Positivity and Newton’s 3rd Law: Why We Should Smile When We Are The Customers

Although I keep blogging about food, I remain as one of the most boring person in Singapore when it comes to having lunches. Back in the army and prison, when lunch was provided, everybody around me was looking for an excuse to lunch out, while I was very contented with what I was served in the messhall. Even now, 2 years after I hung up my uniform for the corporate world, my lunch option is usually very simple:

The mixed rice stall, a.k.a point-point-rice (ppr), at the in-house canteen.

Christmas market at Nuremberg, Germany, after dark.

If you ask my colleagues, they will rather NOT eat ppr. Some say the price is too high, which I will rebut, “Can you get 2 Meat, 1 Veg at $3,80 outside?” Others will say the food is too oily, which I can also quickly debunk by buying a plate of food from the Malay stall.

The last reason is almost echoed by everybody, and that is: The ppr auntie is stingy and not friendly. Many of them spoke with conviction at this judgement, to the point that I found it very amusing, especially when compared to my own experience.

I mean, the auntie always greet me when I buy breakfast from her. Every now and then, she would pick up an extra mushroom or give me a ‘tasting portion’ of a new dish. With such a treatment, I find it very hard to agree with them on the last point.

Christmas market at Nuremberg, Germany, after dark.

But of course, I think the “ppr auntie is unfriendly” thinking is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When people buy from the stall, they already have the pre-notion that the auntie is unfriendly, which made them lose the interest to smile and engage. The auntie, in response to cold expressions, will most likely refrain from smiling and engaging. This reinforces the idea that the auntie is unfriendly, and the customers just leave the stall to propagate their confirmation bias.

I have friends who insist that vendors should take the lead to express friendliness, not the other way round.

While I agree that when we buy a product, we are also paying for the peripheral services, including how the product is delivered, for example, it does not mean that customers are absolved from taking the first steps.

Salzburg, Austria - Couple preparing crepe in Christmas market.

First, customer representatives are human beings; surely we should treat each other with basic respect and courtesy. When we meet each other, there’s no need to differentiate, “Oh, that guy’s rank in the office is lower than me, so I should wait for him to greet me first.” – that idea of “junior officers should salute senior officers first” only exist in the uniformed service, and even then, many uniformed officers don’t follow such restrictive protocols during casual interactions.

Secondly, as N pointed out to me, because customer representatives are human beings, they will also respond to human interaction. He always advised me to be nice to customer representatives, so that they will respond positively to us, which could mean from providing me a pleasant experience to agreeing to a difficult request.

Such attitudes are not exclusively Asian (or Chinese), as many people insist. The West has also done research into human behavior and the flourishing of NLP and growth mindset concepts reinforce the ideas that positive behavior begets positive reactions.

Heck, even Newton would agree.

The positive reaction may be lost or minimized due to other factors like the store assistant being reprimanded by his boss just 2 hours ago, or a particular button on the POS machine keeps failing, but the law of entropy states that nothing is lost forever. If there’s no initiation, one can never expect a stationary object to start moving.

Therefore, the next time you approach a store assistant, try to turn on that bright smile of yours and find out how much positive reaction you can receive.

Last, but not least, Happy Labour Day everybody!

Disclaimer: I am a casual social commentator, who speaks because it is logical and rational, so my points are not necessarily based on established research and studies. As much as possible, I will refer to theories and knowledge I picked up through formal education. If you do agree to my ideas, please feel free to contaminate others in your social circle. If you disagree, though, it would be good to provide sources and credits, so that I can learn from my mistakes.

Salzburg, Austria - Waffle shop from Christmas market.

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