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Carl Moore


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The Chinese have a saying that a man who does not smile must not open a shop. Let’s face it; offering pleasant service – despite the much-talked-about Barbadian friendliness – does not come easily to us. When it does, it seems to be reserved for visitors. And not even all visitors.
“The customer has influence.” That’s one of many messages I saw a while back on a wall in the workshop of a certain computer company. The management put it there to remind staff of the importance of the customer. They were reminding staff that if the company gives me a lousy repair job, I am not going to keep quiet about it.
If we are to survive in this new world, we will have to brush up on our service and the way we deal with people.
NATION columnist Corey Worrell accurately fingered the groups among workers who discredit their organizations. He wrote: “There are so many unmannerly, impolite, disrespectful, unhappy, unwelcoming and miserable people working directly in customer-driven business and establishments in this country.”
He pointed out where to find them: “ . . . in gas stations, polyclinics, the hospital, Government offices, supermarkets, money transaction booths, malls, schools, stores and banks.”
Oh, how I wish the lady selling lottery tickets would one day welcome me with: “It’s your lucky day today, sir!” She’s so melancholy.
Isn’t it ironic that, at precisely the moment when the demanding precision of information technology has almost completely taken control of our lives, so many Barbadians continue to be sloppy, unreliable, late and “don’t-carish”?
Take the computer, for example. A second, which seems so brief to us flesh-and-blood beings, is a very, very long time. That machine can dissect a second into a billion or more parts.
We must be accurate, tidy, careful and yes, fussy. Like we used to be 50 years ago.
There is room for improvement in the quality of the goods and services we produce, but there is even more to it than that. The ultimate challenge is to effect a drive for all-round excellence.
I once heard a young man on a radio talk show trying to convince the moderator and listeners that it’s not important to know “standard” English. And here’s how he supported his argument: “I can go on the Internet to several Japanese sites and buy a car and you should see how they use the English language; they can’t even spell. So spelling and grammar are not important, as long as they can sell a lot of cars.”
That chap doesn’t know that the Japanese and other eastern nations are learning English as fast as the robots and conveyor belts that churn out their cars and other high-tech items. The same thing goes for China, Malaysia and South Korea.
We are fooling ourselves if we think that our laid-back “anything-goes” attitude is going to take us very far into the Third Millennium.
The next wave of slavery is not going to be about cotton, tobacco and sugar; it will be about information and knowledge. Those who have it are going to dominate and manipulate those who don’t. It has already started.
We must eliminate low productivity, sloppy service, unpunctuality, abuse of the environment, poor work ethic and the steady erosion of our once-respected value system. The folks at Cost-U-Less have already made it clear that they’re not tolerating poor attitude.
Critical thinking is the only way forward. Barbados has now come to a crossroads at which we will have to invest much time thinking through our problems.
Nothing will improve education until we muster the will to dismantle the system and design curricula that encourage children – from nursery upwards – to think.
We must face the fact that the party’s over. We can’t just borrow and wuk up our way out of hard times.
It seems as though we’re going to have to do non-stop training in etiquette. The moment we let up, the surly behaviour returns.
Whenever I drive into a gas station, visit a bank, approach a cashier or return from abroad and receive pleasant service, I exclaim: “It looks like Marvo Manning was recently here!”
• Carl Moore was the first Editor of THE NATION and is a social commentator.