What's going on with customer service in this country?

I have been flabbergasted lately at the lack of customer service everywhere I go. Gone are the days where we could have a good old chat with the clerk, now we stand there and are gawped at!

Just yesterday I was at my local fabric store and was looking for a particular type of tape. I asked a younger looking girl – she was the only employee available for miles – and she just stood there. She didn’t even acknowledge me, she just pointed towards the sewing section, as if I hadn’t already looked there for 20 minutes. She then suggested going to the fabric cutting counter and asking a woman there. The line was about 20 people deep, so I waited for 15 minutes so the lady could tell me she had no idea what I was looking for! I searched for it on my phone, found it on their website and showed it to her. She shrugged and let me wander off.

Not three hours later I was at the cinema, lining up to get my tickets. I’d prepaid online so I was in the ‘skip the queue’ queue. The lady said ‘next!’ and I walked up. She stared at me and said “ticket?”; no pleasantries, no nothing. She looked at her monitor and handed me the tickets, saying “You do realise the movie has already started?”. I was 5 minutes late and unless this is the distant past, there’s about 45 minutes of trailers anyway! I couldn’t believe her rudeness, but then again, I could.

It has become the customer’s responsibility to say hello to the dumbfounded employee, who stands there, bored and helpless. Gone are the days you can walk up to a counter and be greeted with a ‘Hello, how are you?” from a genuinely interested person. I don’t mean to discount the portion of wonderful and hardworking people working in customer service, because I know they’re out there, but they seem hard to come by. Wouldn’t you agree?

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I’m also speaking from a position of authority (in a way). I worked for many years as a store manager for a department store, and we prided ourselves on our service. I ran that store well and we never received a customer complaint, not on my watch. I miss the days where I could see a regular and have a chat. Now, I visit the same coffee shop every day and the same girl asks my name. She tells me to stand to the side every day and yells ‘next!’. It’s impolite and makes you wonder who their manager is.

Last year, I visited the US with my daughter. We had the most incredible and personal service I’ve ever received from the staff everywhere we went. They were attentive, looked happy and were there when you needed them. But then I realised, these people are relying on my generous tip. They have an incentive to be nice! I wonder, should this be implemented in Australia? Or would our customer service clerks become greedy and competitive?

Us Australians used to have such a strong work ethic – in fact we were known for it here and abroad. But now it seems it is slipping away and I wonder, what happened and how can we bring the focus back to the person paying these peoples’ wages?


Tell me what you think. Should there be a tipping system in Australian so that workers work harder for their pay? Or should the onus fall on employers to train their staff to be more attentive?