Simple Ways to Make Someone's Day
White mailbox filled with mail
Credit: Monica Buck
Waiters, bus drivers, and more reveal the little things that make a difference.
Letter and Newspaper Carriers
- Control your pets. Even if you think your dog is about as fierce as Snoopy, keep him on a leash or behind a closed door, suggests Andy Petersen, a Washington, D.C., letter carrier. You don't know if a particular carrier is averse to animals.
- Clear the front stoop. Getting past piles of toys and bikes is "like picking your way through a minefield," says Mark Sims, who delivered mail for 21 years in Springfield, Missouri.
- Don't block the box. Move garbage cans out of the way.
- Offer them a beverage. It can warm them up or cool them off, depending on the weather, says Sims. Baked goods and thank-you notes are also appreciated.
- Learn their name and use it. He or she knows yours.
Garbage and Recycling Collectors
- Think about what you trash. Cat litter improperly disposed of is a pet peeve, says Terrance Flynn, a New York City sanitation worker. "People put it in a bag hidden inside another bag," so unsuspecting workers don't see it, says Flynn. The blade that scoops up trash often breaks the bags, spraying the litter everywhere.
- Don't overload containers. Americans create an average of 4.6 pounds of garbage per person a day, and some routes cover up to 1,000 homes. Heavy cans and bins can cause muscle sprains.
- Never mix recyclables and trash. This can be illegal, plus "it's a nuisance, and it costs the city money," says Flynn.
- Watch where you put the bins. Don't leave them where dogs might think they're trees or fire hydrants (blocking hydrants is a safety hazard, too).
- Be ready to board. A bus driver's job is to transport people from place to place safely and on time. Holdups due to slow passengers have a cumulative effect: A bus that waits for one rider at every stop can turn into a 30-minute delay, says Lurae Stuart, a veteran of TriMet, the public transportation system of Portland, Oregon.
- Don't chat with the driver. It's one thing to say a friendly hello and thank you, but drivers need their full attention to drive safely.
- Know that the driver doesn't make the rules. The transit agency does. If you don't like them, go to public forums to try to enact change rather than giving the driver an earful.
- Stop for school buses. Antsy car drivers regularly run the buses' stop signs, ignoring the danger and chance of a fine, says Karen Barnes, a veteran school-bus driver and a route coordinator in Austin, Texas.
- Switch on an outside light. This helps drivers find the house (landmarks and descriptions are helpful, too) and keeps them from stumbling up the sidewalk.
- Be ready to pay. A delivery person appreciates it when the customer has the money in hand, says Barry Jessen, a Kaysville, Utah, Domino's manager who was a longtime deliveryman. When you say, "Let me get my wallet," and disappear for seven minutes, that's time in which the driver isn't making another delivery―and picking up a tip.
- Show concern for their safety. Remain at the door with the light on until the delivery person has driven off.
- Be home when they arrive. Customers will estimate that they have enough time to, say, run to the store after they place an order―leaving the deliverer waiting on the doorstep. Stay within earshot of the doorbell.
- Request separate checks first. It's easier to make multiple checks before taking orders than after.
- Don't suffer in silence. The server wants you to leave happy so you'll return. If you're not satisfied, nicely let the server know how he or she can fix the problem, says Paul Paz, a Beaverton, Oregon-based waiter and the founder of the customer-service information website waitersworld.com.
- Don't take the merchant copy. If there isn't a paper copy of the credit-card receipt to prove the waiter's tip, then he's out of luck. One guest sent Paz a note explaining that he had accidentally taken both copies. "He apologized and included a personal check for $6."
- Know how you prefer it. If you don't like pink, don't order a rare steak. Sending back food is a waste of time and resources.
- Pour liquids down the sink. Don't pour them in your office trash bin. Liquids leak and make a mess when the cleaner dumps your garbage―then the carpet has to be scrubbed. And so do the cleaner's clothes.
- Don't overload the wastebasket. "Heavy magazines fall right through trash liners and tear them," says Barbara Henry of Front Royal, Virginia, the Building Service Contractors Association International's 2007 Custodian of the Year.
- Let the cleaner know what's trash. To prevent dumping stuff by mistake, cleaners generally aren't allowed to remove random boxes in the vicinity of the wastebasket unless they're marked as trash.
- Be sure trash lands in the can. It's disrespectful and demeaning to make a cleaner crawl to reach items you could have easily placed in the bin.
- Check in and step away. Receptionists don't like it when clients park themselves at the front desk and chat on cell phones, says Karen Vassal, a legal receptionist in Naples, Florida. If you have to take a phone call, take it in the hall.
- Speak clearly and identify yourself. Bad cell-phone connections and speaker-phone crackles drive receptionists crazy.
- Be polite and patient. "It really makes a difference when people ask, 'How are you today?' and take the time to listen to my answer," says Jennifer Alexander, director of the National Receptionists Association, in Larchmont, New York. Sometimes there is one person fronting a busy office. When the receptionist is feeling overworked, personal recognition helps.
- Be cooperative. Don't act exasperated―or act out―when a security guard asks you to do something. Instead, just follow the rules. "Understand that this person has a job to do," says Tony Dandridge, president of Dandridge & Associates, a security firm based in New York City, and a longtime corporate-security consultant. "Security is always the last to leave and the first one there." The procedures of security personnel are put in place as safeguards.
- Smile and greet the guards. But always keep the relationship on a professional level, says Dandridge: "We can't let ourselves get too close. You never know when you're going to have to escort someone out of the building!"
- Treat them with respect. "They're the solution," says Dandridge, "not the problem."