It’s a question of service, isn’t it?
I’ve often pondered about what makes great service. Someone who smiles and asks how you are? The attentive but not obtrusive waiter in your favourite restaurant? That shop assistant who goes the extra mile to find those shoes in your size? I’m sure we’ve all experienced good service in our time, but often, it’s the poor service that we crow about. Is it because we are a nation of whingers, or is it because we receive so little good service in this country that when we get it, we just don’t know what to do with ourselves?
We covered modern day etiquette a little while back, and it reminded me of my holiday to Mexico last year. Granted, I had paid for an all inclusive resort that was five stars, and therefore you would expect fantastic service to be part of the deal. No one goes on holiday to be tutted at and dismissed, right? Whilst true, the level of service I experienced in Mexico was something else. The smiles, the warmth and genuine appreciation that you were there, making sure everything was just right. Even on the beach, the amazing Miguel who served us ice cold cocktails couldn’t be nicer. The staff at the hotel were happy, and even if they hated their jobs they definitely didn’t show it.
Contrast with an experience I had in an upmarket London hotel, where myself and Mr S used some vouchers gifted to us on our Wedding Day to have a spa and hotel break experience. We were tutted at, rushed, pushed about in the spa and the staff seemed genuinely unhappy to be doing their jobs. Some even bitched about it in very obvious earshot of customers. It was a real shame, and it dampened our experience of our wedding present.
So why the huge difference in what should have been essentially two very similar hotel experiences? My answer is value. What value do we, as a nation, place on those who enter service type roles? Be that in the tourism industry, in retail or even in call centres, I’d argue very little. I’ve watched people denigrate waiters and waitresses, and how often do you hear on X Factor the story of a girl who hates her life as a sales assistant and can’t wait to hit the big time?
I’m not criticising those who hate their service jobs. I didn’t enjoy mine either, and I didn’t feel valued by my managers or the public at large as I stacked shelves in Asda or worked the checkouts. It was a miserable existence being looked down on by every customer that came to my till. And I couldn’t wait to leave.
In Mexico, things are completely different. For a start, the tourism industry, like in so many similar places, is the one of the largest employers and many people desperately want to work at the hotels that dot along the coastline. Secondly, if they do manage to land a job whether behind the bar, in one of the restaurants or managing the entertainment, it is looked upon as something to be pleased about, to be celebrated. I had a number of conversations with both barmen and spa therapists whilst on holiday who couldn’t be happier with a job like this.
Finally, for the most part, when travelling to these hotels most people are polite, kind and above all respectful to those in this role. Far more than we would be at home. That said, I saw some shocking examples of rudeness, arrogance and downright hateful behaviour which made me incredibly sad. Not nice to the waiter? Not a nice person in my book.
So the morale of this over long tale is this: we all like to experience good service. It makes us feel great and makes the world a happier place when people get on and talk to each other. But we don’t get it as often as we’d like because we don’t value our service industry heroes, and we can be rude and unkind.
So next time you are in Starbucks, why not chat to the barista and ask how their day is going? You might get a smiley face on your cup just like me.