The Power of a Compliment

It was a busy, hot summer weekend back in 2012 where I was working at an ice cream and water ice place as an assistant manager. There was a line of people ten to twenty deep all afternoon long, and I barely had time to breathe between customers. Days like this were pretty common during the summer, so my fellow employees and I had our tactics on how to fill each order as efficiently as possible.

When there was a rare lull in customers, I took those couple of minutes to restock some cups and wipe down the counters. As I was doing so, a father who was part of a family I served a few minutes prior walked up to the counter.

“Can I speak with the manager?”

Oh no. That was the worst question that I could be asked. My mind raced as I tried to figure out what the issue was. Did I get his order wrong? Did I accidentally charge him the wrong amount? Was what he ordered not tasting right and he wanted a refund? I tried to read his expression, but his face wasn’t giving anything away.

I walked toward him and told him I was the manager. I was preparing myself to be strong in case he was going to say something negative. But, that never came.

Instead, he said, “I just wanted to say what a great job you guys are doing with this big crowd today.  You brought out our order quickly and correctly. Great job!”

I was taken aback. I had expected to be yelled at, not praised. For a second, I didn’t know what to say, but finally I smiled, thanked him, and told him that we’re doing the best we could to make the customers happy.

For the rest of the day, and even for the rest of the week, that stranger’s compliment lifted me up and I felt good about the work I was doing.

Sure, there were people who said some pretty nasty things both before and after that day. But looking back, this was the thing that always stood out to me the most. It overshadowed the times when customers yelled at me, said degrading things to me, or even threatened me.

Ever since then, I’ve tried to pay it forward. If I have a really nice server at a restaurant, I’ll write a little note on the check and tip them accordingly. If someone at a shop goes out of their way to help me, I’ll let them know how thankful and appreciative of them I am. If someone at a fast food restaurant is acting calm and collected during a rush and gets my order correct and to me quickly, I’ll their manager know they’re doing a great job.

People are always so quick to complain. And after working in food and in retail for a few years, I saw that a lot. But, what I didn’t see a lot were people pointing out the good things. Not that I’m asking for each person to compliment every cashier, server, or shop employee that they see, but if someone is doing an exceptional job, it shouldn’t go unnoticed. It might make the person’s day, or their whole month.

Never underestimate the power of a compliment.


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