Jewish World Review Oct. 20, 2003 / 24 Tishrei, 5764

Neil Cavuto

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Consumer Reports

Smile while you work | So I'm getting my tea in the morning, and the woman serving me barely looks up, shoves it in my face, snaps out the price and then screams, "Next!"

While picking up some newspapers, I notice one of my favorites is missing. Without even looking up, the guy at the register blurts, "We're out. What you see is what you get."

Still later that day, when picking up a sandwich, I notice the woman has given me white toast rather than the requested rye. "Well, you're going to have to wait awhile. I have customers." I left the sandwich at the counter and never came back.

Three little things, I grant you, in an otherwise uneventful day, but timely reminders all that service isn't what it used to be in this country. Maybe it's me, but I was brought up believing the customer was always right or, at the very least, always important.

When I was a kid in high school, landing a job, any job, was a big deal. Jobs were hard to come by, so you damn well appreciated getting the chance. And you worked it; boy, did you work it. You hustled, you smiled, you toiled. You did anything you could to keep it and, maybe with a little luck, grow with it.

Never in my wildest dreams would I ever think of not even acknowledging a customer, let alone arguing with him or her. But it's par for the course in a lot of retail establishments and fast-food outlets today. The folks who run these places tell me it's because these jobs are so hard to fill. Kids know they're easy pickings, so they're acting picky. They've got attitude, and managers know they're only one bad hair day away from their workers saying "hasta la vista, baby."

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Now don't get me wrong. Not all service workers are this bad. But I certainly think they're worse than when I was a kid. Perhaps that's because the economy always seems to be begging for these types of jobs, no matter how the overall economy is doing. Service jobs remain the toughest to fill and, yet, the toughest to knock in this recovery.

The problem with attitude is that, good or bad, it's contagious. The kid who treats you like crap, treats the next person like cr-p, who likely treats other people like crap. Then before you know it, everyone is treating everyone else like crap. Here's what I say: Cut the cr-p.

And here are some quick pointers I learned as a former waiter, newspaper delivery boy and short-order cook on how to do it:

  • Smile. It might even make your day better. It has been proven that people who smile live longer. Try it. At least your day should pass faster.

  • Focus. Look your customer in the eye. Don't shift. Don't wander. Make that customer feel you care. And the more you radiate "I care," the more your customer radiates "I care for you, too!"

  • Blink fast. Slow blinkers tend to be slow people, period. They respond slowly, react slowly and think slowly. Fast blinkers do none of these.

  • Speak up. No one can hear you mumble. Mumblers get mauled. People who hear 'em generally avoid 'em; that's why they're exasperated by mumblers who serve 'em.

  • Laugh. I know some might think you're a tad crazy, but it sure as heck beats being more than a tad rude. And laughter, like a smile, is contagious. Try it.

The bottom line is the bottom line. It's no accident that the best companies in this country generally have the happiest workers in this country. Very successful companies like 3M, Ebay, and Procter & Gamble routinely top "best places to work" surveys. Are you connecting the dots here?

Happy workers are giving workers, and they're successful workers, too. Their customers come back because they feel they're wanted back. Do you feel that way at your coffee shop or at your neighborhood store? Believe me, people who feel they have alternatives will find alternatives. And sometimes they have nothing to do with price. They have everything to do with something as simple as a smile.

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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." Comment by clicking here.


10/13/03: Dull man walking: Why Gray was too gray
10/05/03: Who says we're so depressed?
09/29/03: Thanks, but no thanks
09/22/03: Big Companies vs. Big Government
09/15/03: Terrorists and idiots: Financial lessons learned
09/08/03: Watch out, Mr. President
09/03/03: Tips for Empty Nesters
08/25/03: Friends and hypocrites
08/18/03: When good news goes bad
08/04/03: PHONY BALONEY!
07/28/03: The meaning of a pin
07/21/03: We are what we eat
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