One large difference between the UK and the US is the tipping and customer service culture (with a gentle poke at the very funny Are You Being Served? TV programme in the picture!) At home, I would regularly leave 10-12.5% on top of a restaurant bill, and round-up a taxi fare to the nearest pound or two, but wouldn’t really do so anywhere else. I would also expect to walk into a shop and have my first interaction with staff when I was paying at the check out.
I have been blown away by the level of customer service here, and how it can change and enhance the experience. I have spent a little time shopping in Las Vegas (and by a little I mean quite a lot!) and I am confident that the ethos is not just an anomaly in one store. On entering CVS, a chain pharmacy like Boots but bigger, I was greeted and welcomed into the store; this happened for every single customer! In Macy’s, I had Annabel take pity on my hapless attempts at buying suits and she made sure that I was fitted properly, selecting a variety of cuts and colours to try before ensuring I had a good fit (apparently Tommy Hilfiger suits me very well!) When I tried to pay, all three of my cards I tried to use were instructing me to contact my bank – clearly they know that I have been going to school in a variety of cheap suits, one of which I bought almost seven years ago in the Burton sale for £69, and that a designer suit is not in character! Annabel was very helpful in offering to help out, offering her phone, checking that it wasn’t her system that was at fault, holding the transaction whilst I reassured my bank that it was me shopping and then doing the transaction. I can imagine that back in the UK, the cashier would have been annoyed that I was taking up their time.
Tipping is also important – you tip everyone! $1 for the valet to park your car and another buck to bring it round. $1 per bag for the bell-hop. That is 60 pence for the pleasure of being able to drive up to the front door of any hotel in town, jumping out of your car and not having to worry about it. Tipping in restaurants is more important too. It is often said that waiting staff live off their tips – quite how true it is, I have no idea, but I do think that it is an incentive to them to always do their best. You might only tip 10% if the service is poor, but you might tip 20% or more if it is exceptional.
The culture seems to be to proactively offer the best service experience for the customer in whatever guise that takes, with the knowledge that it is likely to be rewarded well – and I like it very much!