Mindfulness : Clear & Complete

Customer: Two cold barley (drinks).
Staff: Barley – hot or cold?
Customer: Cold.
Staff: One?
Customer: Two.

I had the above dialogue thrice already, with the same service staff, at the same eating place, on different occasions. It’s rather amazing to me how she never seems to learn that I always give a short but clear and complete order, while it is her mindfulness that is unclear and incomplete. All she had to do was to pay a little more attention. It’s as if her mindfulness is selective, focusing only on the word ‘barley’ while not registering the other two words. Lacking mindfulness, she doesn’t realise this, and the same dialogue is thus ‘reborn’ repeatedly.

I’ve encountered quite a few other service staff who exhibit the same problem. It seems to arise from their unmindful attachment to how an order should be given and received – even when situations are otherwise. They want to hear what is the item ordered first, before hearing how the item should be (e.g. hot or cold) or how many of it are wanted (e.g. one or two). As such, they tend to listen only for the name of the item first, while mentally blocking out any other information, even if it’s useful.

This is essentially not a complaint about bad service – but more of a ‘cautionary tale’ of how our minds are able to habitually filter out relevant information at times. What’s scary is that this can happen ‘unknowingly’. It’s also amazing to me how some long-time Buddhists are able to continually ignore important though slightly more ‘inconvenient’ aspects of the Dharma in practice, be it intentionally or unmindfully. Surely, we are sometimes similar – because if our mindfulness is already perfectly clear and complete, we would be perfectly enlightened already!

17 thoughts on “Mindfulness : Clear & Complete

  1. Hi Shian,

    Maybe you can speak “her language” ? I mean you can do it this way :

    Customer: barley
    Staff: Barley – hot or cold?
    Customer: 2 Cold.(make sure she’s looking at you):p

  2. Yes, this makes sense, to adapt to her,
    though part of me hopes I can encourage her
    to adapt to a simple 4 syllable ‘mantra’ too – ‘2-cold-bar-ley’

    Hmmm… xD

  3. Looks like this situation has got “patience” and “expectation” involved, all from the customer (ourselves).
    Perhaps we should not have “expectation” of mindfulness or results from others while practising “patience” at all times.
    Its hard to be patient when you expect good result. So let things happen naturally and exercise patience.

  4. If service staff have too much patience with their own poor service, while not noting customer’s reasonable expectations of better service, they would be at fault for not doing their work well. Improvement in customer service is possible when staff increase their mindfulness and/or when customers remind staff to increase their mindfulness. When there is no mindfulness that service can be improved, it will never improve. While patience is needed by customers for service improvement, staff should should always have expectations of their own service to improve.

    Think it is alright for customers to have expectations, as long as they do not cling to them such that they cause suffering from disappointment and/or anger. Expectations are a way to let us know if we get what we want, without which, anything goes. For example, I expect myself to be patient when getting poor service, which I fared okay above (to my surprise) as I didn’t express exasperation towards the staff. (Er… as above, “This is essentially not a complaint about bad service – but more of a ‘cautionary tale’ of how our minds are able to habitually filter out relevant information at times.” I hope the ‘cautionary’ part is not ‘filtered out’ when reading this.)

    Struck me that if all customers zero their service expectations, they should ‘expect’ service quality to go towards zero too. But since there is zero expectation, any form of poor service would be totally okay? There is a healthy line to draw somewhere – or it would be ‘unhealthy’ for both staff and customers. Good service is dependent on both sides working together – customers giving feedback and appreciation, with staff receiving feedback with appreciation.

    If one experiences the same poor service many times in a row from the same staff, with no sign of improvement, what should one do? Change expectations? Change the way feedback is given? Or just drop all expectations? It depends… on whether one wishes to up the service for others’ sake too. Doing so can help save the staff’s job too – if it’s a matter of time s/he gets harsh complaints. In life, sometimes we are customers, and sometimes we are service staff. I think customers who up the service with good feedback are good ‘service staff’ towards the public! 😆

    Related Article:
    Do You Deserve Poor Customer Service?

  5. Our mind is a complex component, for example, extrovert and introvert brain work/function in a different manner …

    Acknowledge good service by commenting on the spot or via feedbacks, it will encourages and spur more to provide good service … emphasis more on the positive. For bad services, find a more appropriate and constructive way to feedback, sometimes it could be a one-off incident or …

    A little real story …

    One day, I was chatting with my boy in the MRT train and I suddenly remember an incident and shared with him. It was about sometimes ago I saw a guy who I was impressed (don’t get me wrong here … read on). This gentleman was standing and after a few stations the seat in front of him was vacant. Instead of occupying it immediately, he asked the stranger standing beside him whether she wanted the seat.

    I didn’t know, other was listening to our conservation and when there was a vacant seat, a middle age man standing 2-3 spaces away, let me have the seat! Did I take the seat, of course lah and returned with a BIG smile and THANK YOU. :p

  6. Sigh, I think the campaign to let those under the “Priority” list have seats on MRT is not effective enough.
    I often see scenes whereby those who fit the descriptions of “Priority” standing before “Non priority”.
    I think the MRT staff who are patrolling for suspicious characters/objects on board could also exercise their authority to request those “non-priority” sitting on non-priority seats to give up the seats to the “priority”. And even sitting on “non-priority” seats, one can give up the seats to those who looked fitting the “priority” description.
    Pls kindly give up your seats when you see someone fitting the descriptions, espy when you are wearing accessories like rosary or holding on to a Buddhist mag/text that suggest you are a Buddhist. Do proudly display you are a Buddhist if you are standing and had just given up seats. 😉

  7. Methinks the priority signs will never be enough if there is lack of compassion and the lack of willingness to sacrifice the comfort of having a seat.

    It’s quite a dilemma i think… to reinforce the intended usage of the seats would benefit the needy but it might have the unintended effect of not nurturing natural initiative, as giving up a seat for the needy would become simply something to do to avoid being chided or fined. =]

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