When did manners become optional?

I actually made it to the grocery store this morning! I currently have a disabled parking pass due to my breathing issues so was able to park just outside the door, right on the hatched area for crossing the car-park into the store.

Despite my standing there patiently, several cars drove straight through without stopping to let me cross. Eventually, a large truck stopped and the driver waved me across. I move pretty slowly at the moment, but they waited until I was actually on the sidewalk before moving off again. Common courtesy at its best. I raised my hand to say ‘thank you’ to the driver and went on my way.

However, it struck me afterward that not only is it rare to see such politeness now but it is so uncommon that it stood out to me.

I also felt embarrassed about holding them up. Why? It was probably two minutes out of their day. Why did I feel like I was imposing on them?

When did manners become optional?

A coffee shop owner in Roanoke, VA is so sick of his customers’ bad manners that he’s now charging them different amounts for their coffee, depending on how polite they are.

He’s actually posted a sign outside his shop informing his customers of the prices and specifying how to ask for their coffee appropriately.


Apparently, you can buy manners. Though I still think that morals and integrity are things that money can’t buy.

Unfortunately, my experience has been that it’s not always the customers that are lacking in manners.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been served by somebody carrying on a conversation with another worker, or worse still, on their phone.

Like many people in my generation I worked in shops as a teenager and I would have been fired in a heartbeat if I’d treated a customer with the lack of manners that I am often exposed to today.

When did the mantra that ‘the customer is always right’ change?

I’ve always believed that manners are not optional. Even on my worse days, I will be polite. Today, by the time I got to the till I was having an exceptionally hard time talking. Walking, shopping and breathing at the same time had taken a lot out of me. I had a couple of heavy things in my cart that I wanted the cashier to scan from in the cart. I felt awful because I was having a hard time saying what I wanted and ended up communicating more in gestures. Thankfully, the cashier had already realised that I wasn’t well and was paying close attention and helped me out.

Ironically, I’d already felt very rude as she had been speaking to me while I was unloading the cart onto the conveyor belt and I had completely ignored her, as I hadn’t heard her. This is a tough situation for me as my instinct is to apologise, which I did. However, at the same time, I don’t really feel that I should be apologising for being deaf.

When I have Kai with me this is easier as his presence lets people know that I am disabled, and his vest states that I’m deaf specifically. I hadn’t taken him this morning as I knew that shopping was going to be tough on me and that that would be hard on Kai. However, this experience reminded me of just how much I do need him. If he had been there, he’d have alerted me to the fact that the cashier was talking to me so I wouldn’t have felt so rude.

I think that it’s sad that it is a surprise when somebody is polite. When people act with courtesy and manners. That a coffee shop owner is resorting to charging his customers for their bad manners in an effort to teach politeness.

Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we were all just polite to everybody, regardless of what is going on in our own lives?


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