By WAYNE SHEETS
Contributing Business Writer
A couple of years ago, a crash course on public relations was conducted at the Holiday Inn Express at which the instructor talked about the demeanor of those who meet the public. It included information on being friendly, helpful and working hard to create a good impression with those who patronize our stores, restaurants and other places of business.
The thrust of the course was to refresh the minds of those in attendance of the proper ways to greet, treat and serve their clientele in a manner that would create a lasting, positive impression for the business and our community. The organizers of the course were hopeful that the majority of the attendees would be those who are on the front lines of every day service to the public. To the chagrin of nearly everyone there, the mean age of the attendees was much older the most of those who greet us in our fast food and convenience stores.
The next best hope was that those who were there would pass along the information. If they did, apparently, it has been forgotten. I don’t know whether others are experiencing the same attitudes that I have recently, but from what I’ve seen perhaps that course should be given again.
This week alone, I had two experiences with servers — one in a convenience store where the cashier was so preoccupied that she couldn’t extend the courtesy of saying “thanks you” for the purchase. The other was at the drive-through window of a fast food restaurant that had prepared my order incorrectly — no regrets.
Another incident a few weeks ago involved a gas station. Less than 10 minutes before 7 a.m., I pulled up to one of the pumps and stopped. All the doors of the station were open and the tire display was sitting out front in its usual place, so I assumed the station to be open. I had no sooner than removed the fueling hose from its holder when, seemingly from out of nowhere, the young attendant hollered, “Hey, buddy, the station don’t open until 7 o’clock.” Needless to say, I placed the fuel dispenser back in its holder, got back in my vehicle and left. I haven’t been back to that station since. This is not the kind of impression that make people want to return to our community or, for that matter, visit other establishments in the area for services.
I suspect I’d be safe in saying that others are experiencing these same discourtesies. Granted, one may be having a bad day and standing behind a counter listening to complaints or impossible requests is not the ideal way of making a living. However, it is for many the “port of entry” to the real world of making a living.
“You will not make $60,000 (a year) right out of high school,” Bill Gates said to a group of soon-to-be-graduates in at a high school commencement ceremony recently. “Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity,” he said. “Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.”
One of the concerns expressed at many of the Downtown Merchant’s meetings is this very issue. They were, in fact, the ones who organized the “PR crash course” with hopes that it would net some results. Hopefully, it did. As always, though, a few bad apples will spoil the entire harvest.
We are sitting at the cusp of what every progressively minded person in Elkins and Randolph County has been working for many years — that of Elkins becoming a tourist destination rather than merely a stop along the way. A very important part, in fact probably the most important part, of accomplishing that goal is for those who meet the public — the “shock troops” of image making if you will — is the attitude, courtesies, friendliness, and willingness to help. How we meet that goal is one of our greatest challenges. It seems logical that those who own and operate businesses in the community would take a greater interest in their employees to help them learn the importance of possessing and practicing a friendly disposition that is so important to the reputation of the community and success of their business.
I stopped by Jo Jo’s Floral and Bridal Thursday to see how things are going for him and his mom since they combined the two stores and moved into the old Montgomery Ward building on Third Street. From all indications, things are going well. I asked Jo Jo if business had picked up since the move, and he said, “If my back could talk, it would say ‘It certainly has.’” He said he has 27 weddings booked this spring and summer that cover nearly every city and town from Pittsburgh to Snowshoe and as far west as Parkersburg.
Thinking that his mom might be a little homesick after have been at her original location on South Randolph Avenue for nearly 30 years, I asked her how she is getting along at the new location. She said, “The first day I walked in here, my desk was here, my inventory was here, all my dresses were here, and I said to myself, ‘Welcome home.’”
She took me on a little tour of the new store and I’ve never seen so many beautiful wedding gowns in my life. The mannequins dressed in those beautiful gowns looking so lovely seemed real enough to say “I do.” We discussed the prices of some of the gowns, and the one I liked best was a gold satin model with a price tag of $2,000. That seemed to be a lot of money for a dress that would be worn one time. Just think, for that money a couple could buy a washer and drier, refrigerator, and probably a lot of window dressing for a new home. Well, nothing is as beautiful as a spring bride — or a summer, fall or winter bride. Is the cost of the dress really relative?
The American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life” fundraising efforts are in full swing. This year the “Allegheny All Nighters,” sponsored by Allegheny Insurance Services, is featuring something for die-hard West Virginia University football fans. They are raffling a football autographed by WVU’s head football coach Bill Stewart and as many of his players as he can “catch” during the next couple of weeks. The winner will receive the autographed football and a display case. Tickets are $1 each or six for $5, and may be obtained at the office of Allegheny Insurance at 104 Third St., or at the Relay for Life event at the Elkins High School track field on June 20, the evening of the drawing.