was looking to purchase some sewing needles at a fabric store. This seemed an
eminently reasonable place to shop for such an item. The store had been rearranged
since my last visit, so I asked for assistance from a 40’ish female employee
standing at the checkout counter with nary a customer in sight.
“Hmm,” she said. “I’m
not sure where those are.”
While that didn’t
seem a sufficient answer to me, she made clear that our conversation was over
by breaking eye contact and flipping through a magazine. Wandering around the
store, I found the needles and returned to checkout. This time, a second lane
was (wo)manned as well. Both women looked decidedly nervous that I might
stammered, “I haven’t started my shift yet,” while the other, my original
helper, said, “My machine isn’t working right.”
“Is it possible to
buy something?” I asked.
“Maybe he can help
you,” said my non-electee for employee of the month, pointing at a young man
helping someone at the custom framing counter.
While the thus
anointed employee wasn’t supposed to handle regular purchases, taking pity on
me, he did so.
shortly thereafter, showed me a contrast as strong as one finds in the popular
children’s book, Richard
Scarry’s Book of Opposites. Unlike the book’s series of
contrasting pictures, for example one showing a tall tower of blocks and the
other a short, piddling one, I saw strong contrast between various salespeople
My husband was
speaking in Denver and we used a taxi app to find a ride to a friend’s house.
While we were still in our hotel room, the driver called to let us know he was
downstairs and to assure us that there was no need to rush; he would wait for
us. When we came outside, a 40’ish male driver was standing outside his yellow
cab. He proceeded to open the car doors for us as if he was a limousine
service, closing them after we were seated. Although the ride was short, by the
time we arrived at our destination we felt so well taken care of that we wanted
his number in case we needed further rides. Before we could ask, he offered us
his card, with his profession proudly listed across the top—transportation expert.
Over the next few
days, the contrast continued. A young helpful hotel worker who went above and
beyond his job description when he saw us struggling with cumbersome luggage
was counter-balanced by a waiter who couldn’t seem to remember that we had
placed an order and told us that the kitchen was out of items. Meanwhile, a
nearby waitress cheerfully served those treats to diners who arrived after us.
I contrasted the behavior of a gracious and warm bank employee with an
irritating encounter at a TSA checkpoint
The tally of good and
bad customer service fit no pattern of gender, race, country of birth, or age.
What it did make clear to me is how unemployment figures, labor statistics and
poverty analysis cover up more than they reveal. Our taxi driver might be
a laid-off lawyer who is driving a cab until his chosen field picks up. Maybe
he simply loves driving and constantly meeting new people. Either way, if I had
a company in Denver, I would have asked him to come in for an interview in the
hopes that we could find a slot for him. If he is committed to driving and
wants to increase his income, I would lay odds that in a few years (if
government regulations don’t prohibit) he will own a fleet of cabs or be
earning serious money as a personal driver for one or more people who want
waiter and my fabric store women should be replaced as soon as possible if the
establishments that hired them want to stay in business. If those two people
then lament the high unemployment rate or other external factors as the cause
of their difficulties, they will be missing the point. Raising the minimum wage
or agitating for better working conditions won’t help them be successful. By
providing federally protected union employment, the government is reducing the
chance of a TSA position being a stepping-stone to greater work and instead
encouraging any bullying tendencies the agents might have. When all is said and
done, different people ostensibly doing the same job often deserve different salaries.
I cringe every time
politicians talk of the importance of sending more kids to college. Even
ignoring the troublesome academic content and social environment, four years in
a service or sales job, serving others cheerfully, respectfully and competently,
would do more to bolster future success for most young adults than university
can. Do we make a mistake lumping people into earning categories, such as
“fourth year teacher,” or “new unionized construction worker”? By making
it more difficult for businesses to hire and fire whomever they please, and to
decide freely what to pay, are we being less helpful to people, whose souls
crave productivity? Are we also harming society, which falls apart when too
many people feel entitled to jobs and money, rather than proudly earning them?
P.S. My husband and I
are hosting the Ancient Hebrew Wisdom Experience in Dallas, this October. Aside
from sessions on business and making money by my husband and others, I’m going
to be speaking as well. My husband and I are doing a multi-hour presentation
focusing heavily on marriage wisdom from the Bible. You can find out more by
going to www.ancienthebrewwisdom/event. I’d love to see you there!
Don’t forget to check
out our super-special
before we close for Sukot.
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