Labor Day, Smiles, and Flies by Michelle W. Jones CMP

Merriam-Webster provides several definitions for the word “labor,” including “the services performed by workers for wages as distinguished from those rendered by entrepreneurs for profits,” and “an economic group comprising those who do manual labor or work for wages.”

As Labor Day approaches in the U.S., I think of the workers in our society and especially frontline staff. Restaurant servers, hotel housekeepers, flight attendants, valet drivers, bellmen, ticket takers, toll booth workers—these are all folks I encounter in my work and in my personal life. They work hard, often for less-than-great wages, and some rely on tips. These workers usually go unnoticed—they’re part of the scenery—until we have an emotional reaction, whether negative or positive.

We definitely remember when we have a negative experience. Like when the gate agent changes your seat assignment even though you paid for a window seat wingfront. The reason given is that it’s a small aircraft and they have to evenly distribute the weight. There is no apology for the inconvenience or offer to refund the seat assignment charge. That can leave a bad taste in your mouth for flying in general but particularly for that air carrier, right?

Similarly, we also remember when we have an excellent customer service experience. The frazzled and overwhelmed restaurant hostess who seats your party of five in a better table because she remembers you from lunch earlier in the day. The shopkeeper who strikes up a conversation with you because she can tell you’re not from the area and she wants to be sure you feel welcome in her city.

It’s easy to have the attitude, “Well that’s their job; they are in customer service.” Yes, of course it would be wonderful if all frontline workers were cheery at all times. They may not realize just how much their demeanor can affect the perception of the company by the end user.

But it is our responsibility as customers to realize these are hard workers who deserve respect, kindness, and patience. The old saying that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar is true and goes both ways. A smile and kind word can go a long way to better someone’s day. (For the record, I never understood why anyone wanted to attract flies, but I digress…)

So as Labor Day plans likely include travel, eating out, and gathering with friends and family, be sure to be kind to those who are working on the long weekend.

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