CITY BEAT: ‘CUSTOMER SERVICE’ IS CASUALTY OF ECONOMIC SQUEEZE
Have you noticed that you are required to do more work yourself when you go to many places of business that once took pride in “customer service”?
Some of the major food chain stores have aisles where customers check themselves out instead of having a store cashier do it for them. The result is fewer cashiers and employees because customers are being asked to do for themselves what had always been done for them by store personnel. The same is true with some restaurant chains that have always had foodservers in their dining room. One evening last week I decided to “dine in” at the Steak ‘n Shake on Pershing Road. It was the first time I had been inside the restaurant since before the pandemic. I was shocked by the change in “customer service” and my experience in adjusting to what was required of me, the customer. I wrote about my experience (page 3 of this week’s print and online editions) and reluctant admission that even a restaurant, which has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, is being forced to make major adjustments in “customer service” in order to survive.
• I CAN write about the cost of doing business today from personal experience as a newspaper publisher. I certainly have empathy for businesses that are struggling to overcome high overhead, increasing personnel and product costs and a customer base that is concerned about what is received through buying the product or service of a company. As someone who loves to write about “the good old days” so many of us enjoyed, the reality is that we’ve evolved into “the tough new days” as businesses and residents attempt to cope with the financial demands of 2023 — and survive.
• WE’RE in the home stretch of the campaigns that are heading towards the Consolidated General Election April 4th, even though early voting has been underway for the past month. Although the race for 3 Decatur City Council seats and 3 Decatur School Board positions should be attracting a lot of attention, there’s not much publicity about them considering the importance of the races. The four city council candidates are: Dennis Cooper, Lisa Gregory, Pat McDaniel and Karl Coleman. The six candidates for school board are: Bill Clevenger, Will Wetzel, Jacob Jenkins, Mark Reynolds, Misty Fronk and Hannah Wolfe. There is a sample ballot on page 12 of the print edition that will give you an overview of candidates and offices involved in this election. Also, on page 7 of the print edition, the propositions that will be on the ballot, are printed so you shouldn’t be surprised at what you might be voting on election day, if you have not already voted.
• MOST OF the candidates for city council and school board have advertisements in this edition. Here at the Tribune I’ve actually heard more questions and comments about the proposition to eliminate the office of the county auditor. The county auditor’s position is not being eliminated. The question actually is about “electing” a county auditor or hiring someone for the position based on qualifications for the job. There are strong arguments for both sides of this vote.
Eliminating the need for voters to select the auditor is viewed by many as taking away the people’s right to choose the person they want to hold the position through the election process. The other side of the argument is that hiring someone with the kind of experience and education needed for the position will benefit the citizens of Macon County. Present Auditor Carol Reed is retiring when her term is up. Reed is a CPA which seems like an ideal fit for what that office demands. Bottom line: Do you want the auditor to be “elected” or “appointed”?
• DAVE Wilhour brought me a “letter to the editor” with his endorsements (page 2 of print edition) and a July 30, 1980 copy of the Decatur Tribune…which finally arrived at his house via USPS. (I’m joking about the delayed arrival.) Actually, in looking through the 1980 Tribune I found the photo of me on my column looked a lot younger than it does today. Hmmm. I don’t remember aging that much. (smile) I was also surprised by the number of businesses that advertised in the Tribune 43 years ago that no longer exist today. (I don’t believe advertising in the Tribune caused their demise.)
• NOT IN FAST LANE — After seeing Dave Wilhour at the Tribune, later in the day, he sent me an email: “Today I went to a business on Pershing Road and on the way back south on Main Street, I got behind an Ameren white van. There was a big sign on the left back door reading ‘Notice! This vehicle will not exceed posted speed limit!’ “We took off from the Grand Street stoplight. I put my cruise on 35 mph and by the time I reached King he was over a block ahead of me! As I came up the hill from the railroad underpass he was at the stoplight at Eldo! To his credit he didn’t go over 25 mph downtown, but once he got south of Wood Street, off he went again. It’s not 40 until you get south of Decatur Street. I again put my cruise on 40 mph and he drove out of sight! But as I came across the dam he was sitting at the stoplight at Route 51 and Southside Dr!
“Note he must know the sign is on the back door? It happens all the time but that’s the first time I have seen that sign! “A week ago I was first in line at the stoplight on South Franklin and Route 51 where the speed limit is 40 mph until the top of hill on Franklin! 8 cars passed me and disappeared out of sight! All 8 were sitting at the Decatur Street stoplight when I got there. Then they all took off again. They were all sitting at Eldo when I got there! Again I’m not in the fast lane!”
Thank you, Dave, for the traffic report. I experience what you described every day to and from the newspaper on Route 51 South. Some of the pick-up trucks with company names in big letters on the side blow by me 30 to 35 mph over the speed limit early every morning. Maybe they are anxious to work! Maybe I should print the names of the companies on the sides of the trucks in this newspaper and commend them (not) on the dangerous speed they drive in the early morning.
• SAVE CUPOLA? Retired Judge A.G. Webber sent me an interesting email about last week’s “Scrapbook” subject. He wrote: “I have noted with sadness the inevitable demolition of Woodrow Wilson Middle School (which I attended 1968-70). One of Woodrow’s most distinguishing features is its cupola, which I believe is unique among Decatur schools. The cupola is topped by what appears from the ground, at least, to be a copper roof with a weathervane.
“Wouldn’t it be great if that copper roof could be salvaged and saved from the demolition as a remembrance of the school, as was done with the pillars from the old SDHS?”
He added that, maybe Woodrow Wilson alumni could pay for the cost of removing and preserving the cupola, if the contractor will not do so as a public service.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 for the City Hall Insider to discuss the issues confronting Decatur and Central Illinois.