Monday, June 17, 2013

Good service

An article in Bloomberg today about how people are spending silly money on weddings got me noodling.  As we've heard a lot recently, the jobs that the economy has been producing are low value-added service jobs, many of them in the hospitality industry.  These jobs don't pay much money or offer great futures, and people are generally pissed off to have them.

However, entry-level service jobs can teach you important things about service and focusing on the customer, which is the most important thing these days (ask any marketing person or, for that matter, CIO or even CEO, that's where their heads are).  I support businesses that give me good service (of late, the Tater Bread Cafe, JC's [at Fayetteville and Main here in Durham], and even the Subway in the basement of the Courthouse on Main Street), but am lukewarm on those that do not (the Blue Coffee Cafe), though I'll usually give a place another shot.

Recently, I was at the Med Deli in Chapel Hill and ordered Mukhamara, but they brought me Mujjadara. When I went back up to the counter, the guy working the line filled up a container with what I wanted and, without blinking, told me to take the other thing.  This was a young hispanic guy. Either he had great instinct or had great training. He had no fear of getting caught giving away something for free, he knew that the good feeling engendered by taking good care of the customer was worth infinitely more than the marginal cost of the rice and lentils (which were a little boring, but a free lunch for Mary).

The point is, people working hard in low-level jobs should often be able to make opportunities to do better for themselves if they focus on it.

Now, I don't want to romanticize this.  The NYTimes posted a piece yesterday with profiles of people working for minimum wage, and their lives are hard as hell.  And I am well aware that there are pathologies of managers in these jobs who enjoy their dominion and are protective of it, and that within massive corporate hierarchies that it may often be difficult if not impossible to get rewarded for focusing on being better at doing one's job or providing service.

Anyway, I'm rambling like some doddering Republican aren't I?  The other inference one can easily draw from the increase in mad weddings and luxury spending and private equity funds buying up single family homes to rent out is that rich people can't find enough ways to spend money, because they/we've basically already got more stuff than we need.  Given that the market hasn't been great at allocating money to things we really need (infrastructure, R&D, improvements to healthcare and education delivery), it would be great if the government had the money, wherewithal, and political will to do these things, by raising taxes, for instance. That would create better jobs all up and down our ecosystem.

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