How Do You Treat The Waiter?

We’ve all heard that you can judge the person you’re dating by how they treat the waiter. The idea being that this reveals how they are to other people, that possibly they’re only kind to people they like, think are important or can do something for them. And it might be true, it could be an easy yard stick.

When I was shopping the other day just by not throwing unfolded clothes around I received immense gratitude from the sales associate. How could it be that our expectations are so low that this ordinary act was so appreciated?

It all got me thinking about expectations on how we treat each other in these situations. When someone is paid to serve us (usually very little) what are the world’s expectations and how can we change or exceed them?

I worked in retail most of my young life with a stint as a waitress thrown in there. So I know what it’s like on both sides. But that was 10 years ago. I wonder if technology has blurred the lines of distinction that you’re talking to a real person. That was before receipts were posted online showing tips and messages good and bad. Before there were tumblrs and twitters set up to complain about the horrible things customers do. Before our daily interactions became entertainment. Our culture has changed a lot and I don’t know that we’re really taking the time to think about these interactions past talking about how our dates treated the waiter.

But we should. This is an easy win. It’s also an almost daily win. We’re likely to go to the grocery, get food, and/or buy something daily. I think there are some easy steps we can take to improve everyone’s day.

  1. Acknowledge that you’re interacting with a real life human being. Put away your phone, make eye contact, smile, use their name if you can, something, anything to visible communicate that you know they’re not a machine.
  2. Think beyond yourself and have patience. Use having another living breathing person in front of you as a reminder that you’re not alone. Your actions have an impact on others. Be patient in lines, acknowledge when someone is busy with something else, maybe doing something for you, and let them know you’re okay waiting a minute because you see they’re doing what they can. Let them know you saw how someone else treated them and tell them how well they handled it. Just let them know you are there, you’re their partner for these few minutes and you’re going to help them help you.
  3. Be appreciative. Say thank you. Smile. Be kind.

A lot of people go into a service situation in a very combative way. Having been there and tried both ways – being nice is ALWAYS better. If you ask nicely for a manager, if you ask for an exception or another solution you’ll probably get one. I called an airline about an expired gift certificate and when the person I was talking to couldn’t help I asked nicely for a manager and ended the phone call getting exactly what I wanted. They’re there to help and when you come at them with a pleasant energy you become someone they want to be around and they’ll want to help you more and be more willing to bend rules. Treat them like a person and that’s how they’ll treat you. It’s really as easy as that. Positive energy is contagious.

When I worked in retail I knew that when someone was upset or would yell that it wasn’t personal. Something was happening in their life that I had nothing to do with and knew nothing about. But it made my smile fake, it made it a chore, and it made me defensive. Sometimes I could turn it around but more often than not it was just another horrible customer that I’d hope none of my friends would ever date.