It’s all about the service

I'm a sucker for good service. At restaurants, I am a great tipper when the service is good and I vote with my feet when it's not. It seems that our economy (is this unique to the US?) is very focused on service, be it good or bad. I exchanged e-mail with a co-worker on the sad state of air travel today (bad service continues), and get really exited over having my groceries delivered to my home (for free...why would you not?).

Anyway, as I've gotten older, I personally have cared more about service. Part of that is simply having more money to spend (I am not a "Microsoft millionaire" by any means but I sure make more than I did when I was on the PB&J diet back in the early nineties), part is that along with more money comes less time and a willingness to pay someone to do the things you don't have time to do yourself. Services become about having it all or at least looking that way. Having it all for me means clean house, stocked kitchen, mowed grass, etc. I think that is reasonable.

I mentioned the grocery delivery thing before. I don't think is 100% there but they are getting there. I get some bruised fruit and a surly delivery guy now and then (is a simple "hello" too much to ask for?), but by and large, I am happy with it.

Today, I am going into the office for a health screening (no charge/on campus). I did this last year. A third party company comes in and tests your cholesterol, BMI, blood pressure, etc and they offer info on controlling any issues you have. For me, it's about monitoring where I am (my cholesterol couldn't be better and my BMI should be down this year...yeah!). I still go to the doctor for my annual check-up, but this is like a mid-season check-in. I'm not sure if many other companies offer this service but I really like it. Part of the reason is that I find it encouraging/affirming. If I weren't in good health, I'd certainly use it as a wake-up call and step away form the monitor a little bit.

Another service I'll be trying out soon is the "Auto Salon" at the Pro Club. They will wash (or detail) your car while you are working out. I've got that appointment next week. I have to admit that I still see getting my car washed as a bit of a luxury. Back in the day, I would have never paid someone to wash my car when I could do it myself. There were so many more things I wanted to do with my money than pay for soap, water and a little elbow grease. back then, I had more time than money. Now, chances are that if I don't pay someone to do it, my car is going to get pretty crusty (with kitty paw prints on the windshield courtesy of Winston, my neighbor cat). The benefit of having it done while I work out is that I don't even have to drive to the car wash's literally at the gym.

I'm far from living a life of luxury (because when you are a single gal and something needs to get done around the house, there's pretty much no doubt about who is going to do it), but I'm starting to mellow out on the aversion to paying for services because I simply don't have the time or energy to do it all myself. Heck, I am actually enjoying it.

Comments (30)

  1. Keith Farmer says:

    It took me a little while to get used to this sort of thing, myself.

    Have you tried dining at upscale restaurants yet?  We’ve had to train friends to *not* fall into the corner-diner habit of treating the place as you would your best friends house with the get-your-own-drink policy.  The well-mannered people appearing out of nowhere really are being paid to make the experience, well, perfect.

    Another way to look at it is that all those people detailing your car are getting paid to do so, and they probably need the money more than you, to put food on the table.  Hording new-found wealth doesn’t help them in the least — I remember being sent home for lack of work when I was doing fast food.

    It’s how I rationalize things, at least.

  2. Lauren Smith says:

    The Japanese law specifies something similar to your health screen. Every year, employees are strongly encouraged to get their health checked. Typically, this is paid for by the health insurance company which covers all the employees. Up to 30, you get the easy "Kenkou shindan" where you get your blood checked and some other stuff like BMI and other easy, non-intrusive checkup checks. After 30, you get the more rigorous "Ningen-dokku" which is quite a bit more intrusive, including the fun barium-scan which is a 5-10 minute scan of your gut from all sorts of different angles. After drinking a cup full of barium, the last thing you’d think you want to do is get hung upside down on a cold platform, but that’s exactly what you get.

    What do employers get from all this? Healthier employees, hopefully. The little bit of time spent at the doctor turns into a lot of time (and ultimately money) saved due to prevention of illness rather than cure. Ounce of prevention = Pound of cure, IOW.

    I get my car washed twice a year when I take it to the dealer’s for their binannual car maintenance checkup. Change the oil, check the fluids, and make sure everything looks okay. As a bonus, they wash the outside of the car as well.

    Which reminds me. It’s about time to get that free carwash.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Ooh, no barium for me today!

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    kfarmer-oh yes, I have dined at nice restaurants…I’m not that bad! Dining out is part entertainment and I’ve always been a fan of the nice restaurant. I like the idea of stimulating the economy through purchasing services; exactly how I justify leaving my shopping cart in the parking lot instead of taking it back into the store. Though I have to say that I eat significantly less fast food than the average american….significantly….as in have not been to a McDonalds in about 2 years.

  5. Jake the Snake says:

    You should try McDonalds! What could be better than the bazooka shits!

  6. Cheryl Klufio says:

    Being originally from a developing country (Ghana), having been raised partly in a developing country (Papua New Guinea), and living now in the US, what strikes me about this conversation regarding service is that certain regions of the world still have such a long way to go.

    In terms of health care, the limited funding available tends to be chaneled into the more critical and expensive "cure" part of the "Prevention is better than cure" equation. Staffing is also a problem, as Ghana, for example, trains many brilliant doctors who invariably end up going abroad in search of greener pastures and who do not return, as there are ready markets for them with the capacity to compensate well.

    Ironically, when it comes to services, such as car washes, etc., more working people can afford it. This is because labor is so terribly cheap. Whether it is "service with a smile" is questionable, though 🙂

    Food for thought…

  7. mr.scrooge says:

    The pro club service is quite spendy and not really better than what any other place can do for cheaper. At least, I hope you’re going to use your $25 off coupon that you got in the mail (you know, that bunch of pro club coupons?)

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    Jake the Snake- what a ringing endorsement ; )

    Cheryl- that is really interesting and concerning. I think that western medicine, in general, was later to the game when it came to prevention versus cure (eastern medicine seems to have been doing this for years). Not that it’s the same thing, but I know the difference living a healthy lifestyle makes and I feel lucky that that lifestyle is available to me. If I didn’t have my health, not sure I’d care whether my car was clean.

    mr. scrooge, where would I be without you? Twenty five dollars poorer…I totally forgot about the coupon and I’ve been carrying it around for ages! The big thing about the Pro Club cleaning my car is that they do it while I am working out. I *hate* to wait for stuff….very impatient. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. Wine-Oh says:

    $25 off for a car wash? Ouch! I hope its more like a detail and  that car comes out like the day you drove it off the dealer lot.

    I too tip nicely when service is great, even with delivery. I dont tip well when the waiter is over friendly and tries too hard. I have had this happen alot here in NYC. Sometimes actors take on waiter jobs and think they can audition for you. I went to brunch recently where the waiter said he had an audition and would he mind if he tried on his different accents for us through the meal. At first it was ok. But by the end I wanted to get the hook and ring the gong bell. He even broke into song a couple of times, and it wasnt that kind of restaurant where they perform.

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh, the coupons from the ProClub are different than what you are thinking. The car wash is $28. They have detailing too, but I don’t really need that. I drive a Rav 4…who details a Rav 4? It’s just going to get dog hair in it again anyway ; ) That waiter sounds annoying. I think in that situaiton I may have told him to knock it off and still tipped anyway, but I’m sure it was much more annoying in person!

  11. Wine-Oh says:

    Ok thats not so bad then. The car wash is great for de-furballing the car. The other key is leather seats. While hot in the summer, the hair comes off much easier than with cloth seats. Learned that the hard way.  I dont detail my car either. A nice car wash now and then does the trick. Living in NYC the car gets dirty very quickly. One of my friends in california was amazed when he came east how dirty cars are here. Apparently on the west coast, people pay alot of $$ to keep their cars clean and pristine. Must be a culture thing.

  12. Tim says:

    I know you are a customer service aficionado, Heather. I am mostly, too. But I realize there are places I go to that don’t give exceptional service, just because I like what they represent. Mostly these are small businesses like hardware stores (I don’t think customer-service oriented people take jobs in hardware stores) and small grocery stores. The reason I do this is because I still value these mom-and-pop businesses, even though they may be lacking when it comes down to service with a smile, or heck, even a great health plan for their employees. I’m not a Big Box Store guy, for a number of reasons, and I think I’m willing to deal with the smaller personal dealings at these stores to achieve the larger goal. Plus, I’d hate to think in 2050 everyone will have to work in a Best Buy shirt and khakis.

  13. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh, I used to hav leather seats and dog paws didn’t work well with them. I think they are great if you can keep the dogs off them. I kind of like having the kind of car interior that you can pull out and hose off (only had to do that once). I think if you keep your car from getting really gross on the inside you don’t need detailing. I don’t eat in the car and I don’t spend that much time in there. If I were more of a commuter, I’d worry more about it. Mostly my car just gets icky on the outside.

    Tim-I know how you feel. That’s exactly why I frequent Victor’s Coffee here whenever possible. The staff can be a llittle rough around the edges (I miss that guy that used to leave me nice messages on my coffee cup), but you know what to expect and it’s down-to-earth.

  14. Patblue says:

    Here Here!

    As I get older, I have no time any more.  This has really started to bug me as the days go by.  It is mid August and I kept promising myself that I would be able to tackle my overgrown gardens all summer.  Note that the gardener was employed today after I gave in last night.  The money I pay him, will be very worth my time clipping/cleaning/running to the dump.

    I used to be a waiter back when, I am a stickler for good service as well.

  15. Cheryl Klufio says:

    I agree, Heather. That’s one of the unfortunate ironies of the developing world, but things are beginning to change and hopefully it won’t take that long after all.

  16. mr.scrooge says:

    Glad to remind you of your coupon. The one great thing about the Pro Club is that they take feedback pretty seriously – fill out a comment card and see who writes back to you :). I like to tip well whenever I’ve had a good experience, you’d also be surprised how far just a nice verbal compliment can go in addition to a small % extra on the tip.

    Victors is alright, I think they’re a tad bit over-priced. The biggest problem there is the atrocious music (I dont think the barista’s pick that though).

  17. HeatherLeigh says:

    Patblue- your garden and my garden have something in common this year then…lack of attention. My gardener aske if I wanted him to take care of the weeds (right after he tried to pick me up…no joke) and I said no. Right now, I’m kind of wishing he’d come back but he charges too much for that. I put the bottle of weed killer next to the front door so I’m reminded every day of what I’d promise myself I’d do. I was a waiter too (the very worst one ever).

    Cheryl- I hope so

    Mr. Scrooge- funny you mention that. I did one of their surveys and happened to mention that the card scanners at the front desk were less than friendly and now they are all calling me by my first name. Well, you ask for my feedback and you get it… sometimes you don’t even have to ask ; ) I don’t mind the music at Victor’s so much. Does that make me old?

  18. mr.scrooge says:

    Ah, IMO those surveys aren’t the best place to send concise feedback – gotta use those comment cards that you see in pretty much every hall. Hmm what time do you usually go? I’ll bet that you go in the mornings. I used to know a lot of the folks who work concierge, they definitely seem to rotate those at the front-desk far more frequently than they used to. These days, they put the newbies there and some of them are a little green. But the vets who are still around are great. Also, you have to remember that they do have to put up with a lot, I’ve seen so many members just absolutely being absolutely clueless and rude.

    Re:Victors. Maybe I’m biased but I’d much rather hear Johnny Horn spinning sweet soul on a lazy sunday morning than some Eagles’ record for like the millionth time…

  19. HeatherLeigh says:

    Well dealing with rude/clueless members is why they call it a job. They still need to be polite to everyone. I definitely got the impression that the front desk job is the least coveted. If someone can’t muster a "hello" and a "thank you", I’m not sure they should be promoted off the front desk. The staff, by and large, is really excellent though. I just notices the difference between the front desk and the rest of the club. it wasn’t important enuogh for me to fill out one of those cards. I’m not a morning workout person. I’m usually there somewhere between 2 and 5. I stay away from the busy times if posible. I went last night at 6:30 and it was pretty full.

  20. Andrew says:

    OK Heather I am all for time-saving activities, but I draw the line at grocery shopping. In fact, I love grocery shopping. It is one of the most romantic experiences I will ever have (next to going to a 7/11). Maybe this is why you are single? The grocery store is the place to be.

    Also, why get someone to wash your car while you are at the gym? What is the point of the gym? This is like people who try to get the closest car parking spot to the gym entry so as to save them walking I assume. Then they get on the treadmill and start walking.

    I have been in a critical mood lately. 🙂

  21. HeatherLeigh says:

    Bob Turbo- it’s always fun for us single gals to have people speculate as to why we are still single. Somehow it’s never too flattering ; )

    Let’s see, I would never publicly criticize someone for looking for love at the grocery store (to each his/her own). What makes you think I don’t have a man or that I am looking? Thanks for giving me the opportunity to debunk that misconception. Not every single (meaning unmarried) gal in their thirties is on a desperate hunt for a boy/girlfriend. To me, the grocery store is where I buy stuff, stand in line and avoid all eye contact now that you made that comment : ) And that’s enough about that topic!

    I’m not sure I get the part about the gym. Washing the car doesn’t really get my heart rate up. Did you think I was pushing my car to the carwash? Walking in from the parking lot is different than working out….again, the heart rate thing. When I go to the gym, I park as close as I can because I want to get in there, get some good cardio activity and get the heck out. I am breathing when I walk in from the parking lot, but it doesn’t count as "working out".

    Now I am not going to make assumptions as to why you are critical lately (I think it’s kinda fun….gives me someone to play off of), but from what I can tell by your comment, you are looking for love at the grocery store and you don’t go to the gym. You were kidding when you referred to grocery shopping as "romantic", weren’t you? Please tell me you were or I am going to be worried about you, Bob!

  22. Andrew says:

    No I was NOT kidding about both grocery stores and 7/11s being romantic. But you have started talking about "looking" for love. Two very different things. I also find grocery shopping very relaxing as well, and also very communal.

    In terms of working out, washing the car is a great workout. It is great for your muscles and burning energy. Aerobic exercise is not the only type of exercise. I didn’t really have much of a relevant point with that comment though, I was merely poking fun at those people who choose to stare at a television while walking/running on a treadmill rather than go for a walk/run/play sport in this vast mass of beautiful land for free. Sometimes there are valid reasons to choose the former but a lot of the time there are not.

    I like your psychoanalysis at the end 🙂

  23. HeatherLeigh says:

    OK, I’m really not going to be able to find a way to find the grocery store romantic…the lighting is horrible!

  24. Andrew says:

    Some grocery stores are not so good 🙂

  25. HeatherLeigh says:

    OK, Bob, now we are curious…what makes for a romantic grocery store or 7-11?

  26. Andrew says:

    Grocery stores are romantic because they are relaxing. There is gentle, hypnotic music playing in the background. As your eyes trace the packed isles, full of colour and words, your mind gets lost in its own world. Your thoughts are free to roam, no longer confined to remember when the next meeting is, or how many reports are due.

    There is a sense of safety and togetherness. From the tradesperson to the executive, the gym junky to the rebelious self-destructive genius, everybody is united by the need to search for ripe fruit. It makes you realise that we are all the same deep down. And what is deeper than love?

    Each person is performing a role, strolling the isles, unpacking their groceries, scanning the items. It is almost like a dance. In the chance that two people are both looking at the yoghart section, they will need to swap positions like a well-practiced dance step, to make sure they have looked at the wide variety of flavours. This is not some sleazy bar where the goal is to "pick up chicks". It is more primal. A ritual. People are united by natural instincts, not disfunctional desires.

    Convenience stores like 7-11s are small and intimate. At any store you are likely to find an array of imported and exotic confectionary to stimulate your imagination. There is a sense of rebellion, and lack of safety as you browse the store knowing that at any moment an armed robber could bust in and kill you.  

    The clear lighting at night, combined with the gentle sounds of Britney Spears in the background, makes for a surreal environment that takes you away from normality and everyday life and into a world that mirrors the crazy world of two people in love.

    It is much like a street light in the middle of the night. Two people meet under the light, together. It is like there is nothing else in the world. The surroundings are invisible, with all of the focus on the two people and a road. The road represents everyday life, the millions of people that use it, and the rarity of these two people being together. The only difference between the street light and the late night convenience store is that there is some random person standing behind a counter, pretending not to watch your every move.


  27. Andrew says:

    Oh sorry that didn’t answer your question…

    Answer: They are clean, and have a lot of free space.

  28. HeatherLeigh says:

    OK, Bob….that’s not romantic. And you are scaring me again ; ) I’m suddenly even more appreciative of haveing my groceries delivered to my home!

  29. Andrew says:

    haha. It was suppose to move you so deeply that you would never shop online again. Oh well 🙂

  30. HeatherLeigh says:

    good effort, but nobody comes between me and my online shopping!

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