Audio version 5’30” mins
Hey exciting news if you like the audio edition, Motivation For Sceptics is now on Spotify and I’m putting all the back catalogue up there for your hearing convenience.
Are You A Good Or A Bad Person?
It’s a big question that’s occupied lots of smart philosophers for centuries. But their long books are hard to understand, so I’ve distilled it down to a simple one-question test:
Q: Are you nice to service staff?
How did you go?
Y: You are a good person
N: You are not
In cafes, hotels, airlines or any front desk, service staff don’t get paid enough to put up with entitled antics. Most of them are just trying to do a good job, being yelled at because weather has made flights late or other things outside their control.
And better people are being held up in the queue behind.
Bad Vibes At The Checkout Desk
Let’s imagine you were a woman staying at a prestige hotel. You had checked out, then realised you had left your … ahem … personal relaxation appliance in the bedside drawer in your room. Do you:
A. Think oh well I’ll just buy another one, or
B. Call the hotel and ask them to retrieve it for you?
And if you chose B, and the hotel made internal enquiries, and they determined that the housekeeping staff had binned it, do you:
A. Thank them for their efforts anyway, and buy another one
B. Turn up at the reception desk, amid a crowd of guests, with embarrassed husband in tow, and loudly berate the front desk staff, because “it was a really expensive one so they should never have thrown it out.”
That was a thing that happened in a client’s hotel. Think about this. Hotel housekeeping staff are paid a bare minimum wage, and have to deal with all manner of unpleasant surprises. Our cranky customer was effectively asking someone on $17 an hour to bring vibrator valuation to their job skill set.
Are they meant to recognise a deluxe unit, which warrants being cleaned, Cryovac-ed and posted back to its owner, while a base-model device can just be treated as a dirty thing that can go in the bin? Should the hotel run a training day with identification charts?
And are the front desk staff to blame for your own poor packing skills?
(Side note: hotels have a diary, called The Diary, where room incidents like this are noted and discussed by up to a dozen people in a meeting the next day. Do you really want to be on that agenda? Be classier than that.)
Is This How You Treat Your Own Staff?
It translates directly to your management style. If you’re a dick as a customer, you’ll treat your staff the same way.
My business partner and I have a basic test about how our staff get treated: would we ask one of our own children to do that job?
Jobs have bits that are boring, repetitive and stressful. And, in the short term, all those things are fine because you learn a surprising amount, even if you’re hating it at the time. Deal with it.
Situations that are unsafe, demeaning, or involve getting yelled at by supervisors or co-workers, those are not OK. For anyone, regardless of their position in the work food chain.
Our belief is that most people want to do a good job, because it makes them proud. So many business owners have a deep belief that everyone, particularly staff and suppliers, are out to screw them. If you approach people with that mindset, why should they do more than the bare minimum required to get you off their back and onto someone else’s?
Don’t Get Resting Bastard Face
Also, you will have a grim life.
If you approach life with this attitude it will literally set into your face. My photographer and I went through a period of doing numerous annual reports* and barrister websites. It involved lots of portraiture of older finance and law people. You could tell their inner character within ten seconds of pre-shot banter.
Many were lovely. Then there were the ones whose faces had been shaped by an entire working life of ill-temper and adversarial outlook. Bulldog jowls. Lower teeth slightly jutting out and brows knotted in a permanent scowl. You’d ask them to smile and they physically couldn’t.
Don’t end up with resting bastard face that scares small children.
Service staff are a constant opportunity to practice being a better person. It really does rub off on all areas of your life. And if being pleasant means that you occasionally get free drinks, then there’s the return on your investment right there.
If you liked this, you might also like Stay Business-Fit In The Gymnasium Of Irritation.
NEW THING get the back catalogue of stories here on Spotify now.
If you’re new round here, I do a story like this each Tuesday. Tales that make you think: surely he’s joking but no, this is actual advice on how we built a $20M company from scratch. Get it in your inbox entirely free, drop your email here.
Ahh, the human condition. So the coffee queue at Bertoni’s in Balmain was solid, and two ambo’s walk in. The server beckons them to the front to get them served quick so they can hit the road. Middle aged man (MAM) complains. ‘Imagine you complain to the wrong guy, and he decks you’, I say. Startled reactions. ‘And then these guys are delayed attending you because some guy in the coffee shop objected to them getting priority’. Did the trick.
Good work, Mr Manners Vigilante! Coincidence: despite living nowhere near Balmain I get my beans from Bertoni’s, good gear
Shared with my other half who, having worked a ‘service’ role in the gym of a major hotel chain, loved the ‘ahem’ moment and can vouch for The Diary and discussions that take place each day, behind the scenes in hotels about ‘findings in rooms’!
Plus tears of laughter from your insight and candour, as she also has a term for women who’ve let their face set: resting bitch face! 🙂
There is a entire book on hotel room findings. A companion to those hospital emergency dept “I was vacuuming the house naked when I slipped …” stories.
So true. Unfortunately. Another great read Ian. Wished I’d filmed ‘the couple ahead of us in the queue missed their flight and were rude to the counter staff and got told they had to cough up $500 for another flight and we missed our flight and were nice to same counter staff and got another one for free’ for my How to be a Nice Person video! Problem is, nice people don’t need the video and not nice people don’t realise they are not nice. And haven’t they found that nice people live longer – probably because nobody wants to throttle them.
Cheers Jane “nice people don’t need the video and not nice people don’t realise they are not nice” so true it’s the manners version of Dunning-Krueger Syndrome
I think this is absolutely spot on. To all those self-righteous arseholes complaining about the lack of crema in your skinny almond latte put your life in perspective and watch ‘Struggle Street’ on SBS.