Today I committed a sin. A big one. Today I went through the express lane with more than 10 items!

I know you are horrified, but I think I deserve a chance to explain my actions. This was not my regular supermarket, and after a day at work with not enough sleep I was distracted. I made a mistake. So I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the four people who were behind me in line who will never get that minute of their lives back. I’m sorry.

I was also very sure to apologize profusely to the cashier when she stared at me, pointed to her sign, and said in her most excellent angry-cashier voice “you have more than 10!”. Realizing that there wasn’t much that could be done, she completed the transaction of checking my 17 items through without a smile, word or even a look in my direction. It is a surprisingly embarrassing experience when this happens, but it was an honest mistake. So when I get the incredibly rude response I have become accustomed to from almost everyone in a customer service role, I have to ask myself: what ever happened to manners?

I have worked in many customer service positions in my life: bank teller, telephone sales rep, and yes, even grocery store cashier. The difference is that I was taught that it was important to be polite to your customers in order to keep their business. When a customer comes to your counter you greet them with a smile and a “hello”, and continue to treat them politely for the duration of your time together before you send them on their way with a “have a nice day” or simply “thank you”.

I don’t do those things because I have been fed a script that I quote word for word in order to fit with some company policy. I don’t even do these things because I necessarily care. I do these things because it is my job. I get paid to not only take customers’ money, but also to offer them service. And yes, sometimes I hate (or have hated) my jobs or my customers but that is life.

More importantly than being paid for my job, I do it well because long ago my parents instilled a work ethic in me and I am not about to go back on that now. I’ve been there: I’ve worked for minimum wage, I’ve worked when I was having a really crappy day, and I’ve worked at jobs I didn’t particularly like. But if you hate your job that you can’t even force out a smile, go home. If you need to work, suck it up and do it well.

And if doing the job for the sake of doing it isn’t enough for you, you might also discover that if you use your manners people might use theirs in return. Maybe your day will get just a little bit better. Maybe you will make someone else’s day better. It can’t hurt to try.


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