Jewish World Review May 28, 2004 / 8 Sivan, 5764

Neil Cavuto

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Consumer Reports

Why do we tolerate awful people? | So I'm waiting at the airport gate for a plane to the West Coast, when I learn it's just been delayed a minimum of two hours. I go up to the airline agent to find out if there are alternative flights to the same city.

"How should I know?" she blasts.

"I don't know," I answer, "maybe because you WORK HERE?!"

I guess I was stunned by her rudeness. But I shouldn't have been. I see it more and more.

Those sympathetic to this airline worker might say it's the hours, the pressure or the industry itself. I don't buy it. After all, it's not as if I can just pop on my show and be rude if I've had a hard day.

My dad was a big believer in treating people well, oftentimes even when he himself wasn't well. His theory was, "It's not the other guy's fault you're having a bad day."

But something has happened in this country today where the behavior that stands out is the smile, the laugh, the extra service. It's sad that we have become so accustomed to bad service that we're shocked when we get good service. My parents' generation taught me the customer is always right. These days, it seems the customer is wrong, too.

I guess there's something to that . . . that we all become so frazzled, so angry and so short-tempered that we act frazzled and angry and short-tempered. What's remarkable to me is how this permeates whole generations. The other day at a drive-through, I reminded the teenage girl serving me that she forgot my drinks. She looked at me, hissed, rolled her eyes, and then took her sweet time getting me the sodas.

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Now keep in mind I never yelled at the girl, never snapped at the girl, never did anything to make her the pill she was. I never told the girl, "Hey, you idiot . . . you forgot something here!" I simply reminded her of an oversight. All I got was 'tude.

It's the tollkeeper at the bridge, the woman who serves you coffee at the shop, the computer help desk guy on the phone. It's all of these places, all of these venues and all of these professions.

Some might argue it's the pay in some of these professions that keeps the employees rude. I don't buy it. What could explain the bank branch manager who couldn't be more indifferent or the CEO who couldn't be more dismissive? Believe me, I've seen rich jerks and I've seen poor jerks. Trust me when I say that jerkery knows no financial pedigree.

What's happened in our society is that we have stopped caring about our society. We forget the little things, so it's no wonder some of us screw up the big things.

Me? I try to work hard on the little things. I know it's not much, but on the 27th of each month, every month, every year, I do something special for my wife — a small gift, a dinner out, I don't know. It heralds the first day of our first date. And we've been doing it now for more than 20 years. Trust me, I don't break the bank for the occasion, but I do mark the occasion. Because that little date is a big thing to me.

And trust me again when I say I can be just as short-tempered as the next guy . . . I am of Italian descent, after all! But I try not to start out that way, and my days at work are much more constructive and pleasant when I am not that way. That's the idea — to look at the good ideas, the good possibilities and the good results.

My mom was prone to using a lot of overrun phrases. One of her favorites was the old "honey" over "vinegar" line, that we can get more being nice than being nasty. She was right then. She's right now.

Part of the problem with service in this country is we don't honor it like we once did. There's nothing wrong or evil about having a bad day. There's everything wrong with making others have to have it . . . with you.

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Neil Cavuto is managing editor of Business News at FOX News Channel. He is also the host of "Your World with Neil Cavuto" and "Cavuto on Business." He's the author of the forthcoming "More Than Money : True Stories of People Who Learned Life's Ultimate Lesson". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.


05/24/04: Good golly, Ms. Gandhi! Lessons for President Bush
05/17/04: Yes, it's cool . . . to be nice!
05/10/04: Bill and me: The story of the former president who took on the current business anchor!
05/03/04: Cleaning up in life
04/26/04: Ignore that man behind the curtain!
04/19/04: Sorry for not being sorry
04/11/04: Dying . . . to live
04/02/04: The rude CEO
03/30/04: Shut up, move on, watch out!
03/22/04: LET HIM LOOSE!
03/15/04: FREE MARTHA! (Kinda)
03/08/04: Al, how do we love thee?
03/01/04: ISN'T THAT RICH?!
02/23/04: The real issue on tax cuts
02/17/04: Let Atkins rest in peace!
02/15/04: The smallest slight, the biggest headache
02/09/04: Sign it, send it, be done with it!
02/02/04: What a pain in the class!
01/26/04: Pundits punt it
01/19/04: What's wrong with having a temper?
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01/05/04: 2003 — The year of the optimist
12/22/03: Nothing succeeds . . . like success
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07/28/03: The meaning of a pin
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07/14/03: Don't like it, don't keep it!
07/07/03: The check, and the recovery, is in the mail!
06/29/03: Who says Al's our pal?
06/23/03: The big pitch for the "big get," no big deal!

© 2003, Neil Cavuto