Something’s got into the folks at Wells Fargo Bank. Like, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Or something in the drinking water. At the very least a corporate “come to Jesus” meeting.
A few months ago, seemingly overnight, well, suddenly I didn’t recognize anybody at my neighborhood branches. Everybody reeks of customer service. You walk in the door and someone is standing there — just standing there — to greet you. Like, church. The greeter asks if you need help filling out your deposit slip. (Well, not really, but it’s nice to be pampered, so knock yourself out!) The tellers use my name. They are personal and solicitous — energies not easy to push through that much Plexiglas.
I have three sons, and my family comes from a rich and time-honored tradition of Death Wrestling. I also have a grim case of presbyopia — the inability to see Presbyterians at a distance — so I wear eyeglasses. Occasionally I forget to remove my glasses before Death Wrestling. Making love and Death Wrestling — two things you should never do while wearing an expensive pair of eyeglasses.
So, about twice a year, for as long as I’ve lived in Las Vegas, I go to Eyeglass World Express. The people there are like elves in a fairy tale cobbler shop. They have magic hands and magic tools and warmth and smiles. Always warmth and smiles. They fix my tortured eyeglasses with their secret knowledge. Then they spray magic stuff on them and polish them.
I try to pay them. I beg to pay them. I offer a tip. They won’t take my money. Never one dime. I’ve never made a purchase there. Not once.
Company is coming! First impressions matter. I clean and clean and clean. There’s enough topsoil under the television to start a modest tomato farm. Now to the yard. But my lawn mower won’t start.
I call Randy at Green Thumb Lawn Mower Repair. Randy’s cool. One of a kind. Like a character out of “The Andy Griffith Show.” A lawn mower savant. He comes to your house and picks up your mower. Fixes it. Brings it back. But, by Tuesday? Because my guest is coming on Wednesday. Nope. He can’t turn it around that fast.
So, instead, when Randy comes to pick up my mower, he brings another mower with him. Unloads it. Stands in my driveway and waits while I mow my yard. I offer him a beer, but he doesn’t drink. I’m stunned by this “extra mile” of generosity and service, and I tell him so. He shrugs and grins.
I go to my neighborhood Smith’s grocery. I like Evangelical Butcher Dude. He wears dark glasses and a baseball cap. Greets me like I was his old college roommate. Tells me about specials. And invariably says, “Praise the Lord.” And I defy you not to smile when he says it.
I always look for Timishia at checkout. Because that woman’s smile flat knocks me out. Eye contact. You can’t resist her irrepressible good nature and sparkling people skills. I end up wanting to tell her all about my day.
A customer is having trouble with a credit card verification, and just melts down in that collision of shame, embarrassment and fierce pride that turns adults into Tantrum Toddlers. She turns her ire on Nancy, the manager. Nancy artfully, smoothly coaxes her away from the public eye and into the office. Minutes later, they return with smiles. The customer hugs her.
Helping people save face — now there’s a noble art.
The Mix Zone is a Thai restaurant where the food is about all that’s Thai. They play fusion jazz over the house sound system. Retro ’70s sorta-might-be Asian deco. The food, however, is out of this world. The place is jammed at lunch. And there’s this server. Pins in her lips. Tattoos galore. Nice eyes. And impeccable with people. Eating there feels like sitting down with family.
If I ever have the choice, I fly Southwest Airlines. Every time. Because it’s a whiz to have Southwest employees endlessly doting after you, which they do. From telephone to ticket counter to flight attendant to the deadhead pilot unfortunate enough to be sitting next to me while I grill him about flying like a curious little boy — nobody in the sky comes close to these people.
I dig customer service. I love the artfulness of it. I admire it. The virtue of service-for-the-sake-of-service. It’s a thing of beauty. It puts a spring in my step. Makes my day fluid and easy. Makes life less alien and more communal. Adds to my sense of belonging.
When I find it, I reward it.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling Wellness Center in Las Vegas and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.