I’m old fashioned to a point. I believe in manners, chivalry, that prints and plaids do not mix no matter what Lucky (or Harper’s for that matter) is trying to tell you. I also believe in common courtesy, which should manifest itself both inside the store and out on the sidewalks.
There’s no doubt that customer service in retail and restaurant establishments is waning. What used to be expected is now surprising if you actually receive it. When we lived in Hampton, Virginia we gave up on the notion of someone actually caring about how we, as the customers, were doing. And Virginia is still supposed to be in the south. They had forgotten about southern hospitality a long time ago. This is why I’m in love with Chick Fil A by the way. In the restaurants I’ve been in it didn’t matter if your server was 16 or 86, they served you with a smile and made sure you were taken care of. Amazing in this day and age. And they have some kickin’ sweet tea.
We moved out west to Missouri and were surprised at the courtesy we received almost everywhere. Going above and beyond for the customer is still alive and well in at least one small town out there. Montgomery, Alabama was a mixed bag. Some places cared about you. Some places couldn’t care less.
I was coming to the conclusion that population size of the greater metropolitan area is inversely proportional to the quality of customer service you receive. However, I haven’t been able to apply that assumption to the customer service I’ve received so far in the greater DC area. We’ve already eaten out at more restaurants here than we did in both AL and MO combined (give or take one or two…or ten) and everyone has been nice. It might have something to do with the fact that they are fleecing you with the food prices and they know it. Even the museum volunteers were happy to help us out. Well, except for that one man who made me stand forward one extra foot so the humongous amount of foot traffic (read: absolutely none) could pass through the smallish corridor I was supposedly hogging up. But other than his little gesture, everyone has been great.
What I have noticed though is that the common courtesy of acknowledging the other human beings in your immediate area with maybe a smile or a head nod is completely lacking up here. Du recounted to me his bus/metro ride into work the other day and it included mad, unhappy people hating their day as they trudged through it. Not one person smiled at him. We went to the grocery store the other day and the only way I was going to get people to look at me was if I were to don a clown suit and start juggling. And only then would they gesture knowingly at the poor woman who’s lost her mind. It’s as if people go out of their way to not be friendly.
I’m gathering my own opinions based on my flawed psychological understanding and have an idea as to why this seems to be prevalent in larger metropolitan areas. But dang it, we’re still in the south y’all (we’re in Virginia, so technically, yes we are), and I’m going to keep smiling at people. In fact, it’s my goal to get at least one scowling person to turn her frown upside down when she sees my genteel smile and nod. It has become my mission.
So, if you’re traveling through the DC area and you’re on the metro and there’s some goofy lady (probably with two little girls talking non stop) with a permanent goofy grin on her face it’s probably me. And smile at me back please.