Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Customer Service and Germs

I've been meaning to address this for some time. Since I'm currently stationed near Kleenex boxes, this may be the right moment.

Being a tad germophobic, I tend to notice when people are less than cautious regarding hygiene. Some are oblivious - such as the woman who held a wet handkerchief while shaking my hand after a speech - while others seem to regard cleanliness standards as applicable only if convenient.

Recently, I was impressed when a grocery store cashier covered a sneeze and then, before proceeding, cleaned her hands with disinfectant. It reminded me, however, of how often I've seen workers who did not follow her example. I have walked away from sales counters after spotting an employee who is sneezing and hacking away.

Is my concern hypersensitive or reasonable?


John said...

Over three decades in the food business gave me tons of germ stories. Two recollections immediately come to mind.

►After using cloth napkins since the Forties, the company made a move to disposables in the Nineties (though paper was more expensive) for two reasons. Maintenance costs in the laundry (commercial dryer), and sanitation. Customers didn't like seeing napkins they might use next time being sneezed in (or worse) by others.

►Newly hired dishwashers would sometimes get caught eating in the dishroom. But after my explanation of microbes on dirty dishes, napkins and scrap food from hundreds of the public, they were almost ready to vomit at the thought. I got very good at the speech. Only rarely did I find anyone willing to let their hands get anywhere near their face after that.

My staff and I were far more at risk of catching something from the public than the other way around. Same for bank tellers and retail cashiers.

Aseem Kumar said...

This kind of behavior is quite common in Japanese grocery stores... They are little too particular about hygiene.. Even while entering a superstore.. some of them keep a disinfectant near the entry door for customers to sanitize their own hands..

Michael Wade said...


I can believe that. I've seen people in restaurants who should be home in bed. I eavesdropped on a conversation in a coffee shop a few months ago as the boss was conveying the importance of hand-washing. The customers could use it as well as the staff.


There was a Wall Street Journal article a few years ago indicating that Japan's culture of cleanliness may keep them from building up immunities. I didn't know about the disinfectant in a superstore. I saw that recently in a toy store in the US and thought it made sense there.