When I was about twelve years old, I used to hang out at a bowling alley with about ten of the kids from my neighborhood. We played pinball and Space Invaders, which was the only stand alone video game in existence at that time (other than pong). We fed our quarters into those machines every afternoon and my friends would always make fun of me because I said “please” and “thank you” to the lady behind the counter when she made change for us.
That went on for two to three months, during which time my friends grew increasingly rowdy and rude. After two or three days of warning, the lady behind the counter shouted, “That’s it! You are all banned from here!” She then pointed at me and said, “Except you, because you are nice.”
At the time, I wanted to crawl underneath a rock and distance myself from the comment, as it served only to give my friends more reasons to poke fun at me, but in retrospect, it also taught me the value of being nice to people. I could be as loud as my friends, but I was never rude. The lady at the bowling alley was willing to forgive my rowdiness because I was always nice to her. That is a lesson that we should all carry into every store and every transaction that we enter.
I am polite and pleasant by nature – the product of a very loving upbringing. It was only when I was almost into adulthood that I began to realize that a lot of people are quite the opposite. I worked a retail job when I was in high school and I was shocked by the rudeness of many of the people I encountered – both co-workers and customers. They were clearly unhappy people and they shared their misery willingly. I also noticed that because of my naturally cheerful disposition, I received much better tips than my co-workers and the store’s customers often sought me out for assistance.
As an adult, I have tried to treat everyone I have encountered with the same friendly respect that I wish I had received as a retail worker. It has been a very satisfying experience because I enjoy bringing a smile to the faces of the people with whom I interact, but it has also resulted in many savings that make me wonder why even miserable people do not try to be more friendly.
For example, the other day, I went to have my car greased and oiled. I chatted pleasantly with the maintenance shop manager, waited patiently without complaints about delay, and was pleased to be rewarded with free service for the day. I would have been pleasant and cheerful even without the possibility of reward, but it was nice to walk out of the shop without a $49 charge!
On my way home from the maintenance shop, I stopped at the grocery store. There were unusually long lines at the registers, but a cashier spotted me and opened a new line. The woman in front of me, who I had directed to the newly opened cash register line, had several items that I also had, one of which was part of a coupon deal. The woman was not very polite and did not speak with the cashier at all. No “Hello” and no “Thank you.” Nothing. When it was my turn, I chatted with the cashier, as I always do, and she pointed out to me (but not to the other lady) that there was an in-store coupon for one of my products and she ran to get it for me.
The savings that day were both small (the coupon) and significant (the free grease and oil) but they were indicative of the types of savings that I have attributed to being nice. There have been countless times when I know that a pleasant demeanor has saved me money, headaches and/or time. Even when my instinct is to get angry, as when I am forced to make a return of a product for which I have paid a lot of money, I preserve an outward aspect of friendliness and understanding. As a result, I think a lot of sales people are shocked into being accommodating.
Of course, being happy is its own reward and the mental and physical health benefits are beyond material value. I hope none of us needs to financial incentives to be happy and friendly and polite. That said, if you are already, happy, pleasant and polite, it is nice to know that there are a few financial rewards that “come with the territory.”
Do you put on a “happy face” when you are dealing with sales people or service providers? Do you take the view that people are there to help you or that they are there to do things for you? When you encounter a difficult situation in a store or with a craftsman, are you inclined to yell until you get your way or to use a smile to melt away the difficulty?