“Hi, Can I Help You?”

There are five words that every working person in Roswell needs to learn: “Hi, can I help you?”

These are words best delivered with an upbeat, optimistic voice, and often accompanied by a smile. A smile is the process of widening your lips while turning the corners upward. It is not uncommon to see teeth if this gesture is performed correctly.

Please don’t confuse this activity with the alternative baring of fangs.

We’ve got a service problem in Roswell, a fairly serious one. It’s so prevalent that most people seem to have simply given up and come to expect this widespread, passive-aggressive hostility as a normal fact of life. But it isn’t normal. The rest of the world isn’t like this.

It would be easy to blame this fundamental lack of professionalism on the usual suspects, like the hyperactive, inexperienced teenagers who often work in fast-food restaurants. But based on experience, it isn’t limited to them.

“Hi, can I help you?” are five words that literally everybody in this town needs to say to each other far more often. It’s just as important to say these words as it is to say “Hello” when you pick up the phone.

That goes for you, little miss fancy-pants secretary at a respected business establishment. When I walk into your lobby and you sit there, silently staring at me with a “what do you want?” look on your face, believe it or not, I’m suddenly more inclined to do business elsewhere.

This includes you, two chummy coworkers who make me stand and wait for help while you finish your extremely important conversation.

And this especially includes you, manager or supervisor who has failed to impart how important it is to make the customer feel welcome and at home. People aren’t magically born with that behavior, and they don’t learn it by way of threats, or raised voices. They learn by way of constant cajoling and coaxing. It might sound hokey, but you really need to make the employees feel like a part of the family before they take it upon themselves to act that way.

Every teacher knows that you don’t tell somebody something one time and they suddenly learn it by heart. You playfully tell them repeatedly until there is no need to tell them again.

I’ve worked in service jobs. Most of us have. My dues were paid making pizzas, and subs, and cinnamon rolls. For several years I performed an almost adequate impersonation of a bartender. Most of us are fully aware of how hard it is to bust your butt for barely enough money to survive. This leads to frustrations, and frustrations must be vented.

The problem is that frustrations often turn into bad attitudes, and like the contagion of a new flu virus, bad attitudes spread far and wide. We end up creating this petty, bitter, maladjusted world where one bad attitude is passed on to another, and from there to another still, from person to person, stranger to stranger, literally like a disease.

It’s incumbent on us all to remember that we’re just people, frail, overworked, often lonely, and stuck in a dinky town a hundred miles from nowhere. We’re all we’ve got. We’re all customers, too, and the Golden Rule applies even in the most depressing corridors of a cashier’s checkout lane: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Mind you, I am pro-worker to the core. I fully support the “Fight for $15” movement, which states that every working person in this country deserves a living wage. In addition to that, I truly believe that a universal basic income (UBI) is not only an economic necessity, but a social inevitability, although I doubt I’ll live to see it.

I also believe that the poor service we see in this little town is often the result of the business world’s objectification of human beings into poorly paid — and poorly treated — usable, abusable, and disposable commodities.

That doesn’t mean we don’t know good service from bad. That doesn’t mean we have to to stand aside and make excuses for somebody not doing their job. If a person can’t be bothered to perform his job with a sense of professionalism and common decency, then there’s bound to be somebody out there who will.

In the end, we practice being considerate to people primarily for our own benefit. In doing so we remind ourselves of our humanity, and our inner sense of nobility.

“Hi, can I help you?” That didn’t hurt at all.

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