Everyone knows the frustration of having to hunt down a waiter or assistant for help only to be faced with impudent and nasty behavior.
Or of being in a supermarket where customers are completely ignored at the checkout line, or at the frozen yogurt counter while the cashiers busily chat away on the telephone or gossip about last weekend's events with fellow "workers."
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an apathetic cashier never to make eye contact, let alone be courteous or friendly to customers.
One Saturday night, I enjoyed the luxury of dinner at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point. While the food was excellent and the decor was beautiful, the most outstanding characteristic of the meal was the service.
The Ritz-Carlton pampers each of its guests. An employee is virtually always available for assistance if needed.
The experience made me wonder: Shouldn't the customer always be king? Why should customers have to fight off rude and inconsiderate employees so often?
Service everywhere should be helpful and polite; the customer should be served, not treated like a second priority.
In recent decades, machines have replaced people everywhere as servers, attendants and sometimes cashiers. Society has become so caught up in computers and self-serving machines that it has completely forgotten the essence of service--assistance to benefit someone.
In a new generation of the information superhighway, cellular phones and laptop computers, the mere luxury of courteous service has disappeared along with bottle openers on Coca-Cola machines and drive-in diners.
Unfortunately, today's motto seems to be "Do It Yourself." As a result, like the automated teller machines that serve them, too many people have assumed a machine mentality. They treat others with neither attention nor sensitivity.
Where might this attitude lead our future?
To a world such as that in George Orwell's "1984"? To a scientific world ruled by computer bytes and time machines? To a time when people will no longer step outside in the fresh morning air to pick up their daily newspapers but hear about the latest news from a computerized voice that invades the privacy of the home? We can only hope that the human mind will prevail in this race against the machine.
Guests love to indulge in a stay at the Ritz-Carlton, no matter how short, because it is an establishment that has not forgotten the true meaning of service; employees go out of their way to make people feel important.
In a technological world where computers deliver the mail and recorded operators answer questions, society has become one of aloof automation.
It is comforting to know that there is at least one place that insists on the device that cannot be programmed into a computer--personal contact.