On Sunday, my wife and I got in our car and it being a nice sunny day, we decided to try an outlet mall we pass by once or twice a year, but have never stopped at for one reason or another. It’s about an hour and a half away from where we live, and we didn’t really have any purchases in mind, but it was an excursion.
As we pulled out of Lindsay, it was cold out, but the winds were non-existent so I did something I came to regret upon our arrival. Yes dear readers, I got the car washed. I know, I know, but I reasoned we’d be warming up the car for the entire drive and it was so dirty! Sure enough, when we got to our destination, my door opened, but it wouldn’t shut as the mechanism was seized up in the door.
As it turns out, I was without extra windshield fluid, a heat source, or WD-40 (a lubricant you spray). Even asking 5 fellow motorists in the parking lot of the mall came up empty. And do you think just one of the stores might have any of those items? I did, but they didn’t carry any such items. (There’s a business opportunity for someone!)
So after getting back in the car and driving for fifteen minutes holding the door shut with one hand while keeping the other on the wheel, I pulled into a gas station in the middle of nowhere. All there was there was a single-person kiosk, from which a fellow emerged. And here begins my poor customer service experience from which I think we all could learn.
I was looking at a three shelf unit outside the kiosk on which were windshield anti-freeze, gas line anti-freeze, engine coolant, and motor oil. The attendant opened his door and walked the two steps to watch me. No, “Hi can I help?” or “Whew it’s cold. Know what you’re after?” Nothing. But I could see as I inspected the product descriptions the man standing just off to my right.
Now I understand the man is working on a Sunday in a gas kiosk, and the job is not probably a high-paying position. In fact, I’d go so far as to guess it’s minimum wage, unless of course you make the assumption that he owns the entire franchised location. Either way, if I was the owner, I’d want someone manning that location who represented both the franchise name and the specific station well. So here’s what transpired next.
“Do you have any WD-40?” I asked.
“DW-40,″ he said in reply. But it wasn’t so much a clarification or question, just repeating my statement.
“No, WD-40. You know, a spray lubricant.”
“No, just here.” English wasn’t this fellow’s first language, but he spoke well enough to get by.
“My car door is frozen and I need something to loosen it up. I don’t suppose you have anything inside like that?”
And with that he took the two steps inside and held up a bottle of hand moisturizer with a pump on the top.
I paid $5.00 flat for a bottle of windshield fluid and passed on the hand moisturizer. In two minutes I had splashed some inside the locking mechanism and the door worked perfectly and we were on our way. No receipt for my purchase offered, no verbal exchange to even tell me how much the fluid cost, nor any attempt to return change. He just took my five dollars and that was that.
And as I drove away and related this experience to my wife, I thought how little invested that fellow was in his job. I’ve held minimum wage jobs before in my lifetime, and my own philosophy was to work as if I owned the business myself. After all, every customer was an opportunity for me to shine, and aside from the fact I had no idea who I might be talking to, it just seemed right to be as pleasant and helpful as I could, no matter the job.
In other gas stations there are people working for similar low wages who would have taken on a motorist in need as an opportunity to be helpful, demonstrate some problem-solving skills, and have the customer drive away impressed with their help. Why you never know, they may even contact the company directly and mention the great help they received or the person might get a tip from a grateful motorist.
This gentleman however was entirely un-invested in his job. He was and always will be, if he carries on, someone who does the same as his salary: the bare minimum. Now I don’t know his whole life story. But I imagine he’s aware drivers sometimes need more than just a fill-up with gas. He made no effort to be helpful, suggest any solution, or even feign interest. At 40 – 50 years of age, the company would have been better off hiring a high school student, thankful they’ve got a job during the school year.
So what’s to learn? No matter the job description or the pay, work with pride in what you do and be as helpful to people who are your customers. You can never go wrong by being friendly and showing some interest in what you do.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
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