Customer (No) Service

I never thought I would be any good in the service industry, but after working for a time with Starbucks, I quickly discovered that I was actually pretty good at it. I loved the customer interaction, getting to know them and their drink, and bringing a little bit of coffee joy to people each day. It really isn’t difficult, and one of the things I loved about Starbucks was their focus on customer service. It defines who they are, and as a Barista trainer, I focused on making sure the guest/customer experience was consistently good, or better than good. People are paying $4-6 for a coffee drink AND the experience. Connecting with the guest – that is the Starbucks way.

And as a trainer, if I found someone wanting to work at Starbucks I’d look for their ability to connect with a customer. I’d focus on the importance of writing their name on their cup. Everyone loves to hear their own name, and what better way to connect with a guest, than using their name to call out their drink. It’s really very simple, and if you couldn’t do it (or wouldn’t do it) then maybe Starbucks was not the right choice for you. Sadly, it seems that this is fast becoming the exception, not the rule.

With the new technology of tapping in a name, or with mobile orders doing all the work, a drink is ordered and a drink is placed on the counter. I’ve noticed more and more that drinks aren’t called out any more, baristas don’t watch their customer as they take their first sip to make sure their drink was made right. And the customer focused LATTE mantra that every Starbucks employee should embrace is becoming a thing of the past. At least based on my recent experience.

I love Starbucks. I love the company, and I love the story that each customer brings to every Barista. And the fact that the positive customer experience is not a focal point anymore of many of the Starbucks that I go to, brings a sadness that – mostly – confuses me. Why do I care if a name is on my cup? Why do I care if the barista looks at me when they hand me my drink? It’s just coffee, right? And I don’t really have an answer. While not trying to be dramatic, it came to me yesterday – as I was having a bad experience at Starbucks – that it was like watching a family member die. I felt like there was nothing I could do to change the outcome. And that is how I felt as I took my warm drink in hand, and watched the once joyful life of that store slowly disappear.

Hypocrites, traitors, oh my

What I’ve learned from reading the variety of commentary on the blogs, Facebooks and Twitters is that the SCOTUS will make decisions that some people agree with, and others don’t. To criticize the court for a decision on marriage, is the same to criticize the court for allowing corporations to inject money into politics (Citizens United) or selecting a president of the United States (Bush v. Gore). To claim that the marriage decision is unjust, is to say that these other cases were unjust. To hold a different opinion makes you a hypocrite. I have not liked many of the decisions of the Supreme Court, but I accept that these decisions are now the law of the land.

What is NEVER acceptable is elected officials whose oath is to uphold the Constitution of the United States to assert they are going to IGNORE (or violate) the Supreme Law of this country. That is anarchy at the highest forms of government, WITHIN government. Those people are traitors to our state and our country.

(Crossposted on Facebook)

Mid-Year Update 2012

Well it is a little after the mid-year, but I thought I should make a post – if only for historical purposes. Since the last post (way back in April) a lot has been happening.

Wedding Planning: This is continuing along and we have most of our wedding details sorted out (location, officiant, flights, hotel, etc.). Where we have stalled a little – mainly due to a lot of other things happening – is in planning the celebration parties in Australia and Texas. We are both getting some normality back in our lives, so this planning will resume in the new few weeks as we make the final arrangements to celebrate with our friends and family.

New Job: In May, I received a promotion at work to lead the new mentor2.0 program at BBBS. This has involved travel to New York for some training, and then aligning this program (as it exists in another part of the country) with the standards of BBBS. I have been almost non-stop since then, and have loved the experience of starting a new program like this that will impact so many youth in our community. I have an amazing team that I am working with, and while it was sad to leave my old team, the transition has been extremely rewarding. Along with this change, has been the renewal of my work visa (which is still pending at the time of this post), which always causes an additional element of stress in our life. While I have an amazing attorney helping me, once every couple of years, life is just that little bit more uncertain than other times in our life.

Home Improvements: Yes, I know we have only been in the house for a little over a year, but these are the good kind (and planned) improvements. Chris and I have been looking at pool companies of the last couple of months, getting ideas from friends and neighbors on what to factor in with our pool. We are at that point where we are ready to sign the dotted line and get this pool started, but this needs to wait until my visa has been finalized. Along with the pool, we are moving forward with painting some rooms (yes, we finally agreed on colors), and continue to search for that right piece of furniture for various spots in our home.

Travel: We have not done a lot of travel this year together, but Chris continues to explore the world at times. We recently took a trip to Austin and stayed at the Driskill Hotel (one of America’s most haunted hotels), and got to spend some time with our friends Layton and Sarah and their son, Eli! We are planning a trip to Las Vegas in October in conjunction with a conference that Chris is attending. Chris has never been to Las Vegas (well the airport on a transfer once, but that doesn’t really count), so I wanted to go and spend some time with him in a place he as always wanted to go.

Family: Over the past few months, we have been helping Chris’s mom sell her home in East Texas, and then relocate to Dallas. She spent the month of July with us, and finally moved into her new home at the beginning of August. The stress levels have been reduced tremendously with this transition, as she is much closer, and – to be honest – she seems much happier being in her new home. On the Australian family side, my mother and sister continue to make plans to trek back to the USA for another visit later this year, and I’m excited to see it that happens. We will be travelling to Australia next year so I am hopeful that I will have the opportunity to catch up with all of my immediate family while we are there.

Our Little Brother: Trey started high school this year. It has been pretty stressful leading up to his transition from his old school to his new school. He and his mother moved to a new part of town, and he seems to be pretty happy with the arrangement. Trey and I have been playing a lot of Xbox: Mass Effect 3 over the past month or so, and it’s been fun to work together to destroy the invading forces. He is insanely talented at these types of games, and I can just only sit back and watch him work his magic through the controller. Chris and I thought that maybe now that he is in high school that it may be less cool to have Big Brothers, but I think we might be in a good spot.

Overall, it has been a very busy few months since my last post. There have been other changes in our lives that have posed some challenges, however in addressing these, we have been fortunate to find other opportunities that have guided us to continue to move forward in life. As Heraclitus once philosophized: the only thing that is constant, is change. The last part of 2012 will continue to offer challenges and change, but I am confident that we will  meet these head on and learn and grow from each.

Maybe that should have been my resolution for the year.

The message is sometimes people can be human

I’m not a big fan of email forwards. I tend to research them on Snopes, or other urban legend sites, and politely tell the sender that it’s a hoax or something to that effect. I got this one sent to me from a former work colleague, and while it is not completely true, I liked the message it had. So I’m not going to forward or delete the message, but rather post it on my blog for anyone to view that chooses to. I am posting it because it made me feel that sometimes people can be kind, and can make a difference.

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: ‘When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other chi ldren do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?’

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. ‘I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.’

Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, ‘Do you think they’ll let me play?’ Shay’s father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay’s father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, ‘We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.’

Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt . His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father’s joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing t hat the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman’s head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, ‘Shay, run to fi rst! Run to first!’ Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide- eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, ‘Run to second, run to second!’ Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball … the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher’s intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman’s head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, ‘Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay’

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, ‘Run to third ! Shay, run to third!’

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, ‘Shay, run home! Run home!’ Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

‘That day’, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, ‘the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world’.

Shay didn’t make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

AND NOW A LITTLE FOOTNOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate. The crude , vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you’re thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you’re probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren’t the ‘appropriate’ ones to receive this type of message. Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the ‘natural order of things.’ So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it’s least fortunate amongst them.

You now have two choices:
1. Delete
2. Forward