What Happened to Southern HospitalityOctober 18th, 2011 by Mandy Moss
Being born and raised right here in Arkansas, I’ve always had a lot of pride at how the rest of the country tends to think of us. I had someone from Iowa once tell me, “It’s so strange to me how you can be on line at the store around here (yes, they say ON line, not IN line) and out of no where some person you’ve never seen before will strike up a conversation with you. It must be a Southern thing…”
That conversation took place many years ago, and as I stand in line at stores today, I wonder how things have changed so rapidly. Are people really less polite today than they have ever been in the past?
I’ve taken this question and put it to the test as of late, being very deliberate in my quest to find out if most people really are leaning towards the inhospitable side of life.
I have noted a couple of happenings that I felt our community could relate to.
1. If you frequent any place often enough, you will, undoubtedly, come across a checker or clerk that obviously wishes they were anywhere but there. Especially with you.
2. From fast food workers to grocery store checkers – making eye contact with you and smiling is apparently not a priority in the customer-appreciation department.
Now, I’ve also noted some other things…
1. If you frequent any place often enough, you will absolutely find that there are many friendly, polite, eager-to-please employees.
2. These employees go out of their way to seem upbeat, positive, and happy every day at work. I’m sure their lives are imperfect, but they put on a happy face anyway.
3. Employees aren’t the only rude people in stores… have you ever stopped for a good, long while to see how customers treat not only each other, but the workers? Now that’s an eye-opener!
We as individuals can often become very small-sighted in our daily activities. It’s all about us, our time, our energy, our work, and how we feel we should be treated. I wonder if rudeness isn’t the real issue at hand in our current culture… but selfishness.
As a small experiment, I branched out of my comfort zone a bit in my most frequently shopped stores. I have my favorite few “checkers” at the grocery store. I will stand in line and wait longer just to have them ring me up, because I know they will be friendly. Many of them know not only me now, but my entire family, and genuinely ask, “Oh! How are you all today?” For the sake of “research” I took the unbeaten path and headed to the “Oh no… not this guy” check-out lines.
Instead of focusing only on how the employees were treating the customers, I took a step back and watched the interactions as a whole. No one seemed to want to speak, no one wanted to look up from what they were focused on to give a quick smile. As a “people person,” this was very odd to me.
Each time I would make my way to the conveyer belt, (with my insane amount of items, when I only went in for toilet paper…) I would gear up for that awkward moment I knew was coming.
Instead of letting the checker’s grim expression put me into the “ugh, another rude person” mindset, I decided to be as annoyingly happy as I could on that given day, and say a good ol’ southern, “Hello!”
What happened many times after that was quite amazing. They actually looked up, and said hello in return. Sure, many times it was a half-hearted attempt on their part, but a starting point none-the-less.
From there, a simple “How’s your day been so far? You guys seem really busy!” by me tended to spark up a conversation. A short, sweet, “Hey, I’m a person, you’re a person, we should care a bit about each other,” talk.
I felt a shift in the mood of the checkers almost every time. They spend all of their work days having to be “on” for hundreds of people. Asking a hundred people in a row “how are you?” and never having one sincerely ask you the same question, would likely be draining.
By now, you might be asking, “What’s the moral of this story?”
The moral is this: The Golden Rule of treat people how you would want people to treat you should be applied to each of us.
We as customers want to be treated with respect and appreciation. I would have to assume that all employees simply want the same treatment in return.
I can’t help but wonder what would happen if all of MLive’s readers made it their personal mission to spend an entire week, month, or year focusing on being incredibly nice to all service workers in our city. Instead of being angry because “I’m not being treated the right way,” or “Why doesn’t this store care how rude their employees are,” perhaps we could take matters into our own hands; combating rudeness with kindness.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi .