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"Does he take sugar?"

Updated on July 2, 2011
Good Customer Service.
Good Customer Service. | Source

I am not going to complain

One thing I notice a lot now I am blind is how I am treated in stores and restaurants. It is not my plan to rant on bad experiences, I hope you might see this as a tool in your life to deal with a blind person or maybe any disabled person in the real world.

The title of this article comes from a long running BBC Radio 4 series for the disabled. It reflected the frustration of disabled who when venturing into public often found the people who went with them as care-givers were spoken too and the disabled talked about in the third person, as if physical impairment meant them incapable of any intelligent conversation or decision making.

When out for a meal with my wife, servers will often ask my wife what I will want for dinner. Some will often seem to be impatient when we are not ready to order by the time drinks arrive. If it is a regular haunt of ours it is easy, often I know what I want without my wife reading me the menu. In a new place though we need time for her to go through the things which seem good and then narrow down the list. Often we decide at the same time but sometimes we like different things. She feels it important to let me know all the details of the dish and I appreciate that without a server hovering because the managers service clock is ticking.

Please step back, I am not going to complain about slow service if I am the cause of the delay.


 When alone it is often hard for me to go into restaurants and stores. On one occassion I went into a Starbucks which was unfamiliar to me. Receiving my Venti brewed coffee I asked the barista "Where will I find the milk and sugar?" I was hoping for a brief direction, and was disappointed with how brief, "Over there!" Obviously he must have waved his arm as he answered, So raising my cane a little I said "Sorry. I can't see where over there is." "By the door." He replied obviously tiring of me quickly and wanting to get to the next customer.

Moral of that story is obviously it is a bad impressionwhich sticks in my mind, and as a former manager once told me in Tesco, "Get a customers order right and they'll tell no-one,get it wrong and they will tell everyone they can."

The Manager was wrong. Now the GOOD experience

 One day I was travelling alone and went into a Panera Bread cafe. I needed to go to the bathroom first and asked for directions from the assistant. She happily directed me. On my return she asked if I had an order. I had no white cane at the time, so told her of my poor vision and asked if she could tell me what sandwiches were available. She asked me what meats I preferred and we rapidly narrowed down my choice.

I also asked if she could direct me towards an empty table, she came around the counter and took my arm and took me to a table. Making up my coffee on the way. When my sandwich was ready the table clearer actually brought the sandwich over and asked if I needed anything else.

It was not just that they were attentive to my original requests. They sounded eager to help. They made the sale and I left a happy and refreshed customer.


 Believe it or not, smile when you talk with a blind person. We cannot see your smile but we certainly can hear it. It is not that we have better hearing, we just have to listen a lot harder, without the clutter of visual tags we pick up your voice tones. It is like being on the telephone constantly, unless you are using a system like skype, you instinctively know what the person on the other end of the phone is thinking by the tones of their voice. When they are sad you know, when they are happy you know.


Small things matter

There a some small things which make interactions much better with a blind person.

Talk in a normal voice, with a smile. It is surprising how many people shout in the presence of a blind person. They also talk v e r y , v e r y, s l o w l y. Shouting and talking slowly doesn't make it easy dor me to understand. It soon becomes irritating and makes me feel like a child being reprimanded by a parent.

Signal your presence. If you are quiet, I might not know you are there. You don't need to talk if you don't want to, you can hum, sing or cough. Please don't wave as I have had people do, I can't see.

Another small thing you can do is signal you are leaving. When a person walks out of the room and I don't know, it sort of makes me feel silly if I carry on our conversation only to be told I have been talking to myself for who knows how long.

Just as bad is being seated in a dark restaurant by a person wearing black who runs on ahead through closely packed tables and booths to get me to the back of the restaurant. Often I am left standing not knowing where they have gone and not knowing my way back out. This is especially embarassing for me in a restaurant which is obviously busy.

I hope some of the insights might be of use. Some are just personal stories which have affected my life since becoming blind.

Oh! No he doesn't take sugar, three Splenda please.

Have your say. Free speech means use your voice. Comment Here

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    • Bretsuki profile imageAUTHOR

      William Elliott 

      9 years ago from California USA

      Hello martha, thanks for your comment.

      Yes I hate those things too. Especially asking my wife to order for me. Last Sunday we went out to a favorite spot with my wifes parent's I could feel the waiter's tension as he was coming to me. Not sure which of the four of us he should speak too. So I rattled off my order in terms which showed I knew exactly what I wanted. Luckily it was a place I know the menu well, and I only really get one item there. But it pays dividends to be forceful, speak out and give the order.

      Maybe a male thing but he commented on how the order went, sort of broke his initial tension as everyone else teased me about buying my favorite meal. Again! But I do love the Famous Dave's Hot Links Plate. Yummy, could eat that again right now. :)

    • profile image

      martha Kastrup 

      9 years ago

      It annoys the crap out of me when people shout at me or talks slowly to me like I'm stupid I'm not hard of hearing people I'm hard of seeing. At restaurants they always ask my husband what i would like to order not good customer service assuming i can't order for myself which i can, i can relate to everything in this well put story: )

    • Bretsuki profile imageAUTHOR

      William Elliott 

      9 years ago from California USA

      Hello PegCole17,

      I wonder why it is that way? I have seen it happen too in the Dr;s office where a patient is taked about rather than too. I can now understand how frustrating it can be to be that patient or the person with them. Maybe a point for a future Hub.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, it is very nice to receive your feedback. I hope to see you again on these pages.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      9 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Bretsuki, I found your observations to be equally true for the elderly. When I take my mom or auntie to the doctors office, the nurses tend to ask me the questions. Not always, but much of the time. Even the paramedics do this when there is an emergency. I repeat the question to my Mom and ask her to answer. She may be hard of hearing but her mind is still just fine. I can appreciate what you're saying here.

    • Bretsuki profile imageAUTHOR

      William Elliott 

      9 years ago from California USA

      Thank you Daffy Duck, that is very true. I was equally guilty of some of the same mistakes that I point out. I am also certain that I make mistakes today that I am totally unaware of, Now I hope by sharing it will help to inform and help others. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

    • Daffy Duck profile image

      Daffy Duck 

      9 years ago from Cornelius, Oregon

      Some people do get caught off guard when they come across disabilities and the disabled. Unfortunately they forget their manners. Your hubs on your experiences are insightful.

    • Bretsuki profile imageAUTHOR

      William Elliott 

      9 years ago from California USA

      Hello rebekahELLE

      thank you for taking the time to nake a comment.

      You are right, good customer service and good interpersonal skills go hand in hand. A smile will always come through in any social interaction.

      Happy Hubbing to you too. :)

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      9 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Thanks for sharing on such a helpful topic. It's nice to be treated with consideration and I'm sure your tips will help many who deal with the public daily. I have also noticed the staff at Panera are very customer service oriented. Sometimes I go there to write and have never been made to feel I'm not welcome. More companies would benefit from following their customer service model.

      Thanks for sharing these important tips, and I especially like the one about smiling! Happy hubbing.


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