Thursday, April 25, 2002

Modern service

Catering to a familiar customer

        I'm tired of all the whining about customer service. Those people are just dead wrong and probably lazy. Anybody can see that customer service has never been better. We are, in fact, at the threshold of the Golden Age of Personal Service.

        Very personal.

        Just yesterday, I gave myself a big smile and swiped my credit card at a gas pump. I told myself I wanted a receipt, and I cheerfully filled my gas tank, whistling a happy tune as I cleaned my windows. I checked my oil without being asked.

        At my neighborhood restaurant, I washed the gasoline off my hands and gave myself extra napkins and ketchup. Before I sat down, I wiped the salt and french fries off my table and the mustard off my chair. I seated myself by the window without greasing my palm.

No tipping

        Just when I thought service couldn't get any better, I was given the opportunity to dispense my own soft drink. I savored the perfect ratio of ice to soda. Then, I paid a visit to the salad bar, where I was right behind a little boy who dropped a couple of cherry tomatoes in the ranch dressing before he sneezed. As I was busing my table, I admired my efficiency but I did not expect a tip. I called myself “Honey” and left.

        One cannot live by burgers alone, even with the addition of cheese-like substance and bacon. So I stopped off to pick up some groceries at the supermarket. And I use the term “super” advisedly. They have fresh flowers and toys and books and clothing.

        Generally, however, they do not have a person available to bag groceries. So, I tell myself that I want plastic and I put my own bread under the cans of tomato juice. I break my own eggs. I do this with great dispatch and a chipper attitude. My friend Frank says that his store lets you scan your own groceries. I can't wait.

        If you are really in the mood for outstanding customer service and you don't mind squandering a little time, I recommend air travel. To avoid customer-service representatives who send your luggage to Aruba and deposit you in Cleveland, many travelers have elected to carry their own suitcases aboard.

        This customer service worked so well — not counting the travelers with bags as big as Volkswagens — that passengers are now allowed to serve themselves their own food. That is, each of us is entrusted to open our own packet of Meow Mix.

        Banks, of course, have been in the forefront of improved customer service. Or at least in customer-service charges. My former bank teller used to give me a Star Brite mint. I get nothing from Jeanie, and if she doesn't like my attitude, she eats my Visa card. Sometimes I make a withdrawal, then give myself a mint, just for old times' sake.

        Jeanie's cousin has been installed at Newport on the Levee, where I can become my own parking attendant, paying for my ticket in advance and checking myself out of the very confusing lot. I am consistently good-natured and tell myself to “Have a nice day.”

        I print my own movie tickets, transport my own X-rays, develop my own photographs. I fit myself for shoes. I install my own telephones. I serve my own frozen yogurt.

        In every imaginable way, I am at my service.
       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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