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Call Me Old-Fashioned But... Service with a smile

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Opinion | October 11th, 2010

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
Nowadays, any visit to a big box store will quickly prove that the so-called "customer service" agents are as ignorant as the general public when it comes to where anything is or whether the store even stocks the items in question. Moreover, it seems like said sales associates are seemingly too busy social networking to even bother to make momentary eye contact while ringing through one's purchases. To add insult to injury, even if service is provided, there's a fairly high probability it'll be with a grimace and sense of bitterness, rather than a wholehearted smile.

The ironic part about all of this, of course, is that as we continue to progress through the information age, the importance of maintaining strong relationships and developing interpersonal communication skills is emphasized. However, our actual contact with each other becomes increasingly superficial and disconnected.

While one is able to trace the roots of the aforementioned worker-type alienation associated with menial labour back to Marx's heyday during the time of the Industrial Revolution, there is clearly something more at play here.

I don't think anyone has ever really had grand delusions that being a lifer at a supermarket or fast-food joint is a part of living the "American Dream." But there was a point in recent history during which people were satisfied simply with the idea of having a job that allowed them to get by — that allowed them to pay their bills and perhaps provided them with a bit of extra spending money so they could occasionally treat themselves or put it into an investment for their future retirement. They may not have been pursuing their ultimate passion in life, and several likely hated the work they did, but there was a sense of motivation to work hard and to work efficiently. It was understood money did NOT in fact grow on trees, and the idea of getting oneself tangled up in credit card debt was not something to be desired.

Comparatively speaking, the modern employee devotes far more time to gossiping with and about their colleagues, while coming up with excuses for taking undeserved breaks, than actually working. We are plagued with unionized workers who go on strike and demand higher wages during times of economic crisis, but further, as recently reported in the news, incidents of on-the-job substance abuse are on the rise.

Inflation is definitely a factor. One cannot reasonably deny the expectations for the modern employee have risen while the benefits and pay-scale, in many cases, have remained stagnant. The idea of hitting the "glass ceiling," for young up-and-comers due to the eradication of mandatory retirement and "seniority rules," has likely contributed to a lack of motivation. Further, "credentialism" and, accordingly, the amount of employees currently in "underemployed" positions (i.e.: positions for which they are overqualified) undoubtedly can be cited as a source of the development for the modern employees' poor work ethic and poor attitude. But, it's also generational. How else can you explain to me the striking contrast between the pleasantness of the older British woman and the general disinterest of the bubblegum- chewing teenage girl, both of whom work as cashiers for the same low pay rate at the pharmacy just down the road from my house.

A lot of you will likely hate me for saying this, but I think it comes down to the fact that we're too privileged. People my age and younger have never had to worry about being drafted for a war, or developing a fatal condition due to poor sanitation and health regulations on the job. Most of us continue to be spoiled by our parents far past the point that is reasonable. Further, the vast majority of the most undesirable and dangerous jobs have either been outsourced overseas or are completed by illegal migrant workers under the radar. As a consequence of all of this, a sizable portion of the youth population has developed a rather disgusting "sense of entitlement" — like they're big shit and should be treated accordingly, without ever having to work for said status, and if you call them on this, they'll go and cry to their employer.

If this sounds like you, listen up and listen well. Barring extenuating circumstances, we all have to start at the bottom. Some of us are fortunate enough to rise up after years of recognized hard work, while a majority never get there. Unfortunately, a lot of this is still based on discriminatory treatment towards selected minority groups. Don't be fooled by the delusion that we live in a fair meritocracy — we don't. But guess what? That latter group, as much as they may complain about being underappreciated and underpaid, are still thankful they've got money to put food on their tables.

You may not have to worry about everyday expenses, such as making sure there's enough t.p. supply for your living quarters, but when you do, you'll realize that the world's an expensive place, especially if you want to be able to take in some of the luxuries it has to offer. Maybe, therefore, you should be thankful you have any job - whether you love or hate it. Bottom line: you're there to work, so work.
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