Thanking for Kindness?

It really is a sad testament to humanity when being kind is significant enough to point it out with thanks. Don’t get me wrong, I think we should all be thankful for things in our lives. Some things, however, shouldn’t be so rare as to warrant a thanks.

  • When most people meet me, they don’t punch me in the face. I do not thank them for that. It’s sorta what I expect them to not do.
  • If you don’t run into my car at a traffic light, I wouldn’t expect a thank-you card in the mail.
  • If you avoid peeing on my foot when we’re standing at adjacent urinals — I won’t thank you for it.
  • If you don’t steal my wallet, I’m unlikely to draw attention to it.
  • If you don’t dump gasoline on my house and decide to take up smoking — I still won’t thank you.

Now, note that it’s not a matter of not being thankful for such things. I don’t particularly enjoy getting punched in the face or having my house burned down. It seems to be a social norm, however, that NOT stealing my wallet is a fair expectation.

Anyway, I said all that to preempt a story. When I was shopping for Houston-y gifts at the airport before I came home last week, I brought my chosen parcel to the counter and paid for it. I was kind to the lady behind the counter. I smiled, I thanked her for offering to bag my goods, and I genuinely wished her a good day. She responded with, “Thank you for your kindness.”

It struck me as a strange thing to say. I think it was largely because she looked very sincere when she said it, and it didn’t seem like a fluffy, “have a nice day” type response. I was intrigued, so I hung around the store a bit to see how she acted around others. I thought perhaps since she was of an ethnicity that I’m not often exposed to, that perhaps I was the odd fish out, and thanking for kindness was quite normal.

Then I realized why she had thanked me.

It turns out that most of the suits in the airport that were buying their newspapers and such treated the lady as if she didn’t exist. They would talk on their cellphones while paying. They would ignore her attempts at any sort of interaction. Most people looked right through her. How arrogant and self-absorbed have we become as a society that a store clerk is “beneath” us?

Treat your clerks kindly. They’re people. They’re probably more interesting than any of us. If you get a smile from one of them, you are the lucky one. πŸ™‚

12 thoughts on “Thanking for Kindness?

  1. Shawn, I think we’ve covered this before. You are a genuinely nice person. Lots of people aren’t, and when one interacts with poopheads on a regular basis the reminder that NICE and DECENT people exist can make all the difference in the world.

    So…Thank you for being such a spiffy guy! πŸ™‚

  2. Shawn, I genuinely believe that how you treat service people shows who you are. You treated that woman with respect and kindness, which proves you’re a respectful, decent guy.

    The suits? Not so much. It’s a family blog, so I’ll stick with “douchebags,” which is, after all, rather descriptive.

  3. That’s a pretty sad commentary on the suits that tend to travel a lot and a fantastic commentary about you, Shawn.

    Service positions are HARD. Having to interact with countless people and not resorting to snapping at them is damned difficult, especially when dealing with, ahem, “douchebags.” It’s so sad that far too many people forget that.

  4. You know, that’s one reason I don’t travel in a suit – by not wearing a suit, I don’t get lumped in with the douchebags.

    Unless I’m meeting someone for business right off of the plane (almost never), a suit is unnecessary for traveling, and in fact the shoes are usually uncomfortable, while sneakers and pinstripes look ridiculous. People who wear suits for traveling are usually pretentious twits.

  5. Clearly, the answer is to have a volunteer’s brigade. Each volunteer randomly chooses a store, toll booth, restaurant, whatever and stands where they can witness all customer transactions. When a customer is rude or ignores the existence of his/her server beyond being a hand that gives them change, the volunteer will bop said customer over the head with a rolled up newspaper and loudly proclaim, “Thank the nice lady, you @%^%R#@@”

    OTOH, if the volunteer witnesses said customer service person behaving badly, he should announce, “This cashier is a jerk. Give her your best shot.” Then the volunteer goes off in search of someone worthy of his service.

  6. I will never understand how people can be so rude to sales people.

    I’m not really good at small talk with strangers, but I always try to make eye contact with cashiers and wish them a good morning/afternoon/day whatever when I’m done.

  7. Oh boy. Where to start. I work for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. I’m in retail operations. I have spent many hours maning cash registers and ringing through people’s orders. Since we are government owned & run, I get the usual rants about “the man”, but that I can handle. I would say that 60-70% of customers are decent. Then we have the people on their cell phones – who mouth ‘sorry’ to me but keep right on talking. A-holes! Why not just come in with your friend, stand in front of me and keep rith on talking and ignore me. It’s the same thing! Then there are the grunters. “Hi. How are you today?” “grunt” A-holes. I could go on & on, but anyone who has worked in customer service knows what I’m getting at. Then there are customers like you Shawn. People like you make my day! I forget all about the A-holes. They’re not worth me stewing over anyway. My husband keeps saying that society has lost it’s civility. You are proof that there is hope. For that – Thank you for your kindness!

  8. Why not just come in with your friend, stand in front of me and keep [right] on talking and ignore me. It’s the same thing!

    That has actually happened to me. :p Three guys who couldn’t stop talking to each other and expected me to read their minds as to which was their order, while they completely ignored me. Well hey dorkfaces, if you don’t want to pick up your food yet, I’m more than willing to skip you to the back of the line.

  9. Shawn, I agree with you – many, many folks who travel *are not nice*. And as a frequent flyer and first-class upgrader, I can say that the percentage of courteous people drops considerably in the rarefied air of that front cabin. The sense of entitlement is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

    I always try to be courteous, quiet, undemanding and helpful – and I’m certainly in the minority.

    Shawn, I’m glad you’re a nice guy. πŸ™‚

  10. While I admit to having once or twice been caught on the phone when needing to interact with a cashier, I always try to be quick and aware of what the cashier needs from me and to depart with a “thank you” at the very least.

    I’ll try next time to put my unexpected caller (I don’t initiate calls in stores unless I’m making a quick inquiry) “on hold” for a moment to make the transaction a bit more acceptable to the cashier.

  11. Anne: I think there’s a significant difference between being on the phone and acting as though the cashier is an automated teller. My suspicion is that you’ve done nothing offensive. πŸ™‚

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