Last weekend, we were in Newport (Oregon) serving food to the mostly tipsy patrons at the 29th Annual Seafood and Wine Festival. I had great plans for this, our first event of the season. Optimistically, I had projected a 25% sales increase for the weekend. Since last year was our premiere year at the festival, I just naturally assumed that the word was out and that we had nowhere to go but up. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired to prove me wrong…we ended up actually seeing fewer customers this year, though our new-season price increase bumped our total sales by about 8%. Needless to say, I was disappointed. During the season I sort of live and die by the numbers… So I’ve been in a little funk the last few days.

But last night, I received an email. I almost deleted it, because, as a rule, I don’t open emails from people I don’t know. Imagine my surprise when I opened this one:

I had one of your Salmon Dill puffed pastry sandwich pouches at the Seafood and Wine Festival in Newport this last weekend. It was incredible!

Do you have a restaurant in Scappose? If so, can you give me your hours and location, please?

Thank you, I will look for you next year at the festival, but I hope I can eat your wonderful pouches before then.

Thank you –
(a happy customer)

To say that this message made my day…week…month…would be an understatement. I wrote back and asked how she got my email address, since I only remembered giving out one business card to someone scoping us out for another event. Turns out she had emailed the Newport Chamber of Commerce to get the information. How sweet of her to go through all that trouble just to let me know that she enjoyed our product!

Look how someone taking a few minutes out of their busy life to say thank you, send a compliment, give a virtual pat on the back, can suddenly change the whole color of life. Words cannot express how grateful I am to this woman, and to whatever Greater Force led her to send that message at such an uncannily perfect time. It was an upper for which I did not even know I was so desperate.

Moral of the story? We’re so eager, these days, to complain, to bitch, to degrade. We deal with over-worked, underpaid people daily, and the quality of service we get often reflects the degree of over-workedness and underpaidness with which these folks cope day in, day out. Years ago, when I was the one standing behind the counter, I knew how far a kind word or a compliment could go to brighten our bleak world. Since I promoted myself to “entrepreneur,” I had forgotten…

Is it so much harder to thank or compliment good service than it is to complain? Why don’t we do it more often? And, you know, I have a feeling if we did do it more often, the quality of the service we receive would rise apace. This dismal pool of acrimony, conflict, and despair that is twenty-first century America could surely use an infusion of positive energy. I, for one, am going to try to carry this lesson with me for as long as I can keep it imprinted on my old dog/new trick brain.