I have never forgotten my days in customer service. It started when I was a waitress in our local burger and ice cream restaurant in town. The owners made sure that all their help were trained the same way:
“The customer comes first.” (The customer wasn’t always right or even pleasant, but they always came first.)
“Don’t go anywhere without something in your hands.” (I’ve kept this habit each day of my life; it’s amazing how much time it saves!)
“Check your tables often to be sure that everyone has what they need.” (This is really a life lesson; always check in with those around you now and then; that way you don’t miss anything.)
“Never let the customer see you doing nothing.” (I must have folded thousands of paper napkins while I worked there. It was ok to sit down as long as you kept an eye on your tables and were doing something while you were sitting.)
“No matter how rude a customer is to you, always treat them with respect.” (Boy, was that a tough one! But I did it; I learned to keep smiling no matter what.)
“If you know the customer’s name, then call them Mr. and Mrs. (Name). If you do not know them, address them as “Sir,” Miss,” Ma’am,” or “folks.” (Back then you never called customers ‘guys,’ ‘y’all,’ or, in the case of older people; ‘honey,’ ‘darling,’ ‘sweetheart,’ or ‘dearie.’ It was considered disrespectful, not friendly or appropriate.)
“If you have no customers and have nothing to do, FIND something to do!” (This is where I learned to both look and be busy. There was always some sweeping to do; such as brewing another pot of coffee, folding napkins or dusting tables.)
“If a customer does not leave you a tip, ask yourself if you did the best job you could. However, some people just do not tip. Get over it.” (That alone was an ‘ah ha!’ moment. Lesson: you don’t always get what you deserve. So yes, get over it and move on.)
“If a customer should leave something of theirs on the table; sunglasses, pen, hat, etc., try to catch them before they drive away. Otherwise, just put the items behind the counter for when (or if) they come back.” (By the time this restaurant changed hands years ago, many of those lost items were still behind the counter!”)
“No swearing—PERIOD!” (One swear word would get you fired; no ifs, ands, or buts.)
The atmosphere in the restaurant wasn’t always about these ten lessons, either. Often things happened that we just had to roll with and hope for the best. The two “events” that stand out clearly in my mind are these two gems:
Gem 1: A couple came into the restaurant for lunch. They came in arguing, and continued to argue even while the waitress taking their order. The woman just ordered a Coke; the man ordered an open-faced egg salad sandwich. The arguing escalated.
When the Coke and sandwich arrived, the man wordlessly picked up the sandwich and pushed into his girlfriend’s face. Let’s just say that mayhem ensued, and the restaurant owner ushered them out at the speed of light.
Gem 2: One day a couple drove all the way up from Connecticut to have the restaurant’s famous lobster salad and fruit salad, two of our most popular items. I was their waitress, and told them that luckily we had one each left. They were thrilled!
The salads were enormous, and the two of them could not fit on one tray. Therefore I had the fruit salad in one hand, and the lobster salad on my tray. As I walked toward the customers’ table, a young boy ran into me under my “tray” arm and I lost my balance. The lobster salad slid off the tray and smashed onto the floor, and the fruit salad slammed into the wall. You can imagine how that couple felt!
It’s been decades since I was a waitress, but I never forgot these lessons. It turns out that they are all life lessons; things we should remember each day. I credit those owners who were tough but fair to me; they taught me what became my work ethic in every job I ever had.