By S. Friedman, Matzav.com
Call me old fashioned but I think some people nowadays leave a lot to be desired as far as manners go. In particular, I’ve noticed a steady decline in quality in matters related to intrapersonal business services. We know that in the 21st century the world is only more uncouth and obnoxious than ever, but the lack of care to how we treat and interact with people has infiltrated our community as well.
Within the context of a business interaction you would think that people would act more formal. To the contrary, it seems that once commerce is involved then all civility is subsequently dismissed. It is a two way street; both the customers and vendors perceive each other as nothing more than inconvenient obstacles in their paths.
What do I mean? Let’s take two different ways for a business situation to play out. For instance, people will call a babysitter and as soon as she picks up the phone and offers “Hello,” the rapid response is, “What are your hours, and how much is it?”
After a quick pause in which the babysitter realizes that she isn’t talking to a familiar someone that she knows (i.e. a “person’) but rather a potential customer, replies in kind, “9-4, $4 an hour no lunch, no snacks.”
Now that the caller determines this particular babysitter’s schedule and/or price doesn’t quite suite her needs, she thankfully ends the poor excuse of a conversation with an abrupt and muted “Thank you, bye (click).”
This is how it used to (should) be:
“Hi! I saw your advertisement in ____ (insert paper) for babysitting. How are you?”
The babysitter then responds cordially, “Fine, thank you, and yourself?” After the caller responds that Boruch Hash-m they’re doing ok as well, the babysitter then offers, “So how can I help you today?”
“Well, I have a really hectic schedule and I wanted to know if your hours worked out with mine.”
“Let’s see if I can accommodate you- when would be the earliest that you can drop off, wait, are we talking about a little yingeleh or a maideleh?”
Etc… You get the point. I know it’s more time consuming to be polite and personable but isn’t it worth it? Whether we are engaged in procuring services or offering them, the way we act towards people influences the whole cycle of treatment. When a business is encountered by customers who begin their phone calls in a friendly non-hurried fashion, it causes them to act likewise. The opposite is obviously true with businesses who want to be helpful to their customers.
I don’t know where the cavalier attitude towards others comes from. Maybe it’s a sense of entitlement by those spending money (“I’m paying them! They’re lucky I’m talking to them at all!”). Or perhaps it’s a mutual rationalization: “We’re all in a rush; both the customer and business want to do away with pleasantries and move on.” Either is unacceptable.
It is a matter of middos. That’s like saying “I’ll grab a lemon from Shoprite- who has time to go to esrog sellers?” Worse, it isn’t just a bad personal habit to be hasty and discourteous; it is something that changes the face of an entire community. If even minute aspects of bein adam lechaveiro get thrown by the wayside, people can become insensitive and downright rude to each other, causing their fellow Yid anguish or worse, a chillul Hash-m.
Vendors should focus on how they are performing chessed along with providing services. Customers can keep in mind that they are helping out a fellow Yid with parnassa. People’s cynicism may trivialize the message and aspiration of this column. It is precisely that cynicism that I’m addressing. It’s not being naïve; it’s being a mentch.