How to shock a fast food server


People who work in fast food pretty much see and hear it all. There is very little you or I say that they haven’t heard before.

Recently, I had an exchange with an African American worker at a nearby McDonald’s that left us both nearly speechless. I had just stopped in to use the free wifi and catch up on emails, so when it was my turn to order, I approached with my customary, “May I please have a small black coffee.”

“There’s that word again,” she replied.

I stood there in stunned silence thinking my use of the word “black” offended her. A checkmate of the eyes ensued for several seconds as I grasped for my next words.

Thankfully, she broke the silence with, “Please. I hardly ever hear that word and it’s so pleasing to the ear when I hear it.”

I explained that my niece who works in fast food recently told me that her biggest pet peave is when people come up to the counter and say “I want….”

Having worked in a number of service roles in the past myself, I try to be pleasant with service workers as a rule. However, my niece’s perspective helped me realize that I need to bring my A game in manners whenever I interact with fast food workers. Plus, I’ve been trying to model better manners for my teen daughters; even though they weren’t with me on this occasion.

I challenge you to give it a try. Next time you’re ordering food from a fast food worker, see if you can shock them by using your best manners. Extra credit: address the person by the name on his or her name tag when you thank them.

The work ethic of teens these days


Those of us of the Gen X generation and older often pass judgment on the teens of today with statements like these:

  • They have it so easy.
  • They don’t know what hard work is.
  • Where’s the work ethic?

I’ve been guilty of the same sort of prejudices.

Recently, my teenage daughter turned that all around for me. Less than one week after her 17th birthday, she reported to work for her first job: at 5 a.m. – on a school day! She’s lifeguarding at the neighborhood Y. The pool is outdoors. It’s January. We live in Phoenix. But still, it’s chilly in the morning, and on this morning it happens to be raining.

“Lifeguarding is not work,” some would say. “All they do is stand around and twirl a whistle.”

Having seen the effort she has put into it, I can now contest the previous statement. Lifeguarding is skilled labor at a minimum. Prior to even being granted an interview, she was required to give up two full weekends and two weeknights for the prerequisite training. She now knows every aspect of keeping others safe at the pool: first aid, CPR, dealing with panic, hypothermia and more. She paid a handsome sum out of her own pocket for the training with no hint of being reimbursed. She passed a series of in-class quizzes, plus two water tests, and a grilling of an interview with both her manager and the manager’s manager.

Today was her first day on the job. I was awakened at 4:15 a.m. by the sound of her getting ready. Although she’s pretty self sufficient, I got up to see if she needed any last minute help so she could scoot out the door on time. She was good. She had prepared everything she needed the night before: Clothes for work, clothes for school, her lunch, and gear for swim practice after school.

To say I am proud of her would be an understatement. But, the purpose of this post is not to brag about my daughter, although I could do so all day long. My hope is that you will join me in looking a little deeper into the plight of today’s youth. In many ways, they face far more challenges and obstacles than many of us did when we were growing up. Let’s show them our respect with words of encouragement and gratitude. Thank you!

3 tips for drafting poll questions your readers can’t resist


Polls are a great way to engage your readers. While page view counts are a good indication of how many people made it to your page, polls help you gauge how many people are actually reading your content. And their responses help you to get to know your audience better.

I’ve been writing poll questions for websites for about six years. Some have yielded lots of votes; others were duds. Based on my experiences, I have developed a knack for what poll questions work and which ones will flop. Here’s what works:

1. Keep it short and simple

Try to keep the questions to 50 to 60 characters or fewer, including spaces. If you need to get really wordy, cut yourself off at 100 characters. And only ask one question. No compound questions; that just confuses people.

2. Quiz opinion, not knowledge

If you want the poll to generate enough responses to be useful, the question(s) should require almost no thought on the part of the responder. The less someone has to think, the more likely he or she is to respond. And there should be no wrong answers.

Here is an oversimplified example: Do you prefer green, red or blue?

3. Offer 4 responses or fewer

More than four responses to choose from can cause two negative things to happen: indecision and inaction. You want the user’s response to be a quick, knee-jerk reaction. Keep the length of responses to a minimum: 25 or fewer characters. When possible, leave no neutral option. If too many people select it, the results become virtually useless to you.

Online quick polls are a great way to engage your readers, if done properly. For best results, keep ’em short, ask for opinions, and limit their choices.

A remarkable display of patriotism


My wife and I have been looking after an elderly 30-year U.S. Air Force veteran whose service spanned the entire Vietnam era, and then some.

Recently, he needed some concrete and tile work done in the main bathroom and he expressed to my wife that he was worried about the cost.

A contractor named Efrain came over to see what kind of work needed to be done and returned the following day. While waiting for the concrete to set, he took time to ask the Vet about some pictures from the retiree’s flying years that my wife arranged neatly on the wall just a few days earlier.

As Efrain finished the job and headed for the door, the elder asked how much he owed.

“Thank you for your service,” was Efrain’s reply.

Remarkable!

I would love to hear your stories of how you honor veterans or remarkable displays of patriotism you have witnessed.

My new year’s resolution: Dropping the F-bomb


I know what you are thinking.  Why would anyone want to make using the F-word a resolution?  That’s just it: I don’t want to start using the F-word. I want to drop it from my vocabulary altogether. Image

For many of you, this may sound like a trivial resolution.  However, use of the F-word has become all too commonplace for me.  Although few people in my social circles have heard me use the F-word, it has become a word I rely on far too frequently in my vocabulary – especially when I’m alone.

Many times, I use it only when I’m talking to myself, such as when I’m driving or going about my work day. I use it as a noun, a verb, an adjective, a pronoun, and often as a complete sentence.

It always sets me back when I hear somebody that I respect otherwise, drop the F-bomb in the course of conversation.  One day, it occurred to me that others probably have similar reactions when I use it. And if negative talk has any impact on moods (I believe it does), then I might be able to improve my overall mood by nixing the F-word.

In any case, the word is never used to express anything positive when it comes out of my mouth. My hope is to eradicate it from my lexicon altogether, since it does not benefit me in any way. Effective immediately, I will cease to use the F-word.

Challenge: Give the gift of your full attention


Challenge for the week: Give the gift of your full attention.

Give the gift of your full attention. That’s a gift few people give. That gift alone will make others want to be around you and remember you.

You can’t connect with others if you’re busy connecting with your stuff, too. Put your stuff away. Don’t check your phone. Don’t glance at your monitor. Don’t focus on anything else, even for a moment.

A lesson on how to stand behind your work


Does a guarantee really mean anything in this day and age? Think about it: When something goes wrong with an item you buy at a retail store, who bears the burden of proof? The consumer.

What do you hear when something goes wrong with something you purchase? Prove to me you bought it here when you say you did. Prove to me you didn’t break it through misuse.

With services, it can be even more tricky, unless you have it all in writing. And then you have the burden of keeping the paperwork filed someplace where you can retrieve it.

Recently I found someone who has put an end to all that nonsense. We’re in the market to have our exterior block wall covered with a stucco. I’m a bit of a bargain shopper so I called Dwight after seeing his handwritten sign on a neighborhood street corner.

As I worked my way through a litany questions in the backyard, I got around to asking if his work comes with a warranty.

“Yes!” was his response. “As long as I’m alive my work is warrantied. So for about another 25 to 30 years or so. After that, you’re on your own.”

I can’t ask for much more than that now can I?