Monday, 8 February 2021


One of the big problems with the lockdown and a year of caution has been to restrain our human impulses. Rather than smiling and saying “Good Morning – isn’t it a glorious day” we now tend to walk past, face averted, or cross to the other side of the road.  We’ve lost the art of geniality and affection.

What started as a mildly flirtatious elbow nudge to replace handshakes has now gone, to be replaced by nothing. In fact, meeting people just feels rather awkward now.

We live in a world of masks and many think it’ll remain like this and so I thought too until the Saturday before last. My wife and I had our Covid vaccinations. Rather sportingly it was held in the Grandstand at Brighton Race-Course. The tally-ho atmosphere was still in the air helped by the cheeriness of the squads of volunteers keeping things moving, directing us from the car park, cheering us up. It was a venue of extraordinary purpose, goodwill and efficiency. The whole event had been rigorously planned and rehearsed. Everyone was so focused, charming and happy. On that Saturday the jokey reference to “Jab’s Army” became a jolly reality.

We are often swift to knock ourselves and government but this, together with the nimble footedness of our vaccination acquisition, shows how brilliant the British can be when we try. We have a strong acting and performance culture and this was compelling theatre. We were smiling again and we’d thought smiling was history.

Later in the week we went through a strangely unusual process of purchasing something complex entirely online. It reminded me of “Sleepless in Seattle” as Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan ping messages to each other … Ping “You’ve got mail”

It was brilliant. We thought about the answers to each question as did Rojane on a few occasions (“Please bear with me, Richard”) she checked something or maybe asked her supervisor.  Because of the thoroughness of the purchase journey, we felt safer and reassured that we were not making any “I wish I hadn’t done that” mistakes. Jack Welch, the legendary Chairman/CEO of GE when it was a great company, once said he wished he could eliminate human contact and thus human error. I always thought he was wrong. We need human beings and even human error which allows us to say “Sorry”

Our Waitrose delivery came on Friday. The driver, a beaming, apologetic young lady, explained that they’d had an IT breakdown and that our order might be short of a few items and that she was very sorry if this was the case. I said I was sure they’d tried their best. She beamed more and said all her customers were being so nice and understanding. In fact, the order was complete bar one item, the root vegetable and kale soup mix. My beaming driver left (I wanted her to say “beam me up Scottie”

I reported the shortage to Waitrose Customer Service plus the inclusion of one item we hadn’t wanted – Duchy Maple Syrup – a lovely syrup but an unopenable bottle except by using a monkey wrench.

Here’s the reply I got:

“I'm glad to hear you had such a pleasant delivery driver today, I'll make sure to pass that on to the branch. I haven't heard the term "monkey wrench" in quite some time so I have to thank you for reminding of that!”

Human beings like this who are smart, funny, happy and who look at you, smile or write charmingly are the answer.  I’ve had a good week. Thanks everyone.

1 comment:

John Eustace said...

So true Mr Hall, I have found that a decision I made some time back (do we call things out by event yet? Pre C!) to change my previous snarling angry old man screaming at CX people in India to Mr Charming. You are suggesting it works. I confirm that, and now frequently in receipt of £15 vouchers from Waitrose. So here'e the challenge, which of us can by virtue of sucking up get the highest reward