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Guest column | James Pettican

Good customer service? Enjoy the recession's silver lining

Silver linings are still to be found, even in that big, dark recession cloud. You encounter them every day from the trivial to the terrific.

Remember how you would feel so boxed in and lonely in the so-called big-box stores? All that merchandise and no one nearby to ask about it. Now, the recession has come to your rescue. Personable chatterboxes are the order of the day. Sales clerks are bubbly, informative and solicitous, sometimes all in one breath. They really want your business, even though your cynical side reflects that job tenure may have something to do with it.

Bankers, at least in the case of tellers, are no longer stodgy and matter-of-fact. Some of them could give Little Miss Sunshine a run for her money. Don't expect today's low certificate of deposit interest rates to move higher, though.

Car dealers are reaching for new highs in hospitality. Effusive welcomes await you in their shiny showrooms. And there is nary a frown when you pull that consumer data out of your pocket and proceed to tell them what you think you should pay for the vehicle you are considering. Maybe in time, this will even bring about the end of the "must call in my manager" charade.

Restaurants aren't resting on their hospitality laurels, either.

I have no proof that they are sending their servers to charm school but I often get that impression. In the lower-priced eateries, everyone is referred to as "honey" while in those with higher menu stipends, it's "sir" and "ma'am." Either way, we're just one big, happy family.

Even those in rapid-turnover fast-food jobs are getting into the act. While mopping and cleaning near us the other day, one actually picked up our tray of discards and dumped it for us. Now that they've added salads and other menu items deemed at least reasonably healthful, they attract a dinner crowd, many of them seniors whose investments and pensions aren't what they once were.

Spending an occasional after-school visit with our grandson, who at 13 is a brand new teen with a penchant for the golden arches, we observe the changing scene as we enjoy our salads plus not-too-sinful versions of chicken.

So, as you see, the recession isn't all bad — just mostly. We all long for it to end, though, and for a new and bubble-less prosperity to rule the day. However, when it does, we'll have to steel ourselves when the former reality returns, too.

Once again, we'll be lonely in the big-box stores, be charged for nebulous things like undercoating and protective fabric sprays at the car dealers, struggle to get a server's attention at restaurants and keep assuring ourselves that bank tellers aren't really robots.

For most working-age folks, having a job again will, no doubt, be worth it.

Retired journalist James Pettican lives in Palm Harbor.

Good customer service? Enjoy the recession's silver lining 11/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2009 8:03pm]
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