Customer service? Not a problem!

I’ve experienced a fair bit of customer service over my time, and one thing I’ve noticed over the past few years is the increased use of the phrase, “not a problem,” eg:

JB: “Thanks for your help.”
Customer Service person: “Not a problem.”

Why can’t Australians say, “You’re welcome.” ??

My theory? Something to do with being laid back and friendly, rather than acknowledging a more formal, “I’m-helping-you-but-I’m-not-your-mate-and-therefore-I’m-not-your-equal-in-this-converation-so-I’m-going-to-keep-things-egalitarian-because-although-we-don’t-have-a-class-system-we-really-do-and-you’re-not-better-than-me-just-because-I’m-serving-you.”

How’s that for a theory?

Mind you, it could also be because these customer service people haven’t had good training.

Or both.

Australian Conversations: smallerised

2. The Hairdressing Apprentice

Last night I went to my hairdressing salon for the obligatory coffee, magazine catch-up, champers, rice crackers and more coffee – oh, and I had a hair cut and colour too.

I also, like, had the pleasure of the final year apprentice who spent, like, over an hour putting lots of artificial colour into my hair to make it look more like my natural colour; ie, I figured that with the current metallic craze, I may as well embrace silver … or at least that’s what I prefer to call it.

She’s a gorgeous 18 year old who’s at that age where she’s insecure about asking the younger apprentices to help her, eg, “If, like, it’s okay, would you mind getting that powder? Like, if you can’t, that’s okay.” She’s also really keen to get a boyfriend, and she really enjoyed her staff Christmas party on board a charter boat, where high heels weren’t allowed. “Like, all the others were, like, ‘I don’t beLIEVE it’ and I was, like, ‘cool'”.

So I’m enjoying the banal customer patter – you know, “How was your weekend?” – when suddenly out of the blue:

Gorgeous thing: “Did you know that with that global – what’s it called? global gathering – that, like, when the temperature gets to 100 degrees we’re all going to die because, like, our body can’t live in 100 degrees?”

JB (taken aback at the sudden turn of conversation, and quite bemused): “Global warming?”

Gorgeous thing: “Global warming, that’s it [laughs] and when we get to 50 degrees, like, we’re already on the way to dying.”

JB (performing quick revision of high school science in her head on celcius, fahrenheit and human body temperature just to make sure that the champers hadn’t boggled her commonsense and she had in fact heard correctly]: “But seeing we only get to 44 degrees tops here in Perth, we’re okay.”

Gorgeous thing: “Hang on, Global Gathering was a concert [laughs again].”

JB: “It probably won’t get to 100 degrees for, I dunno, 20,000 years?”

Gorgeous thing: “Like, how will our kids and grandkids deal with that – oh, they’ll be dead then too, won’t they. Well, anyway, it really freaks me out. I said that to another client the other day, I told her I was freaked out by global warming and the temperature rising and she just said [haughtily] ‘global warming?’ and I thought, ‘picked the wrong client to bring this up with.'”

JB: “It will be okay, honest. That ‘global gathering’ though, that’s a beauty.”

Gorgeous thing: “I’m hopeless – the words just come out wrong. I went to get my ring smallened and asked for it be smallerised. Smallerised! How stupid is that? I even know that smallened is wrong but it just comes out.”

Further conversation ensued until I was relieved of a fair proportion of Alcoa’s annual aluminium production from the top of my head, at which point she pointed out, when considering toner for my hair colour, “it helps with the colour lastage.”

JB: “Lastage?”

Gorgeous thing: “See, I’ve done it again! But it will make your hair last very much better.”

Let’s hope so. I don’t want to make this global gathering stuff any worse than it already is.

Australian Conversations: in a taxi

1. The cabbie in Perth.

JB: Can I ask where your accent is from?

Cabbie: Bosnia.

JB: Have you been here long?

Cabbie: I been 13 years in Australia. I fled – well, escaped really just before the end of the war in 1992. My first child was born in 1991, so I left my wife and baby behind. They left in 1995 to join me so I didn’t see family for 3 years. When I arrived in Perth, I got a job as TA in Gove, working 10 weeks on, 10 days off. Very different to what I did in Bosnia.

JB: What did you do in Bosnia?

Cabbie: I qualified through hospitality and tourism college. I had my own lounge bar. You know, it had nice music, I knew everyone, they knew me. I had two boys working for me, we knew everyone’s drinks, we made good nibble food. It was nice.

JB: Have you ever wanted to do that here?

Cabbie: No, too hard here. I have friends who try, and Perth it doesn’t have the same – the restaurants and bars – it’s not quite – it wouldn’t work out for me now. Taxi is okay.

How the great washed travel

The queue is shuffling patiently towards Gate 3.

Waiting in line are the usual assortment of business types, ubiquitous fly-in fly-out looking blokes even though we’re flying to Sydney, a smattering of mums with babies, and retirees heading back to the Central Coast, or perhaps going to visit their daughter who’s just bought her first apartment in the CBD now that she can afford it after landing that great job.

I’m about five or six back from the ever-so-polite-smile-through-clenched-teeth of the Qantas flight attendant as she beeps the crinkled boarding passes through the machine – “I’ll just do that one manually I think” – when I hear the voice descending from the Qantas Club stairs.

It’s one of those loud female husky voices that isn’t a result of bronchitis; just one of those voices. Like if you were to slow it down on an audio track it would sound like a drag queen … with bronchitis.

The voice has an accompanying look which says 40 is the new 30, and it took an hour or so this morning, along with the right jeans and genes, to make that happen. She’s coming in sideways now, merging with the queue ahead of me without a look behind, her kids now fanning out around the entrance to the aerobridge:

“Mimi, Mick, Jasper, wait for daddy – he has to show your tickets.”

Sometimes a queue is actually quite useful. It gives you time to get yourself together to deal with unexpected surprises at the gate.

Which might really piss you off.

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