When I pop into Greggs to buy my cheese and ham baguette and treat myself to a bag of quavers as an hors d’oeuvre and an apple danish for afters, I’m very helpful to the vendor. I say ‘take-away’ before they even ask me if it’s for in or out. Sometimes I even say ‘to go’ because I know thet like that. And then they say ‘do you want a drink with that?’ I refrain from saying ‘if I’d wanted a drink I would have asked for one because I know they are just doing their job. But, I think to myself, that isn’t customer service, boring a customer with a superfluous, robotic question. Maybe one day a customer will say ‘oh thanks for jogging my memory, i will have a fanta with that, good job you repeat that phrase for every customer’, but I haven’t heard it yet.
In Cafe Nero the way with service is that they get a few orders in advance so that they can forget them. I’m helpful as always, ready with the order. ‘Small black americano for in. And an apricot croissant’, I say. They turn away and get the other orders and then come back to me. ‘Is Capucino, no?’ she says, the Spanish barista. ‘No’ I say. I repeat the order as concisely and helpfully as I can. ‘Small black americano for in, and an apricot croissant.’ They don’t like this order. The idea of a small drink is one of the things that gets their goat. Sometimes they show me a small cup and pull a face. ‘Small?’ they say, mouth contorted in a grimace. ‘Yes’, I say. ‘Small’, unrelenting.I use the word smallthough it has no currency for them. Small for them, I think, is ‘regular’, or is ‘regular’ medium? I’m not sure. Then they say: ‘you want milk with that?’ I just repeat my mantra: ‘small black americano for in’. Then they say: ‘Is to go?’
Really, all I want is just for someone to hear my words, and someone who doesn’t talk like a robot.