The Golden Rule

With the exception of my four-year stint in the Navy, every job I’ve ever had was a customer service job. As many in the field know, it’s a tireless job, filled with demanding people and unreasonable goals. Nevertheless, if you choose to put yourself in that industry, it really is your job to make sure that your customers have an outstanding encounter with your company; you never know who that customer is or what kind of importance they could play in the future.

My girlfriend and I are getting married next summer. The venue, a McMenamins located in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, is not only where we’ll be having the ceremony, but it’s also where the reception is. On top of that, the venue will be catering all our food, as well as providing bar services. All told, we’re spending… well, let’s just say she’s worth it.

A few weeks ago, my fiancée’s family was in town and we took them to the location for dinner. This would give them a great opportunity to see the grounds and sample the food. Unfortunately, we had an unhappy experience. Just about everything that could go wrong did, and worst of all, we didn’t feel like the server cared whether we lived or died. It was just that kind of apathy, carelessness, and disregard for our time that could have lost his company a boatload of money. However, since before that we’d had nothing but excellent service (and that’s over the course of two and a half years), we won’t be taking our business elsewhere. We could have—and that’s something he couldn’t have known.

Most of us have had a customer service job at one point or another in our lives. We should all know how it feels to be treated like garbage. Which brings me to my point: it’s just as important to provide an exemplary experience to those helping you. Why would you treat someone who’s helping you the way you were treated when you the one doing the helping?

When I worked for FedEx Office, I had just such a customer. He was having an event at his store and needed some flyers, brochures, and other paper goods printed to help out with the occasion. He e-mailed the files to our store, including printing instructions, but never followed up with us to make sure we’d received the e-mail (we didn’t). Sure enough, his wife came in to pick up the project 30 minutes before he needed it. As to be expected, we were more than a bit confused as to what she was talking about. Nevertheless, it was a simple, common mistake, and one that could have been easily fixed; resend the files and we’ll rush the job over with free delivery within 30 minutes.

Instead of taking a deep breath and working with us to solve the problem, the wife promptly dialed a number and put me on the phone with a very pissed-off husband. Once he was through angrily chastising me, my company, and my coworkers, he hung up.

Little did he know, I was a somebody—someone who spends $75 to $100 on D&D products at his store every month, without fail. That’s right: the husband owned Knightfall Games, my friendly local gaming store. Lucky for me, I live in Portland, which is a veritable mecca of D&D retailers. In fact, that day I was supposed to go into his store to pick up a book and sit in on the Game Day he was having. I quickly made the decision to never patron his store again. That was 8 months ago.

I seriously doubt I’ve affected his bottom line, but it’s still important to remember to treat everyone with respect, no matter what side of the counter you’re on.

On May 7, 2012 Chris Slovick, owner of Knightfall Games, announced he would be closing his doors. I want to make it clear that I would never wish ill of a fellow gamer, and certainly not one with a business and a family on the line—and I certainly don’t think that my two-year boycott had anything to do with the failure of his business. Nevertheless, this event underscores just how important it is, in this day and age, to be calm and professional in every dealing you have.

I wish Chris, and his family, good luck in their future ventures.