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Machine vs. Complaining Employee

I guess I woudn’t want to be a toll booth operator, but it would be better than unemployment.

Last weekend, Jane and I took our daughter Eliza to college in Upstate NY and stopped at a variety of toll booths once we crossed north of the Mason-Dixon Line. On two occasions, we were greeted, well, perhaps not “greeted,” by toll booth operators who were both chatting on cellphones… and remarkably both were complaining about their jobs.

One operator simply was giving out the entry point card for a toll road, (a job that I’m astounded that exists considering the efficiency of a machine to feed the cards to motorists), and she never even looked at me. She mechanically stuck out her hand with the card, and never missed a beat complaining to someone on the other end of the phone call about how she was working a double shift and hated it. The other operator, again complaining about her job, took exact change with a nod.

Let’s face it. I’m not NOT going to use I-87 because of crummy “customer service,” and it’s not that I really care if a human or machine is collecting the toll I really didn’t want to pay anyway, but having a toll booth operator, or anyone who is taking money from me, look me in the eye, smile pleasantly, and acknowledge my presence is much preferable to the two particular instances I experienced.

But then again, how often have you visited a doctors office where a receptionist with hardly a glance, and rarely a smile, simply hands you a clipboard, and simply states, “Please fill this out,” before attending to other tasks.

Don’t like your job? Find something you like.

But in the meantime, try a smile. Try to look customers/patients in the eye. Acknowledge human presence in at least the most rudimentary manner.
This could be your replacement becaue it doesn't smile eitherI don’t expect a smile or acknowledgement from the ATM, airline check in kiosk, toll booth machine, or any of the automated time and labor saving devices we see more and more frequently.

But if you don’t function better than a machine, maybe a machine will function better than you.

Then you can complain on the phone to someone about unemployment.

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2 Comments

  1. Mary Newberry Lamb wrote:

    Now you’ve really struck a nerve, Dr. D! I agree 101% that basic human kindness has left the building, at least when it comes to customer service. I stood in line at Home Depot for 20 minutes today, with Drano and a new bucket (no need to tell you how MY day was going) waiting to give someone my money. The two cashiers were having an animated conversation in their native language about who-knows-what, and ignoring the ever lengthening line of people. When I had my turn, I asked them politely IN PERFECT SPANISH what was the delay? The were astounded that I DID know what they were complaining about, and I offered to tell their supervisor how unhappy they were with their customers. They couldn’t get me out of there fast enough.

    Posted on 10-Sep-07 at 9:02 pm | Permalink
  2. admin wrote:

    Bueno and Bravo Mary! I think customer service really started slipping when McDonalds started putting the “double checked” sticker on the drive through window bags… it represented NOTHING in the way of an actual “double check” and was an ostentatious way of window dressing, literally and figuratively, of substandard customer service. Tray

    Posted on 11-Sep-07 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

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