Customer Service, Vol. 4, Issue 37

Dear Etiquetteer: What does one say to the proprietor of a faraway lodge (that I really want to visit) when queried about reservations and his response is "Go online and make your reservations yourself." Twelve hours later, when I had time to get to a computer, the reservation took about 20 minutes to make. The online, impersonal response only reserved one night of my five-day request. Back online, I made reservations at the same place in a different room, surmising that the problem was that the room that I wanted wasn't available for the entire week, so I volunteered to change rooms, ergo making a reservation for the remainder of the five days.The response was favorable but the main lodge, all the other facilities and the dining room are closed for three of the five days. And by the way, once the reservation is made online, there is a no refund cancellation policy. Poor business tactics.And I remain very interested in going there: the dining room is closed, but the lodge is a refuge and CULINARY SCHOOL! Dear Frustrated Foodie: Etiquetteer feels compelled to ask if this lodge is also a refuge from basic customer service. To quote the late Mamie Eisenhower, "Never mess around with some clerk. Always go straight to the top."But with sinking heart, Etiquetteer now observes that you are already negotiating with the proprietor, and not just some reservations agent. How very vexing!  So, what do you say to the proprietor? Tell this person exactly what you told Etiquetteer: that you were disappointed to be directed from a person to a website to make your reservations, and then angry and frustrated when the website made a bad, evil reservation for you that was not what you wanted. You then need to insist – nicely at first, then more forcefully if you don’t get results – that the proprietor take your reservation by phone at once.

Dear Etiquetteer: Don’t you think people should make eye contact with people they do business with? By this I mean that I am disturbed by fellow shoppers/customers who make no human acknowledgement of cashiers and other service people and the disappearing custom of thanking customers. I am so tired of "Here you go" or "You're all set buh-bye," when I want to hear "Thank you!" Dear Eyed: Etiquetteer would add to that litany of apathy the desultory "No problem" that comes from cashiers and waiters. It always suggests to Etiquetteer that they might, in fact, have a problem with doing part of their job.The Declaration of Independence offers some of the best etiquette advice one could use in the United States: " . . . that all men are created equal . . . " This suggests that both customer and employee are fully engaged in the transaction, and not talking on cell phones (you would be amazed at how often Etiquetteer sees this on both sides of the counter), watching television, or talking to friends to the point that the customer/employee is ignored. It also suggests that customer should refrain from condescending to the employee because they (the customer) are so much more superior. You are quite correct that a professionally cheerful "Thank you!" should be the last words from a customer service employee. And it should be acknowledged by the customer with a smile and a nod to conclude the transaction before the customer has started to walk away.Let Etiquetteer add, too, that customer service shouldn’t ostentatiously call attention to itself. Etiquetteer will confess to impatience with hotel operators who say, "It’s my pleasure to connect you" when all they really need to say is "One moment please."

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