August 26, 2003


I blog this from one of the new WiFi-enabled McDonald’s, and it’s very cool. Like the WiFi Starbucks, but with better lunchtime smells.

The subject of this post: service personnel and their treatment. Last night I ordered room service at my hotel, a Hyatt in Chicago I frequent. After my meal arrived I realized I’d forgotten to order a beer, so I called room service and asked, if they had a meal coming up in the near future, if they’d bring me a beer in the same trip. This exchanged ensued:

“We’ll bring you one anyway.”

“No, only if someone’s coming up … I don’t want to anyone to make a special trip.”

“We’ll bring you one anyway.”

And that was that. When room service arrived they did so with two beers, not one, on the house. The waiter refused the tip, and then thanked ME for being a wonderful guest, one the staff is “always happy to serve.”

It is astonishing to me that people don’t treat service personnel with more humanity. I don’t receive service like this … or like the free upgrades I get on flights where I don’t have elite flyer status … or like complementary valet parking … or like the complementary shuttle service I’ll get around town (rather than a cab) … or like a cab at my beck and call when I need one … because I’m a big tipper. I receive great service because I treat service personnel like human beings, like my equal, and like people with whom I have something more than a transient relationship.

So, in the interest of providing benefits to you, my fair reader, I offer the following advice regarding how to always receive fantastic service:

  • The most important rule: treat all service personnel as if they, and their time, are more important than you and your time. You are no better than those who serve you. Indeed, given what they face in a given day, they may be better than you.
  • Exercise patience and say thank you. I guarantee that whatever type of day you’ve had, the person behind the airline counter has had a tougher day than you. They’ve certainly dealt with more assholes, and you shouldn’t be the next. So remain patient, ask how you can help them, and say “thanks” when they’re done.
  • Call service personnel by name, and remember those names. Strangers can’t build relationships of any quality. Call Bob “Bob” and encourage him to call you by your first name as well … even if he won’t.
  • Tip well, but not too well. If you’re over the top with your tips you suggest a status difference—that you’re better than whomever you’re tipping. But an extra buck or two, depending on the service, every time, says you really value the service that person is busting their butt to provide. My rules: $2 for a car (sometimes at drop off and always at pick up), $1 per bag for valet plus one or two bucks extra, 20% ALWAYS for meal and cab service (unless it’s awful, and then 15%), and an extra buck or two on top of the room service charge. And always tip in cash. Then they get the gratuity, not Uncle Sam.
  • Never ask service personnel to do something you’re not wiling to do yourself. If your car us just across the lot, ask for the key, tip the valet, and make the short walk to get it yourself. If you want a beer from room service that you forgot to order, don’t ask someone to make a special trip, ask for someone to bring it on the next room service trip to your floor (after all, if YOU were willing to make a special trip you’d go down and get one from the bar). Again, it’s about status, and suggesting that you and the staff are equals.
  • Spread the benefits of your status. Whenever I check into a Hyatt, I’m offered an amenity of some food snack—cookies, fruit plate etc.—and some drink—two beers, a split of wine, etc. Every third time or so I ask that the kitchen send my food amenity to the folks at the front desk, or in housekeeping, or the valet. Because nobody ever rewards these folks in an intangible way, other than tips, and it’s a very sincere way of saying “thanks.” Frequent travelers have a lot of perks: spread some of that love to those keeping your room clean or foot hot.
  • Finally, build ongoing relationships with people you know you’ll see often. Learn about their family. Ask about where they’re going to school. Help them with a resume if you can. And for fee-for-service providers, like cab drivers, give them a franchise: find one you like, and tell them you’ll call them every time you’re in town and need a ride. Then you’ll always have one, it will always be someone you trust, and you’ll be able to call in a favor when you need to.

There you go. From me to you, no charge. And if you happen to be among the many service personnel that keep our economy chugging along, thanks for working a tough job—one that most of us would not do by choice—and for wearing a smile most of the time. If we run into each other, the beer’s on me.

Posted by Avocare at August 26, 2003 01:02 PM | TrackBack

Well said!

Posted by: Nate at August 27, 2003 08:27 AM
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