What’s going on with customer service in this country? 361



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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?

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?

Guest Contributor

  1. Nothing is the same as it use to be in to days world we will never get service and manners back so sad I think

    1 REPLY
    • I am served by young people most of the time and have always found them polite. If you respond politely and friendly they will respond to you the same way!

  2. I agree, and there is nothing more annoying when the sales person is on the phone and they just stare at you like you have done something wrong, then it dawns on you that they are on a private call and they have no intention of putting the phone down to help you, at that point I walk out of the store and go somewhere else, VERY RUDE.

    11 REPLY
    • Then Lyn you would have to be in the minority because it is a common complaint and I think people have every right to complain.

    • I have been there. Staff will stand there talking to each other and seem most offended when you seem to expect some service. They are highly effronted if you dare interrupt them with an ” excuse me”

    • I always ask them something about what they are talking about and then say – oh, I’m sorry was I not supposed to ask/comment? Then don’t talk about it and just do your job by serving me the CUSTOMER

    • It happened to me also at newsagent, young girl talking on mobile, kept smiling my way, but continued – I walked out and went to another newsagent. Next time will put in a complaint, it might ‘ruffle’ some feathers …….

    • Happened to my daughter a week ago. She walked around the store while the male salesperson was on a private call. She walked out also.

    • Carny Spriggs. It happened to me last week at Coles, Nth Rocky. The woman was on the phone, walked off to the bakery, came back to the phone and totally ignored the three customers at the counter. She didn’t say anything, not even I won’t be long. We, the customers , were making the point how rude she was. The lady from one of the checkouts came and apologised and served us.

  3. Service here is not what it used to be but I don’t blame the staff I blame the management, when I was much much younger I worked during the Christmas break at David Jones, if you were rude or ignored anyone or were inattentive..you were out the door. They had Floor Walkers monitoring the staff. Management needs to instil in staff that bad service cost the store money and it will cost them their jobs. Politeness cost you nothing but rudeness could cost you your day’s takings and the store’s reputation

    3 REPLY
    • Floor walkers were supervisors, proud of their staff and proud to do their job well. Removing them saved thousands and cost millions.

    • It always comes from the top, we are suffering from the fatigue and anger induced by a Govt which has virtually said we are worthless, and that they are going to hurt us, they have set up a dog eat dog future. The conservatives have always divided and conquered.

  4. Many places like the automated checkouts have not even got staff any more !! It is the same with banks they have very few Tellers now. I can remember when an attendant came out to pump our petrol at Service Stations we never even had to leave the car and it was all done with a smile, they wiped down your windscreen for you and check your oil and water. Today it is all self service pumps and you check your own things.

    2 REPLY
    • Leanna, In the if you wanted selfservice in the old days it was 2 to 3 cents a litre cheaper than attendant pumped fuel’ Over a period of time the service stations got rid of the attendants and prices went back up. It opened the floodgates to drive off’s. Also I think we need to go to an American system of Tips. Works well over there.

    • Would you be happy paying more for your petrol to pay the wages of staff to fill your car etc etc? I wouldn’t!

  5. Maybe it’s not the staff’s fault. Maybe wages are minimum or staff cuts. I find if you offer a happy face you will get back the same.

    4 REPLY
    • got nothing to do with wages…your manner in which you speak to people is based on politeness..and treating people with respect..if the wage is lousy find another job…not the customers fault….half the people in shops cant even count change into your hand..its just dropped in…

    • So offended Sally.
      It’s all about hours cut (not exactly wages) some staff don’t even get breaks due to minimum hours. I speak from experience but won’t name drop.

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  7. We went to a shopping centre with three food outlets located at different spots along its length. Two were busy, one had hardly any customers. They had a big sign at their counter “no cakes or pastries will be cut in half”. It rather explained their lack of customers, if they can’t perform such a simple task as cutting the sausage roll in two for the mum with two small toddlers, or a piece of cake for the not so hungry couple to have with coffee.

  8. Service and the quality of goods is no longer what it used to be. But now we are paying for it with a goods and service tax . Maybe the Gov should be responsible for the standard of goods and service .

    3 REPLY
    • Prior to the gst, there was a wholesale sales tax of up to 33% on the wholesale price of the goods. The retail price of some things went down after the gst was introduced as wholesale sales tax was abolished – I was involved in retail at the time.

  9. Hubby’s birthday recently and to go with a special dinner a bottle of French wine was sought. Asked for advice on a $80 bottle to be told “no one here can help, we don’t do product training” before he walked away! WT?

    2 REPLY
  10. Lack of customer service is largely due to a lack of correct training….. Also , these days, you have to be so careful about any form of discipline if you are in a managerial position.
    I have worked in retail for nearly 50 years and back then, one really had to be a bit to servile , but it’s gone to far the other way now, a lot of the time you feel as though staff are doing you a big favour just by acknowledging you.
    A smile and a friendly greeting from the staff makes a good start. How hard can it be?

    1 REPLY
    • Pick the right store to shop in! In general the big chains don’t value their customers. I shop locally in small stores and I’m always rewarded with a smile and a chat. I can remember plenty of snooty poor service back in the “good old days”. Stop whinging.

      1 REPLY
  11. To be honest we seldom experience a lack of customer service in our town businesses. We have excellent shopping strip shops and some larger supermarkets and department stores all staffed/ owned by locals who deliver excellent service. The same can be said of the many other businesses and services that make up our town.

    11 REPLY
    • I think its the bigger cities that are the worst. .sm towns that the businesses are run by locals are the best

    • We have moved out of Sydney & I notice the difference as they take the time to genuinely ask you if you are having a good day. This comes down a lot to training and what is expected of their staff.
      I come so close to saying to some young kids “are we inconveniencing you?” their bored yeah what do you want attitude makes my blood boil. I know they get some really rude people but you know just their body language & bored tone is not a good start.
      I went to Malaysia last year & could not believe the quality of customer service. They are so glad to get a job they do not want to lose it & the help I had from the hotel staff was amazing & I always felt it was genuine. They want you to have a great experience. We could learn from them. It just needs the management to watch out for their staff & teach them good customer service. They do get a reasonable pay so they shoudl earn it not just be a conductor.
      I went to Spotlight & got very poor service so I emailed the store, got a call & spoke to the manager, he was thankful as I did not do it to get them to lose their job, but when I asked if they had something she said look up their website??? It wasn’t there. It was on a counter very close to where she was serving and she had no idea what stock they had or where it was. I felt I was interrupting them & being an inconvenience.

    • I agree with you Kay, unfortunately there are many young people who seem to think that to have a job is their right and don’t really want to be doing that job because they seem to think they are above it.

    • In shops it’s not only young ones who have no customer service shills. It’s right across the board. It’s like they are doing you a favour and don’t take up too much off their precious time

    • Woolworths are favorates, does not matter how long you stand in the queue,always an excuse if you make a complaint

    • Yes its the big city stores who have no customer service especially those who think they are doing you a favour, and seek out the rich and famous.

    • I recently took my grandson to the movies and when we arrived the booking office section was closed and you had to get your tickets at the confectionary counter… Which had a line that snaked for quite a distance. Needless to say by the time we got to the counter it was too late for that session so we had to get tickets for the next session. When I questioned the young lass as to why the ticket counter was closed all I got was a vacant stare and asked what do I want? So I politely stated my question again at which she waved in the general direction and muttered no staff now what do you want! No apology for inconveniencing me or the many other people waiting just an attitude of disrespect and I can’t be bothered! I was in customer service all my working life and I feel like there is a need for a business that teaches these people how to treat a customer because they clearly have had no training at all. Frustrating!!

    • it sounds to me Lyn that the cinema needed to have adequate staff and I can see why the young girl would have been a bit frustrated; she probably had that same silly question numerous times during a short period

    • I don’t find customer service poor, either in town, our regional centre (a Stocklands) or the city. yesterday a young man went to considerable trouble in Dymocks to make sure i had my reward points, which i really wasn’t too concerned about.

  12. My experience is….. Absolutely nothing all great. Could it be customer attitude?

    1 REPLY
    • I don’t think that it is generally customers. Just go into any lge department store (eg) Myers at Erina Fair (central Coast NSW. About 3 staff to every floor.Takes you longer to shop and then you have to queu up to pay if you can find one of the three staff per fl. That’s why I love FNQ eg. Mossman/Port/ Mareeba. Xbaxy

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