Sunday, 13 November 2011

White poppy for peace and respect

Forgive the off topic nature of this post, please folks - it's Remembrance Sunday and I'd like to share my reasons for wearing the white poppy rather than a red one.

My Quaker faith includes a testimony to peace and nonviolence. But the nature of Quakerism is that nothing is forbidden or prescribed, and Quakers have no creeds. We all have to make our own choices.

In the two World Wars, a lot of Quakers were conscientious objectors. Many served with the Friends' Ambulance Unit to help care for battlefield casualties. But one or two fought. Robert Lawrence Smith, a lifelong Quaker, explains in his book "A Quaker Book of Wisdom" that he chose to fight in the American army during the Second World War because he felt that a lasting peace could not be built until the "unspeakable evil" of Nazism was removed.

So I don't have to wear the white poppy because I happen to be a Quaker. It's a matter of choice.

And I don't agree with those who say that to wear the white poppy is disrespectful to the armed forces and to those who've died in the service of their country.

My white poppy shows that I wish to honour and respect the memory of all the servicemen and women, and civilians, worldwide, who've lost their lives in conflict - but that I deplore the fact that they had to do so.

And for the same reason, through the year, I wear a white dove badge on my coat.

Because "I will never know how men can see the wisdom in a war". - Chris de Burgh

Talk to me, I'm a customer!

Two shop-assistant incidents where a chance for a wow was missed.

First - in the gi-normous Waterstone's store in Piccadilly, London. I went up to the counter with a new book to buy. There were no other customers queuing. The staff behind the counter had been chatting as I approached. Perfectly OK. But as one of them served me they continued their conversation, only speaking occasional words to me.

I thought, "What do I have to do to make you pay attention to me? Wave a sign saying 'hello, I'm a customer'? Do a strip-tease in the middle of the shop?"

That's one of my pet hates - shop assistants who talk to each other and ignore their customers. If they draw the customer into their conversation then great, but if they ignore the customer then they're ignoring the people who ultimately pay their wages. Not a good move!

Then this morning, in Waitrose in Hexham, Matt and I were in the queue at the checkout behind a dear old gentleman on his own. He tried to engage the young female cashier in conversation. Nothing remotely creepy, just a friendly chat.

She wasn't having any of it. She hardly spoke a word to him while she served him. And she hardly spoke a word to us either.

For us - meh. We've got each other to talk to. But that gentleman might not see or speak to another human being for days on end. A friendly chat with a kind person at the checkout would make his week, never mind his day.

Contrast that with the staff in every branch of Pret a Manger I've ever visited, who always talk to their customers, greet them in a friendly way, ask "How are you today?" and sound like they really do care about the answer.

Customer service managers, please encourage your staff to talk to their customers!