Manners / Gratitude

Chapter posts

If you listen carefully to customers interacting with people in the service industries and with each other, it’s hard to believe how scarce the use of excuse me, please, and thank you are. Many people will push or crowd into your personal space, or squeeze by and brush against you without even acknowledging you. There have been many times when I’ve wanted to ask, Did you see me? or, Am I in your way? Usually I’ll diffuse the situation with my own excuse me just to keep things civil, but letting the person know that they were too close. It’s obvious that a lot of people didn’t learn the importance of good manners as children, and still don’t know as adults.

I was persuaded to go on a cruise with one of my college buddies and his family during President’s (school) vacation week in February of 2007. Out of 3,000 passengers it seemed like 2,500 were spoiled, bratty kids. I was one of about six single people on the ship, and along with a boring figure skating exhibition, ‘Charo’, (as in coochi, coochi), was part of the entertainment. What the hell was I thinking? It was one of the worst experiences of my life. One morning I grabbed something to read, filled up my tray from the breakfast buffet, and headed to the empty bar for some peace and quiet. After introducing myself to the bartender and enjoying a cup of tea and my meal, I watched as one child after another paraded up to the bar and yelled, Coke to the bartender. Finally I asked one of the brazen little brats, What’s the magic word? after their Coke demand. The bartender smiled an approving grin as he poured the drink, and the kid looked at me and asked what I meant. I had to explain to him that it was more polite to ask for a coke and say please at the end of his request, and that please was the magic word. The little punk looked at me indifferently and said, Oh, as if to say, Whatever, then grabbed his Coke, rolled his eyes, and stormed away without saying thank you. Later that same day I was sitting at a bar by the pool enjoying a beer when a customer approached and snapped, Get me a rum and coke in response to the bartender’s warm greeting. No hello, no please, no nothing. I was very tempted to turn to the customer and say, Hey, I met your son at breakfast this morning. Apparently he hadn’t learned the magic word either…

I was riding in a cab with a friend one night in Charlestown, a Boston neighborhood, when we came upon a cab in front of us blocking the street with the trunk up. The couple unloading their luggage was doing so at an unusually slow pace, given the fact that we were waiting to get by. I purposely asked my friend and our cab driver not to say anything, and asked our driver not to hit the horn, just to wait and see what unfolded. If they had more than a few pieces of luggage I would have gladly helped, but that wasn’t the case. Never once during the process did either of the customers or their cabbie hold up one finger, as if to say, Just one moment, or say anything to acknowledge our patience. After at least seven minutes they sauntered out of the street and their cab pulled away. I rolled down my window and sarcastically yelled, You’re welcome. As the preppy prima donna shouted expletives at our cab, and I returned the volley, I was laughing to myself thinking about how a videotape of that ‘incident’ is probably not one I would submit to the Boston Chamber of Commerce to welcome new residents…

We all know the old adage about getting more with sugar than salt. My friend, Susan Herbert (Airline Industry) writes:  “Any time I have a flight cancel and I have 100 angry customers in front of me, I take the time to thank the people who are polite to me and tell me they appreciate my help. These are the people I give the lunch voucher to, the complimentary upgrade, the aisle seat, or the hotel room we weren’t supposed to give. I’ve told people who have screamed or are rude that there were no options, when in fact, there were plenty. People need to understand that yelling and arguing only angers the people helping them. We alert other people who are going to be dealing with them later in the day not to help the obnoxious people.”

According to William Patrick, co-author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, Simple acts of generosity are called a ‘helper’s high.’ The key is to find simple ways to acknowledge others. It gets us out of ourselves, opens us up, and that’s usually all it takes for human connections to begin.

Suggestion #5: Try to take a moment at the end of every interaction with a worker, or at the end of every day and reflect back on who did a great job. Acknowledge and reward great service, great servers and great people. A quick follow-up phone call, e-mail or hand-written note goes a long way. A lot of people are quick to complain, but unwilling to recognize great service. Complimenting someone feels great and people really like to hear about it when they do a great job and realize that they are appreciated. It’s not that hard.