And is there manners still for tea?

What Mel Did - And is there manners still for tea?
Image credit: Melinda Fargo

I meet a lot of people charged with serving the public who are confused on that point. It is only fitting, therefore, when I have a sublime experience of customer service that that be given as much air time.

Going into a store this week, the keepers of the goods were chatting behind the counter. I waited a nano-second too long for one of them to notice me, a customer, before I headed out the door again.


Some of you will know my frustrations with what passes for customer service these days. And I know that makes me sound impossibly old and crotchety but, to be fair, I don’t care. I know, I know, complaining about such things is seen as the purview of those who once had a tight arse and now are just, well, a tight arse.

I meet a lot of people charged with serving the public who are confused on that point. It is only fitting, therefore, when I have a sublime experience of customer service that that be given as much air time.

Know that my words are not sponsored, nor grace or favour given or implied by the store in question. (Love that phrase.)

From the moment I entered the tea and coffee shop Whittard of Chelsea (Norwich), 20 minutes before closing, I was greeted by James the shop assistant as though I were the only person in the world he had hoped would walk in the door at that very moment.

Bronnie is the only other person I have known to make me (and others) feel like that.

For those of you who knew him, and those of you who didn’t, do a little better tomorrow and do as he did as we negotiate the world. Take notice of someone who believes themselves unremarkable and, therefore, unnoticeable. It may not change your life but it could, potentially, change theirs.

James’ friendly, courteous and humour-filled service may not seem like life-changing stuff, but in a world of fast service and no eye contact, it was a revelation. There was also no rolling of eyes or pointed stares at the clock as I vacillated between different teas, coffees and, ooh, was that a glass teapot over there?

James skilfully steered me away from the glass teapots and towards what I had actually come into the store looking for – Salted Caramel flavoured coffee.

We chatted like old friends and got onto the subject of James’ favourite teas. He was currently addicted to the Blueberry Rooibos (No. 91) and urged me to have a smell.

No perfumista needs telling twice to smell stuff.

I travelled the world of Rooibos teas, flirting with the Vanilla Honeybush, starring hard at the Choco-Rooibos and eventually going home with James’ Blueberry, as I now call it,… and a lime green mug… and a special tea strainer.

James urged me to visit again and threw in three sample teas for me to try and report back on.

Who knew you could have so much fun with tea?

So, I may have started the week with good customer service in a coma and doctors threatening to pull its life support. However, it ended up with me sitting by its bedside a little while longer – sipping a sublime cup of tea and feasting on memories of excellent customer service.

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  • Many years ago I worked in retail, and whenever I was able to send a customer away feeling happy/cared for/well advised it made my day. It was this philosophy of customer service that saved my job when redundancies needed to be made. I was in line for the chop as the most costly member of staff, but I went on holiday just before the decision had to be made. In my absence it was noticed how differently I dealt with customers than the only other full-time staff member, and decided I was an asset even though I cost more. I hope James’s employers take similar note of his customer service skills. Enjoy the tea and coffee.

    • It’s so funny you say that, because I went in later in the week – James wasn’t there – and the difference was palpable. Thank you for stopping by with your wonderful story.

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