Customer service was the order of the day in my parent’s small country restaurant. I watched my parents and learned first hand from their example. Because our living quarters were attached to the restaurant, the lessons and benefits of great customer service were demonstrated daily to me at an early age.
When I was just a young tike of about 7 years of age, my parents thought I was old enough and mature enough to wait on tables at our little country restaurant. When customers came in and took a seat at one of the four square tables, I greeted each with “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon.” Then, I took each of them a glass of water along with a menu and asked if I could get them something else to drink like coffee, tea or a soda. Once done, I would take their order and pass it on to our excellent cook - my Mother - who prepared their food. When the food was ready, I immediately served it to our patrons. As their dining progressed, and not too often as to be annoying, I would check on them to see if there was anything else I could get for them. I learned all of this from watching my parents and mimicking their behavior.
On one particular occasion, two couples who were traveling together complimented the excellent service they had received from me to my parents. They said it right in front of me and I basked in the glow of their praise. It was a wonderful feeling! But, that wonderful feeling was elevated even more when I cleared the table and I found four quarters neatly stacked in the middle of the table. They had left me a dollar tip when normally if I was tipped at all, customers would leave a nickel or dime and on rare occasions, a quarter. But, FOUR quarters from a single table! WOW!! I was elated to say the least and couldn’t wait for the next customers. Back then, gasoline cost 20 to 25 cents a gallon, so getting a dollar tip in the mid 50’s was quite something! Needless to say, it left a lasting impression on me!
In my high school years, I got a job bagging groceries for a reputable supermarket in Gainesville. On my first Wednesday, there was an elderly lady who came into the store only a few minutes prior to closing time. I was quickly informed by the older bagboys that I had to bag her groceries and take them to her car. They told me that this customer always came in on Wednesdays just before closing time and never tipped. As the newest bag boy, I had to take care of this customer. I knew this would cause me to have to work later than the others because of this customer. Indeed, she didn’t complete her shopping until 15 minutes after closing time!
While bagging her groceries, it seemed that this lady was a little sad. It became apparent to me that she could use a smile and some kindness and I decided that I was the one to give it! As I wheeled her groceries out to her car, I struck up a conversation with her and we had a pleasant and cheerful short conversation. After loading the bags into her car, she reached into her pocketbook and took out a dollar bill and handed it to me saying, “Thank you. It’s been a long time since anyone has been so nice to me.” (Usually, a tip for taking groceries out for any given customer would amount to a dime or a quarter). I thanked her and told her I looked forward to seeing her again and bagging her groceries.
When I got back into the store, the other bag boys laughed and said, “I bet you hope you don’t have to pull that duty anymore!” I just said, “I don’t mind. She’s a nice lady.” (I was careful not to mention the dollar tip as I really did want to be her bag boy in the future). And inside, I was laughing. The thought occurred to me that maybe if they’d have just shown her some kindness, they might have been getting great tips from her all along!
As I was on my way home that evening, I started to think about what that lady said, “It’s been a long time since someone has been so nice to me.” And even though the tip was great, I realized that deep down inside of me, I got a great deal of satisfaction from the act of kindness, which meant as much as did the tip money.
Being friendly and showing kindness didn’t cost me a thing. And from my simple kindness, three things happened: 1) this lady felt good that someone was nice to her, 2) I felt good that my actions were beneficial, and 3) I got a great tip!!
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to believe and know that our deeds multiply. As I wrote above, three good things happened from one good deed. And, I like to think that the good deed was multiplied further by her happiness spilling out to others.
But, what if my attitude that Wednesday evening was different? What if I grumbled under my breath as I took her groceries out to her car? I would have felt bad and more than likely that wouldn’t have made her feel very good. And, that could (and very likely would) have had a very negative ripple effect as well. There’s no telling how far my bad mood could have traveled and influenced others in a bad way.
One of the better, if not the best, tip I can share today is to keep kindness in your heart and let it show through in your words and actions. Kindness costs nothing and its value is priceless!