The demise and deterioration of common manners has been one of the most talked about issues of late across the nation. The end of please, thank-you and niceties amongst Australians has seen us become less of a friendly peoples, to a nation that only cares about one thing – self. Nowhere more obvious is the demise of our common decency than within customer service, which should be relabelled customer-do-it-yerself.
Recently out at one of Melbourne’s premier cafés and pasticceria with a friend, we experienced first hand the denegration of customer service. After ordering coffee and pastries, my friend craved for a simple mixed drink of Cinzano and lemonade. After nursing the drink for at least 30 minutes, my friend was noticed that fleas had surfaced to the top of his drink. In total, six fleas were floating in the drink to which we both freaked and I encouraged him to take it back. We concluded that they must have come out of the lemon slice or the ice as it melted.
Once my friend returned to the counter, he was welcomed with snap responses and quips amongst the baristas in Italian. The barista who’d made the drink threw it into the sink after my friend told him about the fleas and offered to make a new one. After my friend declined and asked for his money back, the barista turned to another and whinged “after an hour of drinking it, he only noticed now and wants his money” and the lemon was just “dirty” in Italian to which the second barista offered to remake the drink.
By this stage my friend was fuming at the blunt rudeness of the baristas and demanded to see the manager. The manager went red after my friend explained the entire situation, explaining that a nonchalance attitude was unacceptable for baristas in such a respected café and that bitching to others in a language that most customers who frequented the café understood, was not at all professional. Suffice to say, the money was refunded and the manager apologised profusely for his staff. But the damage was done, they’d lost a customer.
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard of people being caught out bitching in a language other than English. A girl I knew bore the brunt of a whinging 50-something Sicilian woman who continually muttered Italian curses under her breath every time she was asked a question. Eventually, my colleague confronted the woman telling her she understood every word that was being said. The confrontation garnered the attention of the manageress who was out the back of the store who eventually asked the 50 year old what her problem was. The manageress was left to clean up the mess left behind and tend to my colleague.
I, too, recently was victim to poor customer service at a popular sporting store in Melbourne when I stood in front of the sales assistant and said “Excuse me” three times before she turned her head and looked at me. I was literally facing her less than a foot apart. By the time she looked at me, I figured she’d already lost my business, asked my question with less enthusiasm than she and walked off on her. She was just rude and I wasn’t going to waste anymore of my time.
So where did manners and customer service go? Did it disappear with change of the millennium or has society become so fast-paced that no-one has time for each other anymore? Schools no longer teach it, in fact, did we ever learn it at school? Or is it really up to the parents? Have parents failed their children by not teaching them proper etiquette and manners? It’s a sad state of affairs when no-one has time for one another in the general community.
So how does it change? And will it ever? It probably starts with self. If we each take the initiative to improve our own manners then one hopes that the effect will rub off onto others and snowball across society. We can only hope.