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3 Things You Can Do to Help Us Help You (The Salvation Army Made Me Cry)

November 22, 2010

This week marks the beginning of the busiest time of year in the food service industry. People everywhere are treating themselves to restaurant meals, ordering holiday treats for their special dinners at home, and just generally eating. In a perfect world, every experience one has at this time of year would be seamless, everyone would be smiling, your own personal favorite soundtrack would be playing, and puppies would be available for hugging at a moment’s notice. But it’s not a perfect world.

I work in the food service industry, and I assure you, it is the goal of myself and all of those that I work with to give everyone that crosses our path the perfect holiday experience. If a problem arises, we will do our best to fix it, and we appreciate your help and patience as we do so. We do not appreciate screaming, rudeness, or general bad behavior in the face of our best efforts.

Last year, as I approached the storefront of the business that I run, I noticed that the Salvation Army had set up a station outside, without asking my permission. When I approached the two people standing there, I started by saying a cheerful hello and asking if I could get them a free coffee (which they readily accepted). I then asked them, nicely, if they could do me a favor and move their station two feet to the right, to create a better traffic flow for my business. I’m not exaggerating when I say I asked for a move of just two feet.

Sadly, in the face of my request, the team of two proceeded to unleash upon me a fury of epithets and nasty sentiments. According to them, I was a horrible person, a horrible manager, an affront to society and the community in which I work. Stunned, I stood there and took this abuse, and before I knew what was happening, tears were running down my face. Maybe it made them feel better to ruin my day, and if it hadn’t been my busiest week of the year I would probably have responded with less emotion. But the point is, there was absolutely no need for anyone to treat me in this manner. And unfortunately, this is what many retail professionals deal with, not just during the holiday season, but all year long. If someone came into your office building and started screaming about the spelling errors in your report, threatening to make your life a living hell, you would call the police. In retail, we call that “Tuesday.”

This holiday, if a detail goes slightly awry during your retail or food experience, please remember the following three things that you can do to help us help you. I promise, in the long run, it will make you feel better than loosing your cool and treating someone badly.

1. Don’t kill the messenger – everyone makes mistakes. The woman who can’t find your holiday order is most likely not the person who took it in the first place, and trust me, she would much prefer to make you happy than have you leave angry or call her manager to bad-mouth her. The man bagging your groceries did not maliciously drop your pie on the ground- and there is a stack of 4 million more in the back, you can get another one. We know you are tired and frustrated and have family to deal with- we do too, only we have to deal with you and a thousand other people as well. Take a deep breath, and be kind.

2. Remember, it’s our holiday too. Sometimes people get upset when they see retail staff enjoying themselves. Perhaps we are humming a tune, or wearing a Santa hat, or joking with our friends. Perhaps our merriment delays your service by 10 seconds or so. Are you really going to begrudge another human being a few moments of holiday happiness? Relax everyone. Really, relax. As I tell my staff – it’s not brain surgery. No one is going to die if you have to wait a few extra moments for your dinner rolls.

3. Tip well. A lot of people seem to think that leaving a poor tip is a great way to get even if your food was not exactly to your liking, or took too long to arrive. But a lot of people forget that your server is not the one cooking the meal. Your server is not the one that overbooked the restaurant, causing you to have to wait to be seated. So why should your server get screwed out of a few measly dollars? I’m not saying that you aren’t entitled to good service- you are, everyone is. Just remember the holiday circumstances.

The people I work with are the smartest, kindest, most compassionate, and hardest working that I know. They deserve your respect and patience. So please, as you pick up your turkey at the grocery store, enjoy your dinner out, or even just grab a coffee at Starbucks, keep in mind that the employee helping you is a person too, smack in the middle of their busiest and most stressful time of year. They are doing their best. Relax, give them a smile, and say “thank you.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 23, 2010 6:35 pm

    I like the Salvation Army less than before now. My previous issues revolved around some of their stances on social issues (i.e. “the gays”) but making you cry is completely unacceptable – ESPECIALLY SINCE YOU WERE NICE AND THEY WERE WRONG. Good luck this season, SB. And if all else fails, find and buy yourself something nice with your employee discount. (Suggestions available.)

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