Now there’s a reference that three people, at best, will get. I expect at least one of them to fall out of their chair, possibly laughing.
Yep, I’m writing a column on manners. Wow. I must be getting old.
(and yep; a personal blog entry. Miracles, it seems, will never cease. I’ll pop a page break in here, because some people won’t care…)
Two recent events in my life struck home rather hard with me, and both related to the costs of, and benefits of, good manners.
Now, when I’m talking manners, I’m not so much fussed as to which of many spoons is the one for taking stones out of pickled horses’ hooves, or whether one should wear blue or black to a gangland murder scene, but more elements of what I’d like to think are common sense and common courtesy. Except that, as I noticed recently, they’re becoming ever more rare.
Three weeks ago, before heading to the birthday party of the daughters of a good friend of mine, we dropped into the rather massive IKEA store in Rhodes. On a Sunday afternoon. The correct word to describe what was going on in there is, without a shadow of a doubt, BEDLAM.
But it wasn’t just a question of a critical mass of people; it was also a critical mass of almost wholly self-absorbed and often quite angry people.
I was pushed, hit with trolleys, essentially forced to scoop up each of my children in turn because people were about to run clear over them – sometimes because they weren’t looking, but often just because they figured they could “get away with it”. Yes, there were people there with a bit of a give and take attitude (and a bit of patience), but they seemed to be in the very small minority. Even simple things like saying “excuse me” before shoving the hard metallic edge of your overloaded-with-MDF-enriched-tat-trolley would have made a difference.
The thing that really hit me there was that yes, it was busy, but the people being really aggressive and nasty (and it got worse when trying to get a lift back to the car, but that’s a consequence of the truly insane design of Rhodes shopping centre more than anything else) were, in effect, making it worse for themselves. People respond to the attitude they’re given, so the aggro attitude just bred more aggro attitude, and so on. It would not surprise me a jot to discover that IKEA pays off the police to cover up the murders that must take place there every weekend, but that’s just idle speculation, and I live in a state with nasty defamation laws… so I didn’t just say that, OK?
(Note: This also isn’t meant to be me up on my high horse,by the way. Everyone has rough days, myself included, but this was something else again. I would truly hate to work there, or lose all faith in humanity if I did).
But if I wanted even more proof that just being nice to people, no matter what the circumstances, can pay off, I got it the Friday before last.
I was wandering the shops at Hornsby, and headed into one of my favourite destinations, the ABC Shop.
Now, I have a history with this particular branch that relates to an incident late last year. I went in and picked some discounted Dr Who discs (as is my regular wont), and went to pay for them at the register. Credit card payment was accepted, processed and then… the register crashed, taking all details of the transaction with it. In essence, I’d paid for something, but there was no record of what (for the store’s stock records, or, critically for me, for a refund of any type). The store manager was incredibly apologetic, and spent the next twenty minutes on the phone to the tech people behind the stores, the banks, etc.. etc.. all the time growing more concerned (I suspect) that I was going to go mental at her.
Honestly, I didn’t see the point. She hadn’t crashed the register on purpose, and I’m well aware of how hard it can be to get money out of a bank when they’re not inclined to do so. Promising to pick up any and all ensuing bank charges, she rang up the sale through the other till, and asked me to drop in again if things hadn’t settled within five working days. One week (well, five working days – it was the following Friday) later, I was still waiting on the charges reversal (it wasn’t a huge sum of money or anything), so I headed back in. She apologised (again) and got back on the phone. I perused the store, and (perhaps ominously) spotted a couple of things to buy. Heading once more to the register, she set about ringing it up, and I joked that the same thing couldn’t happen twice…
(you can see what’s coming, can’t you?)
The register crashed again. Exact same problem, exact same register, exact same customer. And it hadn’t happened for a week, since I’d been in there. I got a column in Australian Macworld out of that coincidence, but I digress.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a store salesperson look so upset. I reassured her that this wasn’t the end of the world (I was hardly likely to expire for lack of Dr Who stuff, for a start), and she got back on the phone, now to chase up two weird charges. And I resolved never to approach that particular register again. She also renewed my ABC customer card, just in case there was a detail on that which was toxic to their system. Given that I’ve not had the problem again, I suspect she was right. In any case, she apologised again, and I headed off. Within a week, both minor charges popped up in my account, and no harm was done.
Anyway, that was a good eight months ago. Last Friday, after a coffee break with the wonderful MrsK, we wandered into (you guessed it) the ABC shop in Hornsby. And purchased (you’re following and probably pre-empting me here) some Dr Who discs – audiobooks, in this case, if you cared – from the non-deadly register, and a different salesperson. Out emerged the store manager, who spotted me, and let out a little squeal. I was a little worried – had she seen the Macworld column and perhaps taken offense? But no.. she was coming out to give me something.
Specifically, the K-9 statue that you should see to your right.
Now, the one she presented me with was shop broken – the box is stuffed and there’s a bit of damage to the tail, so he wasn’t “saleable”, but I frankly don’t care.
I wasn’t expecting anything by way of apology, but she was insistent (and, in case the point has escaped you by now, I may be something of a Dr Who fan). K-9 now has pride of place in the display shelf, facing off against a somewhat larger (but totally out of scale) Dalek, whose sucker you can just see out of shot.
The difference between both experiences? Both were stressful and difficult in their own way. But in the first case, people were aggressive with each other, and got aggression in return. In the second case, some simple courtesy in a difficult situation led to both parties coming out feeling good – I’m never going to complain about a free K-9 (and was still happy with the service anyway – I’m pretty much the definition of a customer for life), and the store manager looked so relieved and happy to put a smile on my face for an act of pure kindness on her part.
Like I said, a little long and a little rambling…. was that bad mannered of me?
and no, I’m still not going to tell you what RADDADEM means. You had to be there.