Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fill 'er Up

There was a time when service was important and the customer was king. Depending on the business and industry, service to the customer may still be important. One of the biggest changes in customer service that I experienced took place at the local gas station. Anyone my age or older will remember that gas stations used to be all about service. Like something similar to a drive up restaurant, you’d pull up to the pump, your car tripping a bell in the station telling the attendant there was a customer.

He would come out to the car with a friendly smile and ask, “What will it be, today?”

“Fill ‘er up with regular.”

The attendant would proceed to wash your windows and check your oil while pumping the gas. It was nice. But that’s the pleasant image of how that service worked.

Many changes come when demand changes. In the early days service and professionalism were important. Appearance was important. All gas stations offered full service. Standards gradually slipped. A gas station attendant’s service and appearance could vary greatly from station to station or even at your station of choice. There was also a chance that they might recommend unnecessary service. Customers became more wary, at least I did.

At some point in the 1980s many gas stations began to offer self-serve pumps, where the gas was slightly cheaper. Now the choice between waiting for a slow gas station attendant, who didn’t appear to know what he was talking about while trying to sell me on the idea of an oil change and me getting out and pumping my own gas for less money, was obvious. It must have been obvious to the majority of other people too because it wasn’t long before you couldn’t find a full service gas station anywhere.

Today, when I pull up to the pump and see the high prices, I think back to a time when you actually got some service for your money. Sometimes it’s funny how your perspective changes.

'70s song of the day: "The Streak" by Ray Stevens

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