Service Without a Smile

I was ordering tea this morning and the woman at the counter couldn't have been more surly.

I mentioned the cup felt cool. Could she please pour me a fresher, hotter one? You'd think I'd asked her to do a somersault behind the counter.

She rolled her eyes, shook her head and let out a heavy sigh. Again, it was as if I had wanted her to go to China, bring back some tea, re-boil the water and do a bacterial check on the cup! I just wanted another cup of tea!

She didn't have to re-invent the wheel. She could have re-invented a better attitude. But alas, she did not.

I was so flummoxed by her behavior, I asked her bluntly, "Are you always so rude, or is that just your disposition?"

She responded, "Whatever."

So I said, "Whatever, what? You didn't answer my question. What exactly is your problem?"

Apparently I hit a nerve, because the guy behind me chimed in, "They're all like that here."

Then the manager, of all people, interrupted, "It's New York, guys."

That got the whole line of people behind me really stirred up.

"This guy's the boss," said one.

Another shouted, "Your coffee sucks. And you suck. The only reason I come here is because you're close by my office. No more." And she just up and left.

Several others followed, not because the coffee or tea was bad, which it was this day, by the way. But because the service was bad, pretty much every day.

Look, we all have bad days. But I was brought up believing the customer is king, even when the customer can be annoying. And I don't think I was annoying.

What's different now, of course, is these service sector jobs go begging, stores take what and who they can get. Even if those people treat other people like crap.

It's not just this woman serving tea. She's not every service worker. But she's a lot of service workers.

Wal-Mart Founder Sam Walton used to say, "You lose your smile, you lose your customer."

Sam's dead, but somewhere, he has to be spinning in his grave.

Losing your smile is one thing. Copping an attitude on top of it, well, that's quite another.

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