I’ve just picked up the closing shift on Tuesday nights at Subway. It’s not exactly the most glamorous shift, and it can drag. Making sandwiches and cleaning up becomes routine, and the customer service aspect of the job can be easily forgotten.
As I was finishing up a customer’s order, he asked me, “How are you doing?” I replied that I was fine, and he questioned whether I was honest in my response. I told him that we’re strangers, so I probably wouldn’t have let him know if I was actually doing worse. His response was that now we were talking, we weren’t strangers anymore, and he asked me the question again. I smiled, and assured him that I was in fact doing fine.
My interaction with the customer made me briefly reflect on how easy it is to overlook a stranger, even when you’re directly interacting with him or her in customer service. We’re always caught up in our own troubles, not realizing that someone we pass on the street may be going through something difficult themselves. A few days ago I heard about Oprah’s “Just Say Hello” campaign, which intends to encourage people to say hello to strangers more often in order to fight loneliness. My initial reaction was that although the program had good intentions, who would actually invest time to acknowledge strangers more often? Yet my interaction with the customer today, and the observation of the barista at Caribous, proved me otherwise. That makes me smile.