September 10, 2007
Wise Words: If I Do It For You, I’ll Have to Do It for Everyone!
I realized today
that I’ve been doing it wrong all these years. I had the whole customer
service thing backwards. So I decided I was going to try something the
next time a customer asked me to do something – which took about 12
minutes to occur.
“D.F., can you shoot
me a copy of those meeting notes?” said the customer. “I forgot to save
them to my other computer and I want to work on them today while I’m off
I’d been waiting for
“If I do it for you,
I’d have to do it for everyone,” I said.
“What did you say,
Ooh. Cool. I was
going to get to say it again.
“If I do it for you,
I’d have to do it for everyone!” Yep. This time with emphasis.
The customer wasn’t
quite sure what to make of that.
“Do you not have a
copy?” he wondered.
Oh. I had a copy. It
would have taken me six seconds to get it. But hey! I can’t be chasing
after stuff like this all day. Why can’t the customer save his own copy?
What am I? His servant?
I saw the light when
I accompanied Mrs. Krause to the state’s Vital Records Office, where she
needed to stop to get a copy of her birth certificate so we could cross
into Canada without being hauled into the immigration office.
We were in a bit of
a hurry, and we thought it might help to call ahead and let them know
what we would need before we arrived.
“Can I let you know
over the phone what we need so you can start looking for it before we
get there?” I asked at Mrs. Krause’s insistence, since I was pretty sure
I knew what the answer would be.
“No,” said the
voice. “We can’t do that.”
have mastered the art of making the words “can’t” and “won’t” mean the
same thing. I can’t see any evidence to support the notion that they
can’t do it. I give you the information over the phone, or I give it
to you in person. Either way, you’re searching for the same information.
What they really mean is that they won’t do it. Because . . . ?
“If we did it for
you, we’d have to do it for everyone.”
And we wouldn’t want
I don’t think your
run-of-the-mill government bureaucrat has any concept of the notion that
people who work in the private sector – brace yourselves – do it for
everyone who pays us for a service expects that service to be
first-rate, and they don’t have to keep paying us for the service if it
isn’t delivered in the way they want it.
And yet, I can’t
help but notice that private businesses come and go, but governments
seem to go on and on forever. When was the last time a state went out of
business? Or even a city? Cleveland came close when Dennis Kucinich was
mayor, but even he wasn’t incompetent enough to kill an entire
What does that tell
you? The government workers must have it right. So I’m sticking to my
“I’m not getting the
file for you!” I insist. “If I did it for you, I’d have to do it for
Then the customer
busted up laughing.
“D.F., it kills me
whenever you do your government employee imitation. Send the file to my
home e-mail address, and thanks a lot.”
And he hung up. The
nerve. If I do this for him, I’m going to have to do it for everyone.
Just like I do every day.
Sigh. Some people
just aren’t cut out for government work.
© 2007 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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