Firstly, to be ‘in service’ was to be working for a wealthy household, a Downton Abbey scenario where sometimes the hierarchies of class and position of those ‘downstairs’ rivaled that of ‘upstairs’. Service has different connotations and meanings: to serve ones country’, to service the car’, to attend a church service’, to be in a very long term employment for one company and of course to serve the public- the service industries’. Whatever way you look at it, service essentially means to give, everything from your respect, homage, expertise, duty and ultimately, even your life.

Within the service industries- cafes, restaurants, shops, salons- the notion of respect is an interesting one. In this era we are taught to be respectful to one another and respect encompasses equality and understanding, It’s supposed to be reciprocal.

Anyone who runs any of the above would probably choose their staff on the basis that they are good at giving service, it’s paramount to the success of any business irrespective how small. Of course there is nothing worse than an overly attentive hovering waiter, the phrase ‘have a nice day’ and the over use of ‘is everything ok for you- anything else I can get you?’ renders service irritating and disingenuous.

But those working within the service industries, unlike those they serve, are not allowed to have a bad day or bring their troubles to work, no, they must always be on tip top form respectful, helpful, courteous, (but not too foamy), nothing must be too much trouble, and in the majority of places that’s how it is.
Yet despite all this, sit long enough in any café, (as if I would), or stand in a queue at the checkout and you will often be witness to the most extraordinary lack of equality and abject rudeness sufficient to take you breath away, and I’m not talking about those serving but rather the customers.

Running parallel to the notion of respectful equality is that of the ‘me’ culture which, for the minority, completely obliterates politeness and tolerance- ‘I want what I want and I want it now- no please‚ no thank you and, from what I have observed, absolutely no recognition that popular places (that give excellent service and quality products) are more than likely going to be busy at times. For this tiresome, objectionable minority a wait of five or ten minutes is enough to send them into orbit. Despite being profusely apologised to, their blue touch paper is ignited and they’ll not be satisfied until they’ve had their say and been financially recompensed.

Well the customer is always right, as they say, however they have absolutely no right to verbally abuse those serving.
Some customers need to be mindful, understanding and remember that the young person serving them is not only doing their very best but may well be their future doctor, lawyer, chef, beauty therapist or teacher. While those who have been in the service industries for many years are consummate professionals and appear undaunted by such behavior because, sadly, they’ve seen it all before.

What do you think?