Friday, November 25, 2011

Good manners... an essential life skill

Good manners and customer service are essential skills in business and life.
Many people believe a good tourist officer is all that is needed to put their town on the map and will campaign vigorously to their local shire council for one. A far more effective and economical means of promoting a town is through the local residents and businesses themselves. It won’t matter how great a tourist officer is, if the town isn’t friendly people won’t stop a second time or recommend it to their friends.
I am always astounded when I meet inhospitable people working in hospitality. When I think of a certain small town in South Australia I remember the sour-faced café owner who in April 1996 grudgingly made me a chicken salad roll. I was on my way to Broken Hill with my (then) husband Duncan to visit my mining engineering brother Tom. Thinking we would do our bit for this town’s local economy we stopped to buy fuel and some lunch.
What a mistake that was. It soon became obvious that we had ruined this woman’s day by requesting lunch. She grumbled her way through the task at hand, with a sneer she pushed the plates with requested rolls across the counter, snatched our money and then vanished into a room at the back of the café. No smile, no thank you, no “have a nice day”, “where are you from?” or “where are you going?”, nothing. I concede it is possible the other inhabitants of this little anonymous town are lovely, but I will never ever stop there again if I can possibly help it… I don’t think Duncan’s been back there either.
There was certainly no lack of hospitality on my excellent adventure to Western Australia that concluded last weekend. My second last night in Perth was spent enjoying a family dinner with Mary, Rod, Ann, Sam, Geoff, Rosie and Jack. My last day in the state’s capital included coffee in Kings Park with Mary and meeting up with Barham’s own Lisa Campbell. My trip ended as it had started with Lisa and I lunching on beer and pizza at Little Creatures and coffee at Gino’s. Jay gave me an early morning lift to the airport the following day where I caught a plane to Adelaide to spend a few days with the Osters of Prospect. By happy coincidence I also met up with the Osters of Barham who were visiting the Osters of Prospect as well.
Last Saturday morning on the final leg of my excellent adventure found me driving into the small Wimmera town of Warracknabeal around nine o’clockish and feeling famished. I was in need of a strong coffee and a bacon and egg muffin. The lady at the Café Peppercorn couldn’t have been more helpful. She smiled, she was polite, she made great food and excellent coffee and the prices were very reasonable. My knowledge of Warracknabeal is limited. Nick Cave the musician was born there in 1957 and the town’s name is taken from an aboriginal expression meaning “place of big gum trees shading the waterhole”. Now I can add: home of Café Peppercorn, good spot to stop.
In August this year my buddies from Hay were on their way to Wandella for the Under 14s AFL semi final and stopped en route at Barham for breakie and snacks. They emerged from the Riverside Café smiling and singing the praises of Gina and Hamish and the Riverside’s fantastically friendly staff. Will my Hay friends stop in Barham again? Will they talk to their friends and family about their very positive experience at Barham? You betcha.
Good manners in the form of a smile; a thank you; a helpful attitude are simple but powerful life skills that make all the difference, no matter where you are. I’m looking forward to implementing these life skills on Monday when we welcome the participants on The Great Victorian Bike Ride.

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