/ Food & Drink

Does it pay to be polite?

Manners

Manners cost nothing – ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’, ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ – but other than the exchange of niceties, how many of us actually consider whether there are monetary benefits to being polite?

Most of us would’ve been brought up to be considerate of others – minding your Ps and Qs – we do this because it’s just polite to do so. As I was often reminded by my parents, ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’ and ‘speak to others as you wish to be spoken to’.

For those in hospitality it will be of no news to them that ‘service with a smile’ has monetary benefits in the form of tips. Tips are traditionally based on quality of service, but it’s become a standard practice for some. Some will always tip, others will carefully mull the service to work out whether to tip and how much – maybe asking themselves: ‘Did I get that service with a smile?’.

Politeness pays off

But for a café in Spain, the benefit is very much for the customer to reap. This café, near the city of Girona, has recently introduced a new graduated pricing system for its coffee. A courteous client will see themselves paying €1.30 [£1.17] for a coffee, a curt client will be set back a whole €5 [£4.50] for that same coffee. Those middle-of-the-road customers who remember their ‘por favors’, but no ‘buenos dias’, will find themselves be paying a reasonable €3 [£2.70].

The café owner claims to have been driven to introduce the new system after finding that customers were so rushed that they were missing simple manners.

And this is no new concept. A small café in Roanoke, Virginia, introduced a very similar policy last year. CUPS Coffee and Tea proudly brandished its new sign threatening upcharges if customers forget their Ps and Qs:

Cups Coffee & Tea in Roanoke, Virgina

Really I think it’s quite a nice incentive, manners cost nothing, after all. But it isn’t just a discount on your coffee that you could land, it could even be an entirely free meal. Like for one pair of friends in Plymouth who had their whole meal paid for at the Barbican Pasta Bar last year by a couple sat near to them. The generous strangers were keen to settle the bill to recognise the politeness of these two friends.

So, something as simple as minding your manners may even help you manage your money. It could be that you land yourself a discount on your next bill or an entirely free one if you’re lucky (and polite).

Over to you

Should it pay to be polite? Or do you think that manners should cost nothing?

Comments
Guest
bishbut says:
9 October 2016

I was brought up being told to be polite and I still try to be all the time I admit there are times when I am not as polite as I should be but try to remember my please and thank you’s all the time I also respect my elders

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Guest

I have to admit I sat pondering how politeness (or the lack of it) could have any relevance to consumer protection. Politeness is, of course, the ubiquitous social lubricant that allows society to function, but it may have more far reaching effects than we think.

Some time ago researchers at Princetown found evidence which suggested that people who are routinely polite to others live longer, while there’s growing evidence that politeness to those paid to serve you does, in fact, enhance the quality of service you receive. Being abusive to your waiter at a restaurant, for example, is a dangerous tactic, since they serve your food and a lot can happen to that food on its way from the kitchen.

But in the end being polite simply makes people happier, and when people are happy they tend to respond positively, a reaction which itself in turn rubs off on other people.

In conclusion, I”d like to thank Lauren for writing such a thoughtful and carefully-considered header, Patrick, for making all this possible with foresight and courage, the Which? founder, the late Lord Young, for having such innovative and compassionate beliefs, the Council of the Consumers’ Association, for kindly overseeing such a prestigious organisation, my wife for putting up with me and our children, for bringing such happiness and joy to our lives.

Was that too much? Ed. No – sounds about right…

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Guest

Well that was certainly some food for thought for a Monday, thanks for that Ian 🙂

p.s. I’m pleased you approve of the header 😛

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Guest

I’m wondering if a UK café could get away with charging people different prices, as mentioned in your introduction, Lauren.

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Guest

I’m not sure @wavechange, instinct tells me that it would be discriminatory to do so but then I’m not qualified to advise on that. I could certainly find out. I do wonder if people unwittingly pay more if they’re rude customers though.

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Guest

In a coffee shop I say “Please can I have ….” whereas in a pub I would ask for “A pint of …., please”. In both cases, I thank the whoever serves me. I have noticed that younger people often say “Can I get …..”. I wonder if our café owner would want to charge them more.

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Guest

I think I am polite but would avoid the café featured in Lauren’s introduction, because I don’t have much time for gimmicks. On the other hand, it is disgraceful that we have some rude people, and I feel sorry for those who have to handle customers’ complaints, either by phone or – worse – face to face.

About the only time I try to use politeness to influence people’s views is when I have a faulty product and have to convince people that I have rights under the Consumer Rights Act/Sale of Goods Act. It’s possible to be firm and calm, yet remain polite. Success obviously has financial benefits.

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Guest

That coffee sign in Virginia is brilliant. Customers can’t complain as they have been warned.

In my younger days, I worked in many cafes, restaurants and bars. Both staff and customers could be happy and polite or miserable and rude. Wages were low and most of your money came from tips so it paid off big time to treat customers well. ‘One for yourself’ at the bar soon mounted up and could be more than your night’s wages. I usually took £1, less than the cost of a drink so I could get several £1s rather than just one higher price drink that some staff took.

One restaurant I worked in had a really ignorant head waitress who made sure her ‘regulars’ who always tipped her sat on one of her tables. One time she had no spare tables for a regular couple so they sat on one of my tables. She happened to notice the tip they left me was a lot more than they gave her and I suddenly had an enemy as she made my life hell after that, giving me all the dirty jobs to do, jobs that meant I would have to stay late to finish them or jobs that kept me off waiting tables. It didn’t help when the same regulars asked to sit on one of my tables the next time they came in.

On the other side of the coin, American waiting staff can write 20% service charge not included on your bill. That really annoys me especially if they have not been polite and friendly. One time when we had made a point of asking what time last orders were in a restaurant, came back half an hour earlier than they told us and ordered starters, mains and drinks. The starters came quickly, we were half way through them, knives and forks in hands, when they were whisked away and the mains put down with the staff doing a quick disappearing act and ignoring our ‘hey we haven’t finished yet’. Half way through the mains they wanted the bill settled and had added 20% service charge. We stuck to our guns and asked them to remove it as the service had been so bad and they hadn’t even let us finish our starters. Closing time meant closing time, so a lesson learnt on getting to restaurants earlier.

Good manners do cost nothing and can make life so much more pleasurable and satisfying.

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Guest

I find I get a good response on the telephone or in person when I am trying to resolve a service problem or make a complaint or request something. But I have no idea whether that is because I am polite, or whether that is normal, because I have never tried the alternative. Logic tells me it won’t help.

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Guest

Remember sometimes we can all be grumpy – a problem in our lives, a bit of a disaster for example that should not make us rude but can make us a little abrupt or taciturn.

However it is nice to be polite and to get a response. Polite complaining is the way when a complaint is necessary; most people react badly to unpleasantness and a raised voice, so are less likely to be as helpful as they otherwise might.

One particular place to be polite is on the road. letting someone in to a traffic queue from a turning, for example, often doesn’t delay you but makes them feel better. Less likelihood of aggressive behaviour. Our local evening paper used to have people watching out for “nice gestures” like this and give the a “Knight of the road” report in the paper.

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Guest

I wish drivers would be more considerate to pedestrians and would slow down and stop when the Amber signal appears at a crossing point. So many accelerate instead. I discussed this with a friend once and it revealed that he didn’t know what the different signals meant. I explained that Amber meant Stop [if it is safe to do so], whereas Red only means Don’t Go. The days when the red lights had the word STOP on them are long gone. If I step out into the road as soon as I see the Amber signal, the approaching driver often looks as though he or she would be most impolite and might also give a gesture which is not listed under the ‘nice’ category. At least the driver has an accelerator and can make up the lost time – the poor old pedestrian can’t.

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Guest

That’s an excellent point, Malcolm. Politeness in driving is a very important aspect of the process, and is frequently lacking, along with thoughtfulness, intelligence, awareness, ability…

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Guest

Polite ? I always start off that way but life has hit me very hard and I seem to be a magnet for backstabbers etc so if I find somebody is using me or trying to get one over on me or lying behind my back then –sorry I am not a very forgiving person I have a very long memory . If they do it to you once they will do it to you again , trust in my book has to be earned, on the other hand if I am a friend of somebody they get 100 % loyalty and I would do anything to help them . Many people in life put on an act its seeing the person underneath that mask, in the end over time they make a mistake and the real person comes out , sometimes it takes years . I for my part have vowed in life NEVER to put on an act for anybody a lot of people wont accept that , thats their problem not mine , when I am polite to a “T” some people think I am a pushover, nothing could be further from the truth and thats all I want in life– the Truth. I do have a temper and it takes me all of my will not to react to evil people , if I see a person mistreated I rush to help them not worrying about myself , I just cant stand injustice in life and will fight their corner to bring equity to this life , if people hate me for it so be it I am not about to change as a certain Mrs T said .

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Guest

Duncan, I was with you every step of the way, until the final sentence 😯 But you have a wonderful way of accepting immediately when you’ve made an error. Many won’t do that. Keep up the good work 🙂

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Guest

Thank you for the kind words Ian , as regards the last sentence i think I have spent a good part of my life in the company of the wrong people, its a revelation to meet such genuine , decent people here on Which, it has opened my eyes that there are good people in this life as well as bad.

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Guest

I hope one day, Duncan, you will see things the other way round – that there are plenty of good people around with just the odd bad person. Which? Conversation seems to remain quite uncontaminated by unpleasant influences. The occasional bad egg comes in and looks around but their malign psyche can’t survive more than a few days in the tolerant and agreeable atmosphere that prevails here; it disturbs their metabolism and they go away. Yet some points of view have been put forward quite vehemently over the years. I particularly remember the Conversation about safety helmets for young cyclists that drew out strong opinions on both sides but it was generally conducted with politeness and courtesy. We all get angry at times and need a vent for our feelings.

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Guest

Far more good than bad, duncan. Why then do we allow those who run our countries to murder civilians in so-called wars? I don’t know how we motivate the preponderance of ordinary decent people to stop this sort of legalised aggression. The same reason, I suppose, people can’t be bothered to vote with their feet in everyday life. Or is it they need an organisation to band them together into a force for change for the better? But maybe then we’d get people running that organisation who had other agenda as well, and self interest, like most of our politicians. Life is a ****, isn’t it 🙂

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Guest

It was William of Wykeham (1324 -1404) who said “manners maketh man.”

In this day and age bad manners can be attributed to arrogance which originates from much deeper problems with ones ego. He who allows his ego to dominate and block the path to his true self is only half alive. Arrogance is rife in all ages but the arrogance of old age is perhaps the most disconcerting.

Dexter Palmer in his Version Control, (arrogance, old age and pride)
writes:
“but the arrogance of old age can cloak itself in the authority of past accomplishments, which can serve to confirm the belief that ones arrogance is justly held. It can shield a man from the realisation that his beliefs have calcified, that he can no longer assess a situation accurately
at first glance, that the world has changed around him and left him behind. Guarded from this knowledge, he remains content.”

I am not sure whether cheaper coffee for good manners would work for all as most of the ill mannered people’s issues go far deeper and way beyond a few pennies difference in the price they pay for their coffee, but it may work for some and its certainly worth a try.

PS I am unable to respond to anyone who repeats any of the above comments and uses them to satisfy their own ends.

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Guest

Sorry Beryl- “satisfy their own ends” implies an authoritarian censorship in the denial of a rebuttal to a statement made in the public domain IE- if you reply you are being selfish/self centered , which would win browny points at a Clinton /Trump TV debate but not in my book . Your post implies over 50 ?? -fixed/rigid /loss of balance viewpoint , thats a gross over -generalization which I dont accept , young people can be immature, lacking in judgment, limited base knowledge of life etc-etc. It typifies the American modern social idiom of “young people know best ” which is very handy for use by BB advertising showing young people enjoying modern “delights ” (at a price ) and society revolving around them because they are more easily “processed ” /programmed into obeying commands from those higher up the ladder which suites advertising ( see how I can generalize too ? ) I am old but look at my posts nothing “calcified ” about my mind only decades of learning about life and projecting it here from knowledge I learned throughout life .

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Guest

duncan, “old age” in my book is over 90. Over 50s are the new middle age. More mature people have the benefit of experience, have seen the outcomes of different situations and are capable of giving good advice to those who are younger – and sometimes arrogant. I don’t think generalisations work in this context. Impoliteness, arrogance, rudeness seem to pervade all age groups and are, I suspect, more to do with inherent character than the aging process. However, one thing that might increase with age is a little less tolerance of silliness, and a little more impatience. Less perceived time perhaps to wait and to make things happen?

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Guest

Duncan, old age is how you choose to perceive it, but it is generally accepted that anyone over 65 is approaching if not already reached their retirement years. With respect I did make the point in my post that arrogance is rife IN ALL AGES. I accept I am an ‘oldie’ myself (but I havent reached 90 yet Malcolm!) and aspire to others who are able to grow old gracefully, but the subject topic is about Manners Costing Nothing and my post was meant to illustrate some of the reasons why people behave the way they do from a psychological perspective and was not meant to be taken personally.

I think you have taken my PS a little out of context inasmuchas I have no qualms about replying to anyone else’s comments, the exception being when my comments are deliberately copied and manipulated by others in their own posts in order to further their own beliefs and then turned around and used to make their own point more valid. It’s just a mean thing to do.

It remains a fundamental truth however, that change is inevitable as we humans evolve and our children are living in a different world than ours when we were their age, and we have to accept that, the alternative being “left behind” as Dexter Palmer so succinctly makes the point.

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Guest

I just couldnt understand why you quoted Dexter Palmer in reference to old age in a negative fashion without balancing it up with a quote about young people in the same spirit. It looked too one-sided , I dont think I grow old gracefully ,in the sense you mean Beryl , I still have a fiery spirit and am still a rebel at heart and refuse to accept the world as it is just now with all the wars and millions of deaths –all for money . Beryl I would NEVER plagiarize anybody unless it is quoting from a website , I would personally feel it is not me thats writing and I was using somebody else , I am too distinct a person for that, nobody on other websites has any dubiety as to the author of my postings–me ! The day I lose my intellect is the day I remove myself from Internet posting. Yes you see change in young people signifying the world changes , but does it change for the better ? Now the real news is suppressed we are told to live in a near Disney world of make believe –“everything is all right ” yet it only takes you to look out of your window on the world to see the truth , and it aint nice Beryl , I refuse to live in a make believe world when all the western governments know the truth but hide it from you by censoring the media and they are doing a grand job. We certainly progress both mentally and spiritually, as a believer in reincarnation its a continuing cycle , the problem is when I return I will be back in the stone age with an animal skin and a club as thats all i will return to. Greed conquers all.

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Guest

I admit to being similarly confused, Beryl. And the weighty phrase “He who allows his ego to dominate and block the path to his true self is only half alive.” sounds almost biblical in tenor.

Arrogance is an interesting concept; mainly, because it doesn’t really exist per se as an independent characteristic but is only defined into existence by those who, all too often, don’t like what someone else is saying. “Arrogant” is typically defined as ‘having an inflated or unrealistic opinion of one’s own abilities’ and therein lies the rub. How can the observer make an accurate assessment of an individual’s abilities? In short, unless they are very familiar with the individual in question and have studied their output, both written and spoken, and know the individual’s experience, education and qualifications then using ‘Arrogant’ as a label simply reveals more about the labeller than the labelled. 🙂

The other danger about using words like ‘Arrogant’ and ‘Arrogance’ lies in their dismissive connotation. By mentally labelling someone as ‘Arrogant’ it allows the person making that assessment to routinely disregard what the other is saying, simply because they feel it’s of no value, and can, in those circumstances, be indicative of a closed mind.

History is littered with examples of those who dismissed what enormously gifted members of the human race tried to say and were ignored, persecuted or even killed, simply because what they were saying didn’t comply with the mindsets and expectations of the listeners. Jesus Christ and Galileo spring immediately to mind, but there were many others.

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Guest

Duncan, as long as you don’t come back as Fred Flintstone 🙂
Did you ever watch the ‘grumpy old men” and later the “grumpy old women” serious on TV and were you able to appreciate the humour? I have met quite a few real life ones in my time, some of them still very immature but have learned to respect their views. Who was it that said there is no growth without stretch marks?

There are also a great many natural disasters that frequently take place in this world that humans are not directly responsible for and an equal number of good Samaritans who risk their own lives in an effort to save the injured and who comfort the relatives of the deceased. People who are unable to actively partake can and do contribute money, without which any rescue efforts could not take place.

I confess to knowing very little about engines and telecommunications except they are a vital necessity to everyone’s life today, and how frustrated I feel when they breakdown. My main interest however is in people, both young and old, who are also known to physically and mentally breakdown from time to time. Your role in life was evidently meant to ensure the continuity of communication between the human species is maintained which, according to some of your comments, undoubtedly comes with many drawbacks.

Meantime a little gesture of appreciation can help to brighten someone’s day whether it be a handshake, a nod of the head or even a bow as the Japanese engage in, or maybe just a simple smile or a please or thank you can make all the difference in a world full of worry and stress.

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Guest

You have met grumpy people (usually old ) Beryl and you correlate that with me in some way ? but again you have got it wrong . I have said from the beginning on Which I am a very sociable person , smiling in company, lifting peoples spirits , even when I went to parties and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife I was the one whom would break it by getting people to talk to one another . In public I am an extra -extrovert , while shy as a child I am the opposite now and engage many strangers in conversation , looking out to help people ,if I can. I dont naturally go round with a grimace- hating the world , although if the occasion merits it I can be reserved . While I have suffered depression in the past I give out a positive attitude as I have a burning, unquenchable desire , in spirit to help this world and its inhabitants and I have been given the ability to cut through all the bull and see the truth in practical down to earth terms . This means I speak out at what I see , NOT at what I surmise , if people want to stick their heads in the sand because of social/economic /political preference , so be it but that isnt me I live for reality and its a painful life both physically and mentally and to me philosophically

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Guest

Duncan I don’t understand why I am unable to make a generalised point about a topic without it being taken personally. I have not made any accusations to or about any one person in particular and have even attempted to introduce a little humour into a topic about manners.

Reality is painful I agree and different people have developed their own coping mechanisms in order to deal with some of the realities of life, ranging from complete denial of a situation to the opposite extreme of becoming all too aware. The solution is finding your own balance between the two.

In this particular forum there are moderators to intervene when things get out of hand. I do welcome this and do try to adhere to the guidelines as they assist in maintaining a sensible and constructive debate relating to everyday events concerning the general public as a whole.

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Guest

Beryl If I make a point on a public website I am entirely open to a rebuttal , and , as you know many have “rebutted ” me . To me thats entirely fair but to imply that answering a post intelligently constitutes a breach of the rules is to potentially reduce the freedom and openness of constructive debate. There are plenty of countries where you cant debate anything –check out Saudi Arabia – jailed – whipped- tortured etc and thats just one country.

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Guest

A healthy debate is always encouraged on convo, but please be nice to each other. I think, after all, that we’re proving that manners really do cost nothing, but you have a lot to gain from using them 🙂

Guest

The bottom line is manners cost nothing the problem is we live in this Tory land with the original policy Maggie Thatcher adopted ‘me first, me second and if there is anything left I’ll have it as well, how do you expect children to learn from that. This country has never been the same since.

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Guest

That’s a very interesting comment. It poses the question as to whether a sufficiently significant political force can change the mores of society to directly affect normal social intercourse.

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Guest

Should we be judging those who achieve high office, with all the power and authority that goes with it, by the same standards as we judge everyone else? They are driven to bring about a change in society, and when there is a change of party in government there is a tendency to demonstrate a diametrically opposed way forward. Margaret Thatcher was following James Callaghan. It is not surprising that her manner [if not her manners] seemed distinctly, and to many quite alarmingly, different. It got the better of her in the end, of course, and she suffered the ultimate disgrace of being kicked out of office by her own close associates many of whom – in their desire to seem as ‘dry’ as she was – had also, unfortunately, picked up some of the more arrogant aspects of her own behaviour. Her subsequent conduct from the back benches and the House of Lords showed that by now she was incapable of reining in her haughty and self-righteous attitude since she had become pathologically arrogant. How her long-suffering husband Dennis put up with it is one of life’s mysteries, but then he was on a whisky prescription for much of his time indoors I believe.

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Guest

An important part of being polite is to listen to what people have to say and take their views on board. That can be as simple as mentioning a point that they have made earlier in the conversation. I meet many people when working for a small charity and those who I can engage with can be very generous, both financially and in their actions. Being dismissive or arrogant is not a good strategy.

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Guest

You could apply this same principle to broadcast interviews. Whilst politicians can witter on I feel very irritated when they are part way through their point and the interviewer then cuts in with a challenge. I really would like to hear what they have to say. The Today programme is a real offender. Impolite? Rude, I rather think.

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Guest

I agree, Malcolm I’m a keen Radio 4 listener but often turn it off when I hear this behaviour. Debate between politicians can be worse, where two contributors want to air their own views rather than listen to anyone else.

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Guest

Politicians tend to have personality traits crossed between Sanguine and Choleric which could explain their extrovert/demonstrative/talkative tendencies. If interested log onto: youtube.com – personality traits – personality types.

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Guest

Our Psychologist son tells us that it’s somewhat more complicated than that, but then his research means he rarely sees anything as ‘simple’. But he did say that Eysenck’s ‘four temperament’ concepts have been dismissed by Cattell who argued that it’s necessary to look at a much larger number of traits in order to get a complete picture of someone’s personality.

Whereas Eysenck based his theory based on the responses of hospitalized servicemen, apparently Cattell collected data from a range of people through three different sources of data.

L-data – this is life record data such as school grades, absence from work etc.
Q-data – this was a questionnaire designed to rate an individual’s personality.
T-data – this is data from objective tests designed to ‘tap’ into a personality construct.

Cattell analysed the T-data and Q-data using a mathematical technique called factor analysis to look at which types of behaviour tended to be grouped together in the same people. He identified 16 personality traits / factors common to all people.

Fact is I suspect we label people according to a huge number of factors and it’s pretty tricky to tie anyone down to a specific category.

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Guest

That last sentence Ian — entirely agree ! Why is it some people feel the need to put others into boxes ? To me that constitutes a lack of mental / social security -ie- they are personally insecure and feel the need to project their insecurity on others to make them both feel more secure socially and justify their beliefs . I have been put into boxes many times only to surprise my mental captors by behaving in their eyes in an unorthodox fashion which they perceive to be “not standard practice ” . I am no drone-robot and have rather complex thinking patterns taking in a vast amount of seemingly unrelated data and making sense out of it and deciding a course of action- strategist maybe ? .

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Guest

I tend to agree with your point, Duncan, especially your fourth sentence. No use denying it – you’re an enigma 🙂

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Guest

I hope you meant that as a compliment, Ian.

And, isn’t it time for a rhyme now? I thought you made a promise to give us one every twenty contributions.

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Guest

The 4 personality traits were a starting point upon which psychologists based their early studies. As with everything else in life, studies and opinions change as we progress and evolve, that is why I took the decision to included the two main personality types peculiar to politicians and Duncan, the days of putting people into boxes are long passed so absolutely no more worries there! As I have previously stated on Which?Convo everyone is unique in their own right and traits are essentially traits, they are not set in stone.

Ian, no doubt your son has been able to shed some light on my ‘parable’
appertaining to the connection between the ego and the true self. I would love to be present at this discussion but would hesitate to intrude into that which could amount to an exclusive and fascinating dialogue between a parent and his/her son 🙂

I agree with Lauren’s comment that manners do count and we have a lot to gain from them so let’s please keep this debate on a healthy and amicable footing.

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Guest

He’s not a Freudian, Beryl, so I’m not even sure he accepts the notion of the ego as such. But the level at which he’s working means the papers he produces have titles which themselves appear to be in a foreign language. But his main field of interest currently is Neuroscience, so I’ve noticed a mark shift in his attitude towards Psychologists and what he terms their ‘flim-flam’ over time.

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Guest

Manners, recycling/reducing/reusing, sharing, they all cost nothing or very little. The alternatives cost the earth.

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Guest

Beautifully put, Sophie 🙂

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Guest

Yes – It inspired me to post a comment about avoiding waste.

Guest
David says:
15 October 2016

Thirty-odd years ago, we had a US air base near our town, and we often got their serviceman in the local pubs. It was noticeable how often they completely omitted their ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ when asking for a beer.

As a result, they often found George, our elderly landlord, a bit slower to serve them; and he would often pretend to have trouble with their accent and turn to one of the regulars with a laugh, asking ‘What’s he saying?’

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Guest

And did it work David or was subtlety “foreign ” to them ?

Guest
Hugh Bryce says:
15 October 2016

The elderly Landlord was showing no manners either. Treat otheres as you would want to be treated.

Guest
Hugh Bryce says:
15 October 2016

Manners should cost nothing. I find most manners are to be found in Scotland. I worked in London for a month near Heathrow Airport and found manners were lacking big time . holding open doors for others were ignored where if you held a door open in Scotland most times you were greeted with a smile and a thank you.

Guest

As mentioned earlier being polite is an important social lubricant. I do not think that it should have any financial value or ‘reward’ attached to it. Good service could be rewarded – not expected. Initial encounters should be polite and mutually respectful and the ‘closure’ of that encounter – depending upon the outcome should have the appropriate response. I believe that in past government parliamentary etiquette, there was a standard response by one MP to another who was believed to have lied or known to be lying or misleading others to accuse them of stating a ‘terminological inexactitude’ rather than use terms such as liar or various expletives. I’m not advocating going back to this but manners do help to keep resentment and violence back in even initially light hearted comment or criticism. I think many people need to grow up – including pensioners I’ve encountered – and not find offence at the most trivial of comments and situations. Though when some apparently feel the need to do a selfie with a half eaten biscuit or something equally facile, it seems that society has already lost the plot!

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Guest

I am sure being polite is of benefit in negotiating good deals or obtaining compensation when you have reason to complain. But another aspect is not letting the rudeness of others put you off getting a service or product which is actually good value. In the “summer” we were having the house painted and realised we had a wasps nest in a ventilation hole just below the eaves. I needed it dealt with quickly to allow the painter to get on. I phoned a well known pest control company and spoke to a very charming lady who quoted me a price and said that someone would be in touch within 24 hours to arrange an appointment. I then looked on-line for a local independent and found one but with a couple of reviews on a local review site saying not to use because he was so rude. I phoned him and he was gruff and abrupt on the phone but said he could do the job and quoted me a price but said it might be at least 4 hours before he could get to me! I said that was fine and just to come when he could manage.

He came within 4 hours, did what he has to do and then explained the habits of the wasps and that as a consequence there should be no wasps around the nest within 2 or 3 hours but to get back to him if there were. He wasn’t exactly Mr Personality but he did the job efficiently and very promptly and charged about 20% of the big company quote. Of course one likes people to be friendly and courteous but as consumers we need to ensure we pay for a good service or product and not for a nice smile or a friendly voice.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
16 October 2016

I hope you will be kind enough to mention his name in the Which? Local Traders section – with the caveats. In fact what you have said hear is adequate for me – perhaps though an indicator on the costs would be helpful .

I have absolutely no idea what a franchise is quoting compared to a local independent.

As you are probably not allowed to post his name your rough locality would help : )
I doubt he will ever be the type to pay to be a Which? Trusted Trader or possibly even acceptable to that scheme.

Guest
James Porter says:
16 October 2016

This should not be needed but this present day bad manners seems to be the norm, I was brought up manners cost nothing .It is not unusual to go into a shop and annoy two young assistants talking to each other or one on her phone making you wait when you want to be served . Once served upon saying thank you the look of puzzlement on the face just goes to show the lack of understanding what good manners are .The other day holding a door open for an older lady like myself as she said thank you its nice to see there are still gentlemen about , a youngster pushing past comments ” idiot” . Not all young people are like that , There are many adults just as bad mannered .Well it takes a few seconds out of their life or it interrupts their phone conversation to say please thank you or sorry .

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In August I was interested in booking a holiday for a week, but it had to be from Thursday to Thursday to fit in with other commitments. The small company that I had used before did not offer these dates but having found them very accommodating ten years ago, I decided to make an enquiry. We had a long chat and I related a couple of anecdotes about my previous visit, which had been very enjoyable. Not only did I get the dates I wanted but was offered a discount of more than 25% because I was a previous customer, even though it was eleven years ago.

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Guest

It shows there are still companies in this country that do value loyalty Wavechange . loyalty to me is number 1 , you go through thick and thin in life but a loyal person is like gold ,once proved their value is beyond measure .

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Guest

Absolutely, but I don’t know any that do home, car or breakdown insurance. I use various printers to produce leaflets, cards, posters and banners and they are great, but they are all small and local. My favourite is a one-man business. For years I have used a small motor engineer that specialises in refurbishing classic cars but is happy to do repairs on ordinary cars and offer advice. His personal service was remembering to return my coat when I turned up the following year for an MOT.

I would love to know of a breakdown recovery company that offered a no-claim discount. The last time I called one out was in 1989, yet I pay the same or more than a new customer who might have a poorly maintained car. Being polite has not worked. 🙁

I can’t imagine that we are the only ones who are keen on loyalty, Duncan. I don’t mind paying a bit more for good service and decent quality.

Guest
Jane says:
16 October 2016

Bad manners really bug me. In one of our local shops there’s a lad on the till who asks for the money without a ‘please’. When I repeat the amount with a ‘please’ at the end he looks at me like I’m an alien. I get the same when I remind him to say ‘thank you’. I’d been using one of the other local shops because of him until the other day when I had to go in there. I reported him to his manager and told her they’d been losing custom to their competitors, whose staff had better manners. I think bad manners does cost us, whether we notice it or not.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
16 October 2016

I have always believed that whatever job you do you should do it to the best of your ability. If you do not your are guaranteeing a poor attitude and a dissatisfaction with your role.

As most of us know sometimes your employer has silly systems, or they do not provide proper training but you have to rise above that so that you can take pride in your work.

It was instructive in France to note in a restaurant in a small village [4000] that the Head Waiter was training four teenagers in the intricacies of the job. And they really were into being the best. Of course it helps that in France being a good waiter is recognised as a proper job not something of a stop-gap.

I have had many roles and I enjoy the customer-facing ones the best as if viewed as a challenge to make people satisfied/happy it provides a reward to oneself when successful.

Guest
anthony humberstone says:
6 January 2017

Good manners, being polite and helpful to others was part of my early education. if it was taught to our children the world would be a better place. Please, thank you and a smile can brighten all our days.

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Guest

I missed this convo and it’s a good one in some ways.

Taking note of wavechange’s comment, “On the other hand, it is disgraceful that we have some rude people, and I feel sorry for those who have to handle customers’ complaints, either by phone or – worse – face to face.” and looking at it from the other side as it were, some of you may think the Dark Side where you’re on the receiving end…

People have gotten progressively more rude, abusive, arrogant and just downright unpleasant in recent years to us as a business on the phone and by email especially.

It is not at all uncommon to hear abusive people demanding this that and the other, especially when it’s a complaint or a problem with something. It used to be, a decade or more ago, unusual to have people shouting and swearing demands but these days, it’s a daily occurrence.

Staff in call centres are constantly faced with a daily barrage of unreasonable demands and tirades of abuse and why the staff turnover for many is extraordinarily high as for many people, the stress of it is unbearable. And in the UK, good call handling staff that will stick it are hard to come by as the salaries aren’t good enough to be taking the grief all day, every day.

I am astonished that there’s not more about this online but I suppose that companies probably don’t want to tell potential or existing customers about some of the more unpleasant stuff that they have to deal with in this politically correct and customer orientated climate we live in these days.

Although you can find some brilliant stories of customer service in some places. Thing is, many people think that these are unusual and not common. The reality is, many you see are daily and in some cases multiple instances a day.

So much so that in many public service areas, especially the NHS ones, you’ll see signs all the time warning about abusive behaviour will get you ejected. A polite way of saying, if you don’t behave you’re going to the back of the queue or you may not get seen at all.

Is it any wonder that some businesses choose to try to promote better behaviour also?

For people that are dealing with whatever company (or much anything really) where they are looking for support, is being aggressive or abusive really the way that they think they’ll get help or a response?

People should keep in mind that the person (yes, it’s a person!!) that they are dealing with is probably trying to do the best they can for them, not always I accept although I expect that is the exception not the rule but, giving them grief isn’t really going to help speed things along. This is so as that person will not want to call that abusive person back, have them come back or even want them as a customer most probably. Some customers are simply more bother than they’re worth, let them go to the competition and give them abuse will be the attitude of many.

And sometimes, for difficult and abusive customers, yeah they go to the back of the queue and get poorer service as they’re going to complain, post bad reviews or whatever else they threaten as leverage to get what they want so there’s no point pandering to them. Some I know in business will actively make their life harder, it’s just human nature really in just the same way as the customer chooses to be of a mind to think that being aggressive or whatever scores points.

People that are pleasant, mannered and reasonable will in almost every instance receive better service in my opinion, almost without doubt.

Or you move your call centre to India, the Philippines or somewhere that you can get staff at the drop of a hat and that also saves you money. I wouldn’t do that but I can see why it would appeal to some, especially larger businesses but then, I’m not a fan of call centres at all.

Case in point though, a contract for my own business is ending after several years and sadly some staff are moving on and this is summed up by a comment made, almost word for word by three out of four of the staff on phones…

“I’m looking for a job where I don’t have to deal with the public at all on phones etc as it’s just too stressful taking the abuse all the time”

That’s why it’s hard to get staff to deal with the public and why I suspect that many call centres are overseas now as, anyone that has done the job normally never wants to do it again.

K.

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Guest

All sounds very nice Kenneth but if the company you are dealing with are ignorant B,s and ripping you off then I don’t deal with call-centres but put my point bluntly (no swearing ) to those who run the company and I don’t take no for an answer . I got that from a certain fuel supplier and immediately canceled my contract with them , I don’t “muck about ” . If companies were all nice in their dealings with the public then there would be no need for some people to behave that way but if they have been financially ripped off or treated like dirt (PC World/Curry,s etc ) then they have every right to complain loudly and vigorously. What you are complaining about is the old English way of accepting authority has now gone and the American way is being applied , well blame the government for encouraging American methods used by US BB to be applied to UK BB so the public are only “getting up to speed ” with modern methods.

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I don’t know the answer to this problem, Kenneth, but I have witnessed aggressive people at customer service desks, etc. In some cases, company policy and employees that are not authorised to make decisions can be part of the problem. Where someone has genuinely tried to be helpful I make a point of thanking them.

Duncan – Currys/PC World don’t get much of my custom but my strategy has been to go back when other staff are on duty, speak to the person in charge and be very polite to them. That does not always work but can catch them off-guard. 🙂

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To be blunt Duncan, if people approach issues with that attitude then should they not expect the same reciprocated.

After all, if people treat myself or anyone else like dirt, what do they expect in return? The people taking the grief will roll out the red carpet and to fall over themselves to help?

Or are you saying that it’s okay to be abusive or aggressive to people just because they happen to be employed by a big business? That this is acceptable behaviour in your opinion?

People that behave like that, bluntly, I don’t want as customers, perhaps your fuel company thought the same.

Or you could choose not to deal with large companies which, I will agree to a good extent, are not as good at looking after people as smaller businesses tend to be in the main.

It costs nothing to be nice and mannerly when dealing with issues.

There’s a time and place for getting more forceful I wouldn’t disagree but, I do not think it should be the default position and that it should be both measured and tempered. Just shouting at people rarely accomplishes anything in my experience.

K.

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Guest

You tend to find that there are systems in place for any number of reasons wavechange.

Much of the time staff are constrained in what they can or cannot do as you can’t judge which have the capacity to deal with a particular issue or would deal with it in a proper manner. There may also be legal implications as well as company policy when dealing with some things or, it may be constrained by the terms of sale, warranty and so forth or any combination of any or all.

Some things get pretty complex to deal with and not all staff can do it, if they even have the knowledge to do so.

Actually I’m failing badly to explain this I think as it can get very complicated as to the reasons and many can be specific to a product, service, warranty, business and more.

I think that often people think that perhaps like they can do, that decisions can be made with impunity on the spot with no checking of anything and sadly, a lot of the time, that won’t be the case.

Even the MD of a company often will find him or herself constrained by policy and more so by legal implications on what they can and cannot do.

K.

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Guest

I try and be professional and when dealing with companies and other organisations. I make sure that I have all the information likely to be needed to hand before making a call. In return for being polite and professional, I expect the same in return. A little humour can work wonders.

I accept that not all staff will have the necessary knowledge or experience but in that case I don’t think it is unreasonable to be passed on to someone who can help without undue delay.

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Guest

Yeah it all helps make things go as smoothly as possible and as you and Malcolm say, having a bit of a sense of humour can help everyone just get things done with the minimum of fuss. In the end, that’s all everyone wants.

That issue of “who’s responsible” can be a nightmare, especially in larger organisations. You see the same thing in the public sector as well, it’s just a side effect of bloated systems I think but, probably a necessary one for the most part. Sometimes probably as much to protect “customers” as much as the organisation.

K.

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Guest

I suspect some people are rude and aggressive for two reasons (among others. One, they have already been messed around and have become frustrated, and two, they are expecting a battle so go in all guns blazing – sometimes because they know their argument may not be that convincing. My approach is to assume the people I am talking to are just like me – nice, pleasant mild mannered ( 🙂 ) and if I talk to them logically and politely I am more likely to get a result – if, of course, my case is sensible. If I don’t get the result I think I deserve then there is no point in antagonising the person; next step is to ask to speak to a supervisor or manager and then, if necessary, email a senior person like there CEO. You are most unlikely to get anywhere by threats, swearing, or being aggressive – put yourself in their shoes and think how you would react.

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Guest

That is also my approach Malcolm. I sometimes try and get a laugh out of them which can lighten the tone somewhat.

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Guest

As already discussed in another conversation, unlike machines, people are made up of diffent personality types. It is generally acknowledged however that Type A’s are the most difficult to deal with, but if you need guidance on how to deal with difficult people as a whole, may I suggest the following website:

psychologytoday.com – Difficult People and How to Handle Them – Donna Flagg.

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Guest

I make no apologies for the way I reply to companies that treat me badly, British Gas is the company I parted company with in its supply of fuel top me I still have a contract for boiler maintenance as you all know we were left without heat during the cold snap in Niovember .When I asked for an engineer to call they “forgot about me ” I phoned the next day and the call-centre said yes somebody would call between 8am and 6 pm –they didn’t I then had to phone back and an engineer called at 9 PM AT NIGHT ! he then said –he DIDNT have the part and would have come back and do temporary job a day later he came back left it with a temporary set up ,then we had a long wait for replacement part .While he was there the radiator in the bathroom developed a leak , it required the radiator to be replaced – he said I will get back in 10 DAYS —40 DAYS later after I complained he returned –his words –??? – I FORGOT — he replaced it – a week later it was leaking — I could not get another engineer out due to the holidays so it was only a week or so ago that ANOTHER engineer called and fixed the leak that was caused by the original engineer because —HE DID NOT CHECK THAT THE COUPLINGS WERE SECURE by this time I was blazing mad , I do not give a FIG what anybody else here thinks -if ANY of you think its okay for my paralyzed wife to be left in this situation and treated like this well then I don’t really know any of you . I will not forgive BRITISH GAS nor forget !!!!

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Guest

It’s a case of who you take your wrath out on – either a person who has clearly let you down, or the manager/director involved in administering the guilt party. Even then, I find the polite but firm but plite and fair approach works best, and keeps my blood pressure contained. Most people, in my experience, do not set out to deliberately cause you problems.

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I get it Duncan and I completely understand that some businesses and public organisations can be desperately infuriating to deal with. I’m a consumer too remember so I’ve experienced it as also.

What I do tend to do is try to buy smart in terms of both goods and services and knowing what I know through dealing with a number of companies professionally, BG being one I’m not ashamed or frightened to speak about, I’d never, ever deal with them unless there were no option. Nor would I advise anyone else to either.

What I would say is that my local plumbers, two I deal with, would never allow things to get to that.

But then they won’t offer a rolling maintenance policy with the promise of this that and the other which, as it seems you’ve found out, the marketing and promises don’t always live up to the reality.

Flipside is although I get better service I lose the “big company blanket of security” as it were, if the local guys retire, cease trading or whatever I need to do some legwork myself. But I’d rather that than face what you appear to have.

Or at least on the surface, it may look to be a more expensive option.

A chap in our industry did a study on this sort of thing many years ago and it holds true for many if not most in-home services, local businesses based on feedback and service levels offer what is classed by those in that sort of field class as world class service.

Larger businesses couldn’t even hold a candle near the service levels of small local businesses.

Even looking back on Which? you’ll see in my industry, appliance service, they found exactly the same. The small local companies for maintenance walk all over the big boys on service levels. And are often much cheaper to boot.

And it’s more personable, you can normally talk to someone that actually has a clue and will often go out their way to try to help. No need for shouting or unpleasantness most of the time.

They’re not all perfect, granted and a very small minority might even be no good but the vast bulk are. Reason being that they live and operate in the community that they serve, they’re either good or they don’t survive.

Big national and multi-nationals, in my opinion, rarely care and there’s multiple layers to them which at any point can go wrong.

I don’t look at things as one size fits all as what BG do even in appliance matters, bears little to no relation whatsoever to what most of the rest of the industry is like.

K.

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Guest

I agree with Malcolm. Polite and unyielding is the best approach and having all the information to hand is also essential. Finally, I try to anticipate what their reactions will be if I have an issue, so I can rehearse a cogent argument beforehand.

I did have an issue with Virgin Trains who managed to combine enthusiastic and helpful with alarming incompetence and lack of English. The last made it hard to deal with them so I was forced, eventually, to contact the MD. Thereafter, it has to be said, the advice was flawless, but in Virgin’s case they operate by a rule book which they don’t reveal to customers, as I eventually discovered.

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Kenneth – I have generally had much better experience with smaller companies but, as you say, there is always going to be some uncertainty if they will deliver. For example, I arranged for a tree surgeon to come and remove three trees. He did not turn up and later in the afternoon his wife rang to say that he had been admitted to hospital a few hours earlier. It was at least six weeks later when he turned up with two assistants and they did an excellent job. The delay was unimportant, but I had no heating or my washing machine had been broken I would not have been happy.

Whether we choose a large or small company, I think we are entitled for work to be done proficiently and in a timely fashion. In the case of my tree surgeon, I did think about getting someone else in but I’m glad I waited and I now recommend the guy to friends.

At the time, Duncan related the saga of his heating system. It had a faulty pressure accumulator (a part that commonly fails) and to replace it, apparently the boiler had to be removed from the wall. That does not seem very good design to me.

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Guest

I am glad somebody does Kenneth , I seem to be an ogre in some peoples books but let me say – I always start off polite and well mannered , so much so my wife gets onto me about it to be “more of a man ” but what happens is most people think I am a “pushover ” and then dont take me seriously or treat me less than others this is because THEY have a personality problem not me .When I am treated with disdain the other side of me comes out I explode . For those feeling sorry for the call centre employees , when i complained NICELY to a lady there she was all sweetness and light -of coarse we will do something about it I will personally take your details and find out what is happening and CALL you back and take your phone number -she NEVER did after a week – nobody but nobody gets away with lying to me , people who have done that to me I have cut out of my life , I have enough person problems to deal with without that. I told British Gas their employee lied , it turns out they will say anything to stop people complaining , just look at the posts on other Covo,s to that effect. I am paying good money for a service from a massive company if that company doesn’t comply with that service I have every legal + monetary right to complain loudly this is a multi $Million company and if anybody thinks I should be nice to it after terrible treatment – well you wont get me to apologise-feel sorry for a big business -no way. .

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Guest

I hold little sympathy for the larger businesses Duncan, I think many of them have lost a sense of what their function actually is to a degree. In large part I understand why and it’s complex and too long winded to get into here but suffice to say that it’s not always that things are done in the interests of their customers.

Which is why I think many people hold a very negative view of businesses in the round.

Personally I don’t view things as a spreadsheet and bonus driven world, for me it’s all about people. Sure any business has to cover it’s cost and to use what is often seemingly regarded as a swear word, make a profit. But that does not mean you have gouge your customers to do that, it has to be fair to everyone. Or at least, that’s my take and I hope you’d find many business owners held the same view.

So not all businesses are out to “do over” customers by a long chalk nor deliberately offer a poor service, that’d be commercial suicide for most.

But it seems to me at times that a lot of people seem to think that is the case and go at things from that perspective straight out the traps or, think they’ve got to fight from the get go.

When really, much of the time a bit of courtesy and respect would yield a far better and probably faster result as the person at the other end will want to help you, not be forced to.

All most people on phones et all want is an easy life, they just want to get the job done as best they can with as little hassle as possible for both them and their customer and everybody being reasonable and pleasant makes that a lot easier to achieve.

K.

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Guest

One of the problems with “companies that treat us badly” is that such companies don’t believe they are doing so; they are incapable of accepting any faults on their part. Nevertheless, I still think one has to take that on board and speak to them decently and treat them as you would wish to be treated. At the end of the day we need their help and they can make our lives . . . very difficult.

Personally, I wish we could do things by correspondence or face-to-face rather than over the telephone, but there is no time for that nowadays and some situations, like Duncan’s, are very urgent and require a much more understanding response as well as some continuity of follow-up. Firms could take a lot of heat out of the atmosphere if they looked at themselves, and the way they respond, more critically and from the customer’s perspective.

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Everyone living in the real world has difficult situations to cope with at sometime in their lives. It’s the way you deal with it that is more likely to achieve the best results, but it does help if you know a little about who or what you are dealing with before beginning your approach.

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Guest

That’s one reason I get on well with small companies and keep going back. Good old fashioned loyalty on both sides. Over the past nine months I have made various attempts to register an extended warranty with a well known company that seems well respected. Part of the problem is that they have a fast turnover of staff in customer service, according to the last person I spoke to. From what Kenneth has said, perhaps that’s not surprising.