When I was 16 I got my first job. My parents made me. They said if I had a car I was going to help pay for it, so literally the day I got my license I was out filling out applications all over town.

Back then the place to work was Country Kitchen. I applied, was hired and officially got my first job as a waitress. If you’ve never been a waitress, lucky you — it is hard work.

I learned a lot of things in my four years working at Country Kitchen. I learned how to multitask. I learned how to tolerate the rudest of people. I learned how to up-sell just about anything. I credit a lot of my sales skills to the contests my friends and I would have to see who could up-sell the most items in one shift. But the most important thing I learned was customer service.

I was a mouthy 16 year old. I didn't like to be told no, and I couldn’t stand dealing with rude customers. But Dick (the owner at the time) was big on respect and customer service. Not only did he demand respect from the servers, but he also demanded that we respect the customers. “They are always right,” he would say, “even if they’re wrong.”

At one of our staff meetings he made us watch the pickle movie. Even then (15-plus years ago) it was outdated in terms of audio and visual appearance, but the idea and message were solid. And, despite my youthful resistance it stuck with me. I still carry the ideals and foundation of Bob Farrell customer service with me. (The video, called “Give ‘Em the Pickle,” explains the importance of going the extra mile for customers with the example of free pickles for customers who order a sandwich.)

This last week, against my better judgement, we went into a phone store. I hate going in there. It’s rarely a pleasant experience, but I was trying to stay positive. We entered the building and there were a few people waiting. The two store employees were working with customers. No one looked up. There was not a “Hello, we will be with you in a moment,” no head nod, no eye contact, nothing. We waited without acknowledgment for about five minutes and then another couple walked in. They, too, were ignored. Five more minutes went by and one employee wrapped up with their customer and called up one who had been waiting. There was still no "Thanks for waiting — you're next” acknowledgement. Eventually I lost my patience and we left the store. Not once acknowledged us or thanked us for waiting; there was no hello or goodbye — not even a glance in our direction.

Of course I was angry when we left, but I was also incredibly disappointed. As we got in the car, I told my husband, "I guarantee you, they have never watched the pickle movie."

Friends, it does not matter if you own your own business or work for someone else. If you are not practicing customer service you will, eventually, fail or be fired. In the words of Bob Farrell, "Our business is not what we sell; it’s who we serve."

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