A friend of mine recently shared with me a surprising situation that just happened to her. She was waiting in line at a coffee shop. Though there were two people on staff, neither seemed to notice her. One was helping the customer ahead of her, and the other was busy talking to a manager. After a few minutes another woman joined her in line, but stood slightly to the side rather than directly behind her. Finally, the staff member who had been talking to his boss came back over and offered his assistance—to the woman who had just entered the line!
The woman gave her order while my friend silently fumed. She felt completely ignored. It was another minute before the second employee came over and asked if she’d been helped. When she said no, the woman who had been served first overheard and looked very apologetic. It was clear that she had not realized that she had cut in line, perhaps assuming that my friend had already placed her order.
What happened next was almost astonishing in this day and age: The woman paid for my friend’s latte! She said, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize I was jumping ahead of you. Let me get this.” How classy!
The gesture turned an annoying encounter into a surprise showing of civility and goodwill. My friend didn’t really blame the woman for going first, as she probably didn’t realize it (though, in hindsight, it would have been nice if she’d asked, “Have you been helped?” first). She was, however, disappointed that the two staff members, who clearly should have been keeping an eye on the line, especially since it wasn’t particularly busy, failed to notice her and made her feel overlooked. She almost left because of it.
Employees, let this be a lesson in customer service. For everyone else, take note on how a “rude” situation was smoothed over. We all make mistakes, but the woman’s handling of the situation felt much more genuine than a simple shrug of the shoulders and mumbled “sorry.”