Just a Thought – May I get the Door Sir? – James Mauro

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ThinkTHUNDER BAY – A short time ago, an article appeared on this website concerning the act of Tipping. To ensure prompt service is the believed meaning of that acronym, but exactly who defined what services or products are entitled to a tip and what is not. I ask this question not to criticize the act, but to shine some light on what for me is a confusing topic, along with the connected topic of service. After all, tipping and service seem to go hand in hand.

My son Richard works in a clothing store and he works reasonably hard. For his first year or so he was making minimum wage just like countless others. However he was not part of any tip pool. When he waited on someone for a half hour, provided them with fantastic service and made the shopping experience wonderful for the customer, he was doing his job. When the same service is provided at a restaurant, the waiter/waitress receives fifteen percent of the bill as a reward for great service.
Now I am part of this system. I certainly tip at the restaurant, never at the clothing store. Why is that exactly? Both provide a service that I want, both can be good or bad and in some cases, the clothing employee works much longer with the customer than a waiter or waitress. Perhaps it is just simply about the experience of going out for dinner being a bit more special.

Human nature often dictates that money is desired. It does not always result in better service or better employees but underpaying people certainly can impact the service they provide. Service seems to be derived from the word serve which seems to suggest that you are providing something to someone else. It may be a product or a service, the word taking on a slightly different meaning in that context. You can provide good service to someone or maybe even serve your country. While service seems to have multiple meanings, some people have forgotten the one phrase that no business should ever forget: customer service.

This summer I required two specialized services and contacted recommended companies to provide them. I spoke directly to the owners of both companies. Company A and I spoke in late April, again in May and then in June. The owner committed to coming to our camp. He never showed up. I then contacted another company and again spoke to the owner. Within 48 hours I received a price and an estimate as to how long he might take to complete the job. He was working on my schedule now. When other people ask, I will be singing the praises of Adam and his well drilling company who obtained two additional jobs down at our camp area. I suppose company A had too much business.

The same was for a project we needed completed at home. It was not a large project and I left a second message for the owner to come by after not hearing from him for a week. We finally stopped waiting and called a second company involved in concrete. That young man attended within hours of us speaking. He thanked us for calling him and said he was looking forward to working with us. Ryan clearly knows that service is vital to his business. The first company finally did call and apologized for not getting back to me sooner. I give him credit for that and may in the future try him again, but not this time. Ryan got the job within two minutes of showing up simply because of service.

Now moving on, I am going to assume that all of you feel the same way about this topic: telephone answering systems. These systems may be a lot of things, but providing service is not one of them. When you land in one of these time warp answering machines, do you just want to scream in to the phone and say pick up already. Pam on my facebook page stated she was on the phone for twenty seven minutes with her television provider listening to how important her telephone call was. That is not fun. Every fifteen seconds listening to a recorded voice tell me that my call is important.

Today I called a federal government office for my mother. The first menu had seven options, the second menu then had three additional. When I pushed the required button, I was forced to listen to a message that was a minute long that I did not need. Then they said I could either push a button to repeat the message, push star to return to the main menu which almost put me over the edge or hit zero to speak to a human being. Alleluia, an honest to goodness live person who might actually answer a question, so zero it was. The nightmare was over right? Not quite.

First I had to hear about how my call was sent to a cue and will be handled in priority sequence. I then I had to hear about how my call would be recorded for quality and training purposes. Quality? They were kidding right? Finally after what seemed like forever, a very nice government employee came on the phone who was incredibly helpful and we wrapped up the business in less time than I was on the phone listening to their message tree. I have had the same experience with private business. Do they not get the fact that these recordings are just a tad annoying and instead of being helpful, may be costing them business.

What has happened to service. Where did it go. When my parents owned a business my dad would allow me to “help”, good training for later in life. One day he gave me a valuable lesson. A customer said thank you and I said your welcome like my parents always taught me to do. Dad gave me the “look” but then explained: they are coming to our store he said. They are spending their money here when they could go elsewhere. We do not say your welcome for selling them goods, we say thank you to them for providing us business. At nine years old, I understood what my father was saying but it seems to me that this message has been lost. Far too often staff say, you’re welcome. Do not think you are doing the customer a favour for taking their money. It is important to remember that your job depends on them spending their money where you work but I think I have strayed far enough away from my initial question about tipping.

Are tipping and good service a necessary team or are they just as often mutually exclusive. I suppose it depends on personal experience because like me, you have probably had all kinds of varied interactions with employees. I have had many great experiences with minimum wage staff while having a number of poor experiences with those who make far more. Money it seems to me is not what makes a great employee.

The taxi driver is tipped because he drove you somewhere, but the employee who spent thirty minutes with you fixing your plumbing problem at Canadian Tire is not. The hairdresser usually receives a tip but not the clerk at a chain store who sells you hair products and the hair dresser is likely paid substantially higher. The pizza delivery person receives one probably far more often than the UPS man. As I said, I am a bit confused on how all of this stuff got started.

I know that I tip where it is expected but I did miss the meeting where the tipping scale increased to fifteen and twenty percent. That is the range I fall in, but I just do not know when it changed. When I reviewed the table that appeared on this site, I have to confess that the suggested rate for a tour guide floored me as they suggested in the area of twenty percent. So fifty people on a bus, paying $50 each, give the tour guide ten dollars. Not a bad day’s work.

When I am in Vegas and the doorman opens the door to the cab even though I did not ask him to, should I tip him. Hotels staff their concierge desks to provide a service to their guests who are paying pretty good money for a hotel room. Should they be tipped? The maid who likely works as hard as anyone in a hotel keeping your room clean, seems to be more deserving but others may disagree. I am not sure why I tip the people behind the counter at Tim’s or Robins but never tip the kids behind the counter at McDonald’s or Wendy’s. I am not sure of the difference. Tipping like service seems to be all over the map.

Tipping has grown from one of rare occurrence to a system that people depend on for their livelihood. I do not know if that if a good thing or not but I do wonder why some are deemed more important than many other services who do not receive that extra income. I know my son and countless others like him would appreciate the extra income.

We all know that when dining out, tipping is expected. I tip all the time, but I do have one pet peeve I would like to share with any wait-staff who may read this. Do not ask if I want change back. What I have discovered over the years is that inevitably those who do not ask if I want change are far more likely to receive a larger tip, than those who ask the question. Let the customer decide if a tip is to be left. You will find the majority will certainly leave one. Say you will be right back with my change. After all, if you have provided great customer service, you will not have to worry about a tip being left. Now if someone could just tell me why I do not tip the guy filling my lumber order of 200 2 by 4’s at Nor-Ont Supply but I do tip the guy who handed me a cup of coffee. It is all so confusing.

Just a thought.

James Mauro

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