Customer Service, (When the Customer was Always Right)

Whatever happened to the personal customer service that was provided by the local shops and businesses in the 1950s and the 1960s?

Can you remember those days when the customer was always right? Boy, that seems like a long time ago now.

I think that the good old fashioned ways of dealing with customers came to an end with the spread of the big supermarkets and shopping centres around Australia from the mid-1960s.

Self-service with products stacked on shelves, shopping trolleys and check-out chicks, meant the end of an era when the customer was served on a one-to-one personal level.

The arrival of the big suburban shopping centres also brought to an end the weekly shopping trip to “town’’ by mum once a week to replenish the kitchen cupboard.

Shopkeepers of the time not only knew their customers by name and looked after them personally, but would also deliver the order to the front door.

I remember my mother dressing in her “Sunday best’’, complete with hat and gloves, to go into town for her weekly shop with a carefully selected list of grocery items, which the grocer would then deliver in large cardboard boxes later in the day.

When you caught the train there was a conductor to punch your ticket and and a younger porter’s assistant to carry your bags

When you caught the tram or bus into town, there was a conductor to sell and punch your ticket, or if you had to catch the train for a longer journey, there was a porter to check and punch your ticket as you boarded the train and a younger porter’s assistant to carry your bags for you and place them in the luggage rack.

In the shops there were shop assistants who stood behind counters and served people individually, wrapping purchases in brown paper and tying it up with string. They would then take the money and ring up the cash register, calculating the change in their head.

Almost every item purchased then was repairable, from electrical to mechanical, and small repair shops were dotted throughout the suburbs offering to fix anything from a broken transistor radio, TV set, kitchen gadgets, toys or bicycles.

In today’s throwaway world, it’s fascinating to recall how if the radio or TV set broke down or if the washing machine needed a new part, it was fixed by a repairman who probably ran a small business and supported his family by fixing things that now would be thrown out in the local hard rubbish collection.

It used to be that the lifeblood of any business was its ability to create and nurture a personal relationship with each and every one of its customers, creating an atmosphere where the customer felt they were valued and appreciated, and they in turn rewarded the business with their loyalty and custom.

Here to serve you. Real personal service like this is dead and gone! Photo from ‘Best Old Fashioned 2017’

Now it appears businesses, especially big corporate companies, have completely lost sight of service in the scramble for profits.

It seems that we’ve adopted the American corporate model, which is to sack staff and screw the customer, make as much money as possible for the shareholders, pay the CEOs millions of dollars and never mind the consequences.

To be fair, there are still some smaller businesses and a few large companies that offer good service, but they are few and far between, and to be honest we, the customers, have brought a lot of this on ourselves. In an effort to keep our own cost of living down we chase the cheaper products and brands which, of course, generally come from a business with lower overheads, fewer staff and very little or no service. It’s a vicious circle: we still want that wonderful customer service we had back in the ’50s and ’60s but we don’t really want to pay anything extra for it.

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“You’re Not Touching the Kingswood”!

Remember Kingswood Country, the Australian sitcom that screened from 1980 to 1984 on Channel 7?

The show featured real Aussie humour and although it was seen by many as racist and sexist, it was in fact meant to mock those attitudes held by many Australians at the time.

Ingswood Country won the Most Popular Comedy Award in 1981 and 1982 at the Logies.

Kingswood Country won the Most Popular Comedy Award in 1981 and 1982 at the Logies.

“Ted” Bullpitt was played by Ross Higgins, a white Australian, conservative, bigoted, Kingswood loving factory worker and World War 2 veteran, who recalls his difficult childhood in ever more exaggerated ways and endlessly declares his love for his car, the Holden Kingswood..

Some of Ted sayings included; “The Kingswood! You’re not taking the Kingswood!”, “Bloody woman!” “Pickle me grandmother!” and “Don’t ‘dad’ me, I’m your father!” Ted also loved his greyhounds, his garden statue of Neville the Aboriginal, his chair in front of the telly and hated the ‘bloody nuns’.

The show mainly centred on the conflict between the conservative sexist & racist Ted & his progressive children with his poor long suffering wife Thelma stuck in the middle. His daughter’s husband, Bruno (played by Lex Marinos), was the son of Italian immigrants and Ted objected to him completely; referring to him as ‘that bloody wog’.

Thelma was played by Judi Farr and she was cast as the traditional housewife trapped by Ted’s conservative family views, but she often got her own back on Ted including often using old Myer receipts she had hidden in a drawer, used to fool Ted into thinking she paid less for a new item, than she really had.

Others in the cast included Peter Fisher as Craig, Ted’s son, and daughter Greta was actress Laurel McGowan.

I don’t think the Kingswood was ever seen on the show but was referred to on many occasions and usually several times in any one episode.

“You’re not taking the Kingswood, I’ve just ducoed the tyres” or “I’ve just glad-wrapped the aerial!” or “I’ve just Mr Sheened the number-plate!”

Photo from You Tube. Ross Higgins as Ted and Judi Farr as his poor long suffering wife Thelma.

Photo from You Tube. Ross Higgins as Ted and Judi Farr as his poor long suffering wife Thelma.

Other times the humour was based on the more traditional comedy situations of poorly thought-out schemes of Ted’s (usually get-rich-quick); class differences between the suburban Bullpitts and Ted’s brother Bob, the Datsun dealer, and his upwardly-mobile wife Merle.

It was at around the time that Australian culture was undergoing a major change with multiculturalism, the women’s movement was forging ahead the political landscape was shifting and Ted was finding it difficult to adjust to the changes that were happening all around him.

The show won the Most Popular Comedy Award in 1981 and 1982 at the Logies. Some of the guest stars in the series included Graham Kennedy, Noeline Brown, Bruce Spence, Robert Hughes and Cornelia Frances.

There have been 4 sets of DVDs released, each of 13 episodes, featuring the ‘Best Of’ the series plus there are a number of the episodes also up on You Tube.

Some of Ted’s other sayings include;

(when asked how his day went) “Bloody shambles, of course!”

“Bloody Wogs!”

“Bloody woman!”

“Blow ’em all up!” (anybody who was annoying him at the time).

“Watch it mate!”

“No wonder the country’s in a mess”

And of course, “Bloody Nuns”.

Ross Higgins who played Ted Bullpit died of unspecified causes on 7 October 2016, aged 85. He had been ill for some time and had been hospitalised for several weeks

Your First Job. Does It Still Exist?

Is the first job you ever had still in existence today?

Telegram boys, lift operators, milkmen, comptometrists, typists, tea ladies, linotype operators, petrol pump attendants, tram conductors, manual switchboard operators and the lavatory man have all disappeared as jobs since the 50s.

I started my first job at 15 working for the PMG delivering telegrams in the late 50’s. Telegrams were phased out (I’m not sure when exactly) replaced by fax machines, emails and texting. I was given two brand new uniforms and a Post Office bike, PMG 262 (I remember it still)! Every day rain, hail or shine I’d be out delivering telegrams, chased by dogs and dodging traffic. Today I have to explain to anybody under 40 just exactly what a telegram was.

Lift operators had the job of opening and closing lift or elevator doors by hand and pushing the right buttons, or levers for the required floors. Some wore formal uniforms and gloves, and in department stores they would call out the merchandise as the elevator reached the floor.

Photo from ARW FB contributor. Female elevator operators ready to go to work

Photo from ARW FB contributor. Female elevator operators ready to go to work

Elevator operators existed in public, private, commercial and retail buildings right up until around the 1970s, when newer buildings were created with more effective lifts that only required the push of a button.

I’ve written before on this blog about home deliveries and the ‘milky’ and the bread man have long since disappeared from suburban streets. The milk bottles and often the money for the order was left outside on the doorstep at night for the milk man to fill. Home deliveries of bread had completely stopped by the late 70s and milk delivery ceased not long after that when people went to the supermarket instead.

There was a time when a lady with a trolley toured the office and brought a cup of tea and a biscuit, a friendly face, a bit of banter and a little bit of gossip. Her job was to make sure office workers weren’t without a cuppa and a biscuit during the day. We had tea ladies until the early 90s at 5DN.

And there was a time, not that long ago, when girls in their teens would get their first office job in the typing pool. Girls were taught at school to do shorthand and typing and how to file. Before computers were widely used, typing was a valuable skill in the workforce. Bigger companies had typing pools and these girls were expected to be quick and accurate.

Another popular job for girls and young ladies was as a comptometrist., adding up figures, processing invoices and acting as a corporate version of a cash register.

Young women would have been given this kind of clerical work in computing sums and processing invoices right up until computers came along and made the job redundant beginning in the 80s.

Connecting telephone users to the correct number by removing and then plugging in telephone lines on large switchboards was the job of the manual switchboard operator. This was back

Photo from Google Images. Manual switchboard operators at work in 1952

Photo from Google Images. Manual switchboard operators at work in 1952

in the day when to make a call, you rang a switchboard operator, who would ask for “number please”? They then connected the call on your behalf and if it was from a public telephone they would interrupt the call after 3 minutes to ask, “are you extending”?

Switchboard operators mainly started to disappear in the late 50s and 60s as self-dial telephones came onto the market.

So, what was your first job….Most importantly, does it still exist?

P.S. Thank you visiting my website and spending some of your valuable time reading my blog. Please take a little time to perhaps read some of my other posts and explore the site, it’s a new venture and there’s much to be done but that will take time.

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Why Is It So?

“How do you do, ladies and gentlemen, and boys and girls. I am Julius Sumner Miller, and physics is my business”.

Remember the TV show “Why Is It So?” which was broadcast from 1963 to about the mid 80’s? It became an instant hit known for its “cool experiments, interesting science, and the professor’s fantastic hair”. The tremendous on-air popularity of the programme was due to the absolute enthusiasm not normally associated with serious science. Shows would be liberally sprinkled with phrases such as “He who is not stirred by the beauty of it is already dead”, and he also liked to trick the audience. A common ploy would be to hold up an empty glass and ask guests to confirm it was empty….then chide them for not noticing it was full of air.

Why Is It So? known for its “cool experiments, like the egg in the bottle, interesting science, and the professor’s fantastic hair”

There are many stories about the show. For example, Professor Miller’s first television appearance in Australia was on The Bob Sanders Show in 1963. In an improvised physics demonstration, he went to great lengths to explain that he would drive a drinking straw through a raw potato. Obviously a paper straw normally does not have sufficient strength, but if one pinches the end, the trapped air acts as a piston, easily piercing the potato. For the first time in his career though he could not get it to work, and he loudly exclaimed “Australian straws ain’t worth a damn!”. The next morning, when the professor arrived at his Sydney University laboratory he found one million drinking straws on the floor with a telegram reading “You might find one of these fitting your requirements”. He later stated “I sat amongst the straws, with straws stuck in my hair and ears. But clearly I had made a mistake. I should have said: ‘Australian potatoes ain’t worth a damn’, and I’d have cornered the potato market!”

Photo from ABC TV. Professor Miller was asked to host his own science based TV show on the ABC

Shortly after, he was offered the job presenting a regular science programme for ABC TV. When asked how much money he wanted to do the show, he replied that, he never asked, he listened to an offer then “multiplied it by a factor between two and ten”.

Due to budget constraints the offer was withdrawn, but an agreement was eventually reached for Miller to host his own science based TV series which was filmed at the University of Sydney where he taught.

The show became so popular that in 1966 questions from his programme with an answer to the previous day’s question, were published as “Millergrams” for ‘The Australian’ newspaper and were eventually published in 3 books. He also became known as the face for Cadbury’s Chocolate in the 80’s, describing how each block of chocolate “embraces substantial nourishment and enjoyment,” and contained “a glass and a half of full-cream dairy milk.”

Professor Julius Sumner Miller became seriously ill in early 1987 and returned to the United States where he was diagnosed with leukemia. He died just six weeks later on April 14, 1987 and had willed his body to the University of Southern California’s School of Dentistry. There were no services held, at his own request.

Remembering the Days of the ‘Garbo’

Every Christmas and New Year, it was a tradition to leave some beers out for the garbos…..

I’ve just put up the garbage and it got me remembering back to a time when we had 3 or 4 garbos running up and down the street, dressed in footy shorts and singlet, banging and clanging the old metal garbage bins as they emptied the rubbish into the back of the old garbage truck. How times have changed!

They’d be be banging the bins at 5 in the morning, waking up the neighbourhood, the truck revving up the street and the guys yelling to one another.

It would have been a bloody tough job, cold and wet in winter, stinking hot in summer and I can never recall any of the blokes wearing protective clothing

At Christmas and New Year, we always used to leave some beers out for the garbos, which was the traditional thing to do and it meant that your lid would be put back on the bin and it was always put back carefully.

It would have been a bloody tough job, cold and wet in winter, stinking hot in summer and I can never recall any of the blokes wearing protective clothing either, or those coloured visible vests which they would certainly be required to wear today! OH&S would have a field day if they tried to do it today.

For many it was a way to keep super fit and earn an income. It was not at all unusual to see your favourite footy player kicking goals for your team on Saturday afternoon and then see him on Monday morning running up and down the street, chasing the truck, collecting the rubbish bins.

These days there’s just one person driving the truck, sitting in the air conditioned cabin operating the hydraulic arm, lifting the large wheelie bins and gently putting them back down. The new systems would have been introduced in the mid 80’s(?) with the plastic ‘Sulo’ bins and have now developed into a 3 bin system, rubbish, recyclable and green waste.

In a Facebook post published last year on the subject of garbos, Louie Laudonia wrote of his experience as a modern day ‘garbo’; “I’m a garbo for Mitcham. I agree it used to physically tough back in the day but it is a different kind of tough now!

Photo from Burnside City Council. A modern day ‘garbo’.

Try driving on the left hand side of the truck, dodging parked cars, cars parked in front of bins, bins so close together that they can’t be picked up, picking up a minimum of 1200 bins per day, etc…I come home after a 10 hour day feeling mentally exhausted.

We do a lot more than just sitting on our bums and working a lever….we operate 8 buttons and watch a monitor every time we empty a bin to see what goes in and if it is empty, on top of that we’re watching mirrors and driving. These days a lot of people don’t realise how it operates, how skilled it is and the hours required.

I love my job and occasionally we get the thank you’s, a non-alcoholic drink and a wave from children with their parents and that makes my day as we feel appreciated”.

P.S. Thank you visiting my website and spending some of your valuable time reading my blog. Please take a little time to perhaps read some of my other posts and explore the site, it’s a new venture and there’s much to be done but that will take time.

Also, if you’ve ever thought about making a little bit of extra money to help pay the bills, help with the mortgage or fund a holiday for the family, check out our sponsor’s free book and software offer about how to make your first $100 online….its completely free!