm going to nominate you for a perfect post on Nov 1st.

Daisy said...

A good friend posted the following statement outside her door at school: "Don't worry that our children are not listening; worry that they are always watching."

SabineM said...

I am with you on that post! I always try to be kind even when they are not (i never understand a rude waiter/tress)....I was a waitress once, so I know what it is like!
AND YES our children LEARN from us!!

Lisa said...

You are so right.

Years ago we owned and operated a business where my clients were all women. It was a fitness business and there were ALOT of women who thought since they were paying me that they could take their bad day out on me. And that bitchiness and rudeness just sucked. They would blame ME for their lack of results. And then turn around and talk about the big piece of chocolate cake they had that day or the fatty meal they were planning on eating that night. I wanted to pull my hair out!

During that time, to make ends meet at the business, I took a part time job in customer service for a high-end small skin care company. And we got alot of women with money who could be very rude as well. I just don't understand why people feel ENTITLED sometime to act like jerks.

So thank you for this post.

Goslyn said...

You said this so well. I always, always take a few extra minutes and compliment a job well done, to a supervisor if possible. I don't know if it makes the day for someone in the service industry, but I hope it does.

A little kindness and mercy goes a long way.

so grateful to be Mormon! said...

amen sister! :) kathleen

Bananas said...

It is SO true. I've rarely regretted harsh words that I didn't say... but too often was sorry for speaking in haste. Great post.

Liam's Mom - Gina said...

Excellent post! Excellent reminder for us to act like the adults we are.

Suzy said...

Coming from the service industry I say...preach it, Sister!