Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bring back common courtesy

I came across this article yesterday, but thought I'd leave commenting on it until today as it seems somehow appropriate on St. George's Day.

Fewer than one in four Britons believe common courtesy is still important and simple acts of kindness are in decline, according to a survey.

I find that one of the most depressing statistics I think I've come across in recent years - even with the state of our economy. It's not just the fact that so few people bother with common courtesy - it's the fact that less than 25% think it's important.

I believe that 75% are wrong - common courtesy is important. Not only that, it is free - good manners cost nothing - and be wholly beneficial. Even up until fairly recently I used to go out of my way to fill up at a particular garage. The petrol there was a couple of pence per gallon dearer than most - it was out in the country - but it wasn't self-service.

Instead you'd pull up beside one of the two ancient pumps and a grey haired old gentleman - always wearing a tie - would amble out and ask you what you required. He'd dispense the petrol efficiently and cheerfully, take your cash and bring you your change without you ever having to get out of the car. And all this done with common courtesy and good manners - never a forgotten please or thank you.

I know (because he told me) there were many regular customers - particularly women - who went out of their way to use this particular garage to buy petrol simply because of the standard of service offered. Then came the day when the gentleman retired and the garage went self-service - complete with new pumps and a "shop" - a year later it was closed altogether. Nobody bothered to go there anymore.

Even without that sort of level of service, it still costs nothing to remember the basics of common courtesy - saying please and thank you. Whenever I fill up now - well, not fill up but get my £20 or £30 worth (I won't use cards at petrol stations anymore - only cash) I'm infuriated by the reluctance of staff to say "please" and "thank you".

Frequently, in fact, I go up to the counter to pay while the chap behind the counter chatters away on his mobile phone - pausing only briefly to demand "twenty pounds" and stick his hand out. No attempt to say "please" - not even an "anything else you'd like, sir?" - and then when you do hand the cash over there is no "thank you" - just straight back on the phone. I then have to ask for a VAT receipt and end up feeling guilty for interrupting their bloody phone conversations - "Excuse me", I say politely - "may I have a VAT receipt please?" - at which point the cashier gives me a dirty look before jabbing his grubby fingers at the till and ripping the receipt off the roll as if I've just asked him to wipe my arse for me with it.

I've had enough of it. From now on, any shop I go too I will refuse to hand over the cash until I get a please at the very least. There seems to me to be certain irony that the more we've become a service based nation the less we appear capable of providing decent service.

Bring back common courtesy - we're a better nation and much nicer people with it than we are without it.

1 comment:

Bob's Head Revisited said...

I agree, Stan.

A lot of people's idea of good manners is 'old-fashioned stuff' like opening doors, not eating till the host has sat down, no elbows on the table, and about all sorts of other 'unnecessary' things that posh people still do in big country houses.

It's a lazy but all too common perception these days.

But it's so wrong. Good manners is simply thinking of others first; about consideration for other people. It's a myriad of tiny acts of kindness that add up to a lot.

If everyone did these 'quaint old-fashioned things' we would all live in a much more pleasant place.

I believe that it is one of the main reasons why Britain used to be a much more pleasant place and admired by so many other countries.

But now we seem to have become accustomed to being grunted at or ignored while at the same time being hectored and lectured by the clumsy, selective, state-sanctioned manners of political correctness.

Very sad.