The Difference Between “Sure Ma’am, right away” and …

There are some big differences between customer service in Canada and customer service in USA. I’m not covering new ground here. Most of my peers complain about the crappy service in Canada that we assume is the result of strong national companies/banks and monopolies such as Bell (although that’s changing), Canada Post, and in Ontario’s case, LCBO. Some even blame it on Canada’s social safety net. In other words, getting fired/downsized and living on social assistance is a fine option. Or ask your parents for help, or move back in with parents, etc etc. And I suppose this latter idea is due to Canadians being fairly prosperous for a few generations now, and therefore able to financially support younger generations when required?

Having recently returned from a trip to the USA I am reminded again of how good the customer service is in every hotel, restaurant, subway station, retail store, and basically everywhere you might buy a product or a service. It’s the difference between “Right away Ma’am” aaaaaand total silence or being ignored. It’s as if Canadian companies don’t care if they get our money or not. In fact it would be better if customers were to leave the store so the clerk there could get back to planning her weekend or reading his book about Jack Kerouac. I find even US companies that have offices here still fall prey to Canadian retail attitudes. For example, I was in Starbucks (what a surprise) and the person ahead of me needed a tray. The customer was a tourist and didn’t know the english word for it. When he was finally able to get the barista to understand what he needed, did the barista give him a tray? Of course not. He pointed to the pile of them at the other end of the counter. I walked over to the stack of trays and separated one out for the customer, told him the proper name for it and received a smile and Thank You in return. If I worked in retail maybe I would feel differently. But how does that explain the attitudes of minimum-wage workers in the US?

We stayed 1 night in a hotel in Philadelphia and at that place there was breakfast included. The morning of our departure we headed to the lobby to eat what I expected to be dismal cereals and bland toast with sad jams and margarine. I was surprised to see bagels with cream cheese, REAL eggs and homefries available. Add to this a server who cleared plates and offered help wrt getting more coffee or hot tea. At one point Boy midget failed to completely slice the bagel and started a minor fire in the toaster. The server calmly went over to help and offered to make him a new one herself. Do you think a server in a Canadian hotel would have given a hoot about any of this? Actually do you think a Canadian hotel would even have a server on duty during the breakfast? NO. No way. Is this because the minimum wage in the US is so much lower than Canada? Or because hiring a person in Canada means paying CPP and health insurance? Again I’m too lazy to google. And I’d rather keep on supposing and questioning than knowing the actual answer.

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