Respect Builds Character and Business

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

Two Black men appropriately dressed enters Starbucks to meet a friend to discuss business over a cup of coffee and find themselves handcuffed and carted off to jail. Why? They asked to use the restroom without making a purchase. Really?

At one of this country’s most prestigious institutions, Yale, a White student decides to call campus police after finding a Black female graduate student napping in a common room in their dorm. The white student informed the Black student that she could not sleep in the room and was calling the police. The Black student had fallen asleep while studying. CNN News reported that the Black student, Lolade Siyonbola, showed her ID and her response to campus police was “I deserve to be here. I pay tuition like everybody else,” I’m not going to justify my existence here.” And to that I say, rightfully so. If she had walked up on a man, white or Black, in a female only dorm, perhaps that would have justified her reaction and a call to campus police; but that was not the case. Had I found a male student napping in an all girls’ dorm, it would certainly have aroused my suspicion somewhat and perhaps initiated a call to campus police, but we are talking about two women. My question to the white student is “Who died and left you in charge?”

Recently, I had to pick up a prescription at Sam’s Club. I did not plan to shop that day and did not have my card. While there, I decided to pick up a few grocery items. I stopped by Customer Service to get a temporary shopping pass. At the prescription counter, the clerk could not find my name in the computer. The pharmacy clerk asked if I had two cards. I replied, “no, only one”. She said, “I can’t find you in the computer; your card must have expired”. I responded, “no”. I had recently renewed my card. She said, “you need to go back to Customer Service and get a card because I can’t find a valid card in the computer”. I told her I was not walking all the way back to Customer Service. I wasn’t feeling good that day and just wanted to hasten my time in the store. After about 10 minutes, the clerk decided to call Customer Service with no answer. She searched the computer a second time and found the correct information. The clerk completed the transaction and retorted “the next time you bring your card.”

It wasn’t what she said, but how she said it. Wrong person, wrong day!! I don’t take kindly to disrespect, particularly where I spend my money. I am sure the reason for her piercing comment was that she had to do a little work. It seems most folks these days want you to do their job. Here I am, at least twenty-five years the clerk’s senior, not feeling well, and being asked to walk the full length of the store and back when she could easily solve the problem by calling Customer Service. No, that would have been “too much” work. The problem is had she looked carefully the first time around, she would have found the card.

I am seeing an increase in disrespect from store and service employees. I frequently hear horror stories from friends on how employees treat them. Maltreatment is becoming more and more commonplace. Some employees are not adequately trained in customer service. Good employees are hard to find. I am a business person. I know all too well the type of labor pool businesses must draw from. Unskilled and undereducated workers can either make or break a business. Some workers do not have the basic knowledge of how to perform their job, how to respond to customers or how to solve problems. This is no stretch of my imagination when a waiter takes a broom to sweep off a table in a four-star restaurant or a worker behind the counter at Burger King having to constantly pull up his pants while preparing food. One of my pet peeves at restaurants is seeing staff sweeping near my table while I am eating. It’s disgusting, nasty and should not be tolerated when dealing with food.

On the other side of inexperienced employees, there are those who really love their jobs and go the extra mile in providing service. I ran into one such Wells Fargo employee just a few days ago. I don’t frequent that particular North Charleston branch; so the teller did not know me from Adam’s Apple. Here is what happened! I pulled up to the drive through window and while retrieving my debit card and before seeing the teller, I heard this bubbly greeting “Hello, welcome to Wells Fargo; what can I do for you today?” It wasn’t early in the morning when you expect tellers to be fresh. It was the end of the day. After dealing with all kinds of customers, the teller still sounded fresh and eager to help. She went on to say, “do you have to travel 526? I understand they are rerouting traffic. I don’t know the cause. You may want to check before getting on the interstate”. That’s someone who loves their job and knows the importance of good customer relationships. Good customer relationships build good business.

Instead of having just live bodies in place, employers should have frequent employee training. Employers should really pay attention to customer feedback and ratings if they plan to remain in business.

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