Taking Stock - October 13, 2014

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While on a lunchtime dither around the supermarket I couldn’t help but overhear a couple’s complaints.

“Well, it’s not very nice,” snapped the woman, as if deeply offended.

“It’s hardly what you’d call customer service,” bemoaned her put-upon looking male partner whose tone illustrated all too clearly who was wearing the trousers.

I’d seen the counter exchange myself and while it was brisk and efficient I wouldn’t say it was in any way worthy of scorn.

I suppose we have, as a nation, got used to service with a smile.

Yes we always had Mr Jones the butcher with his cheeky banter, and Mr Bun the baker, trotting out endless innuendo about his baps.

But we’ve never really embraced the American school of retail thinking, the one in which everything has to be done with a smile that, frankly, looks painful and was most likely designed by a six-year-old with a crayon.

I hate the fact it’s now crept on to our high street, into 
our cafes and, most irritating of all, into our service stations.

There’s one well known American coffee chain I visit occasionally when on the road.

I’m not a great fan of the coffee culture fad – I’m more a polystyrene cup, teaspoon of instant, nine sugars kind of guy.

It’s bad enough that I can’t just order a coffee – they don’t sell it because it doesn’t end in ‘o’ – but these days I have to tell the philosophy graduate behind the counter my name.

Of course, I lie.

I may be Rob seven days a week (Robin to Mother Dearest, but only on a Sunday).

But at Hartshead Moor services, at 2am, I can be whoever I want.

Once, at a roadside stop just outside Oxford I laughed my socks off as they shouted across an empty café that the Latte’s for Butch and Sundance were ready.

I look nothing like Robert Redford and even less like Harrison Ford, having placed an order the week after on behalf of Luke and Han just outside Taunton.

So, service with a smile, the American way – you can take it or leave it.

But service that makes me giggle – that’s priceless.