The girl rolled her eyes when she saw me hesitate. Overwhelmed by all the options in front of me - Smurf blue, deep purple, poison green - I needed some time to make a choice. She was visibly annoyed when I asked her about some flavor I had never seen before, and looked at her watch in objection. Sure, there was a line, but ice cream girl seemed livid that her customer took longer than she thought necessary. I apologized, walked out, and reluctantly consumed the so-manieth chocolate ice cream I had in my life.
At the coffee shop in town I witnessed a barista losing his mind. Totally furious! The second customer in line hadn’t cared to tell him to make two cappuccinos instead of one. The first one already ordered by the person in front of him. The customer should have been aware of the impracticality of ordering drinks separately! He should have known about the workings of steaming milk efficiently! He should have thought to have made his choice long before he entered the shop!
In a supermarket downtown Toronto my buddy Graham picked the register with the longest line in front of it. When I opted to go for a shorter one he pointed at the old man behind the busy counter: ‘Let’s stay in this one. He’s better. Believe me, the man does his job with pride.’ And pride he had! The guy greeted us as if we were going to buy a car, asked where we came from, and personally put our groceries into bags. They normally do this in North America, but there was something about the way he did it. He didn’t propel our mozzarella, avocados and bananas in record-breaking speed into the bag creating some kind of smoothie from a different planet. He did it with care.
So here’s my trivial petition to all supermarket attendants, coffee shop employees, and ice cream boys and girls of the world. I’m sure you see dozens of customers each day and I’m sure they behave the same way. People are sheep. They haven’t read the sign for ‘cash only’, they have forgotten to weigh their vegetables, and they don’t know what they want when it’s their turn. I’m sure it must be tiresome repeating your instructions to strangers who never seem to learn.
But here’s the thing: it’s not about how fast you can clear the line, or how annoying it is when a customer is ‘taking his time’. It’s not about how badly you’ve slept and the brutal hours you’re scheduled in for. It’s not about robotically repeating your actions and words without any sign of empathy or authenticity. It’s not about you. It’s about the thing on the other side of the counter. It’s alive. It’s breathing. It spends money at your shop. It’s a human being.
Please, ice cream girl, I’m on my knees! Trump can throw bombs anywhere he wants but the world will be a better place when you stay in the moment, treat every buyer as your first, and deliver your service – no matter how idle - with care. If you sign this deal it will be a win-win, I promise you! Not only will your customer walk out with a smile. You might too.