My American Adventure Part 1: The People & Customer Service

As some of you might be aware, me and Matt got married on the 24th May and have just returned from our Honeymoon, a week in New York City. It was my first time in America, Matt has been many times. So I was very excited for the experience! Anyway, America made such an impact on me I am going to do a serious of blogs about the experience. This is part 1 and will be about the people and also customer service.

Many people say that New Yorker’s are rude and unfriendly, I would like to say that this is generally not true! Everyone (besides maybe the grumpy bus driver on the last day) was amazingly friendly, welcoming and helpful. From people in shops and the hotel, to just people we met on our travels, which included locals, other tourists and other Americans, who were delighted to strike up a conversations and share opinions, despite being strangers.

We were very lucky to be staying at a five-star boutique hotel on Madison Avenue, so I guess we were experiencing the very best customer service there. However I have never seen customer service like it anywhere else. Staff always greeted you and wanted to chat to you about your day, they were quick to offer advice and suggestions without being prompted. It made the trip so much better feeling that we had a group of lovely, friendly people looking out for us. One night, Matt had a conversation with one of the Bell Boys in the hotel, and we found out one possible reason for this kind of service, in America it is customary to tip everyone who provides a service; if you buy a beer you add an extra dollar for the bar man, if the bell boy gives you advice you tip him, if you get good service in a shop you tip them (as well as most shop assistants working on commission), as well as the usual tipping at restaurants and taxis! So this custom means that everyone working in customer service has more motivation to provide an excellent customer service. It turned out that the Bell Boys in our hotel were earning more money than me and Matt combined!! From the point of view of a customer or visitor though, this positive, friendly attitude, makes your trip more enjoyable, you feel more welcomed and at ease and it makes you want to go back. So it works for both parties.

On returning to England, I felt quite depressed when we popped out to the shops and no one makes eye contact with you, let alone offer out a friendly hello or a bit of conversation. I don’t really know why Brits are so unfriendly, and why we rarely see customer service like we’ve seen in America. I work in a shop and it makes my day better if I am chatty and welcoming to customers, it’s no extra effort and it makes everyone feel happier. I was particularly disappointed when me and Matt visited a new store in Leeds, that I have been eagerly awaiting and yes it was a beautiful shop with loads of things I would love to purchase, but when you walk past about six sales assistants and not one of them even makes eye contact with you, it doesn’t really inspire you to hang about or come back! It angers me!

Whilst in New York we must have had about three friendly encounters each day with strangers, many of them resulting in swapping email addresses and being invited to visit! The first encounter was when we went for lunch at Hard Rock Cafe on Time Square, the couple sat next to us starting talking to us, and we had a great conversation they were a middle-aged couple visiting New York from Canada and they were so eager to find out about us and share details about their home town. It was lovely. Other encounters included an elderly Polish immigrant in Central Park who asked us our opinions on a pretty much every subject you could think of and shared his knowledge of squirrels with us. We also bet two couples, in queues for things, who were similar ages to us and they were also keen to chat.

I don’t understand why people in England rarely talk to strangers, if your sat on a bus or in line for something. I guess maybe English people are more wary of strangers, have a more pessimistic outlook, more paranoid? Whereas the Americans in general certainly are more optimistic! At the end of the day though, we are all equal, we are all people and all have stories to share, maybe it would brighten our days if we even made eye contact and smiled at a stranger sometime.

Anyway, the gist of this is that now I’m back in England I’m feel a bit low, missing the friendliness of America and the enthusiasm that everyone there gives off. I shall look forward to going back to work on Monday though and having the lovely girls at work and the customers to brighten my day!

Part 2 coming soon!

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