by Christopher Lion
San Jose, California, USA
I worked for a large theater company that was just completing a massive motion picture complex in Northern California. With construction scheduled to be completed by the weekend we got ready to open our doors. Due to rain delays, the theater was not ready to open on time. However, the print ads announcing the Grand Opening had gone to press the week before, so the newspaper ads were telling the locals that our theater was open.
My job was to stand out in the pouring rain telling people that the theater opening was delayed a week. People screamed and yelled and generally treated me like I wanted to be standing out in the freezing rain disappointing people.
I gave out free movie passes and told them they were good at other theaters in the area. At one point, I was so cold I could barely hold onto to the pad of passes.
I was getting disappointed in people as some made a point of coming around a second time to try and get more passes. Along about 9:00, after four hours of standing in the cold, a car pulled up. I prepared to give my speech when the girl stopped me, saying, “We felt sorry for you standing out in the cold all night, so we brought you some coffee.”
After nearly 10 years in customer service in movie theaters, I almost never ran into anyone who remotely appreciated any efforts we went through for them. People were always trying to get passes out of us, but never seemed to care about the effort we were putting forth for them. I was dumbfounded.
I tried to offer them some passes, but they said they were here earlier and got some. When I said for them to take some more, they thought that wasn’t very fair. I thanked them for their kindness and they drove off.
I learned a lot that night. People aren’t so bad, and by doing just a little thing, you can make someone’s worst shift at work their best. Since then, when I walk into a place and find them in a state of chaos (usually because they are understaffed), I’ll ask the manager if they need any help for a little while. Many times they say no, but just as often they say yes, and I’ve cooked burgers, emptied trash or helped customers for as little as 20 minutes to almost three hours. Then I just say “thanks for letting me help” and head on out.
Customer service is a demanding and unappreciated field. I like to think that each time I help someone, I’m inspiring someone else to take up the cause to help others. And maybe, in some small way, I’m helping to make this world a better place.
As for the people that night out in the rain, I want them to know that they gave me the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.