This is something I feel passionately about. It’s a simple thing called ‘Manners’.
Yesterday I saw a prime example of how manners matter. I was shopping at Lidl. I love Lidl, love the German produce and the variety and the price. I was at the till, waiting to be served. I wasn’t doing the automated check-out thing. I rarely do those. I like to wait and interact with the person on the till. It’s nice to have human interaction.
The young woman in front of me – a student I guessed – was buying two items. She exuded ‘attitude’ and not the good sort, the type of ‘I’m entitled’ sort of thing.
She was probably around 25. She looked as though she was a Phd student, someone from some very rich Asian country.
The man serving her beckoned her forward. She did not reply, did not say anything to him, just scowled. He was very pleasant, scanned her two items. She did not thank him or engage with him in any way. Her attitude appeared to be ‘you don’t matter’.
He told her the total price of her goods and she swiped her card on the contactless machine, still without saying anything. Her payment went through. He asked her whether she wanted her receipt. She nodded, but didn’t say anything. The whole transaction which had last less than a minute – 60 seconds – had involved not one human response from her, but many from him.
He gave her her receipt, and she started studying it closely, keeping everyone else, including me behind her, waiting. She studied it some more and some more. The man behind the till examined her with an expressionless sort of patience, as he had obviously seen this all before.
I heard her say, “the price is not right. The soya milk is 58 pence, not what is says on the receipt.” She did not offer one “sorry, it appears this is wrong. Thank you.”
She did not smile or take a couple of seconds out of her busy student-filled day to acknowledge him as a human being. He checked the receipt and told her that that was the correct price for the soya milk. 58 pence he said. He maintained his patience.
She queried the other item on her receipt, studying the white bit of paper in her hand closely. She had no concept that there were other people waiting, or that the man behind the till was just doing his job.
“It is right,” he said, and finally she backed off, crumpling the receipt in her hand and walking off without acknowledging him or saying thank you or goodbye. I took note.
There was not one, “hello, please, thank you, how are you? sorry” or any other nicety in her interaction with him. To her he was nothing. To him she was a customer.
The experience enraged me. I see it all the time. The way people treat each other now.
I always say please, thank you, how are you? It doesn’t matter who I am talking to. I was a brat as a teenager and a young adult. My parents didn’t overly teach me to have manners. I have just figured as I have got older that people matter and niceties, small talk matters.
When it was my turn at Lidl, I greeted the man behind the till and smiled at him. I asked him how he was. He smiled at me – a lovely smile – and said he was fine. His eyes lit up. Someone was enquiring about him. I thanked him when he rung up my shopping and given me my bill. I thanked him when my contactless card went through and he gave me my receipt. I thanked him again when I gathered up my shopping. I told him to have a lovely day and smiled at him.
He smiled back, a grateful warm smile that made me feel good too. All that took less than 60 seconds. 60 seconds to change the world.
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