Americans ruder? Not in Nevada County, some say
These days, Tamara Cranwell might have a reason to be rude.
Her job as a Grass Valley PG&E customer-service representative leaves her open for much criticism, as the company emerges from a year of blackouts, bankruptcy and consumer backlash.
Besides, a just-released nationwide survey measuring just how rude Americans are suggests Cranwell may be only minutes away from a customer’s tirade.
According to a survey by New York-based Public Agenda, eight in 10 Americans believe a lack of respect and courtesy is a serious problem. And six out of 10 respondents believe the problem is getting worse.
But Cranwell, a PG&E employee for the last 17 years, believes Nevada County just might be the exception to the rule.
“The higher the elevation, the nicer the customer,” she said.
When asked if people paying their bills and pleading for extensions treat her with respect, she said yes. Asked if she extends them the same courtesy, Cranwell seemed shocked at the question.
“It’s not hard for me to be nice. I treat people like I’d like to be treated,” she said, adding: “I want to be known as a PG&E employee. I’m proud of the company I work for.”
Cranwell practiced her finishing-school skills as a meter-reader for nine years.
“I know we’ve gotten some bad raps, but you just take the good with the bad,” she said.
According to the survey of 2,013 adults conducted via telephone and in random focus groups in cities such as Berkeley, Fort Lauderdale, Cleveland and St. Louis, 43 percent of those surveyed believed they too had acted rudely toward someone in the past year.
The epicenter of such rudeness might be the Grass Valley Department of Motor Vehicles, where impatience and short tempers could crash head-on with overworked state employees.
Wednesday, as he stood in a 20-deep row of customers, Josh Carpenter of Allegheny wondered if the survey were indeed true.
“I don’t like coming here. Look at this line,” he said. “I guess it’s pretty good here, depending on people’s mood.”
But it appears Grass Valley may have bucked a nationwide trend, some said.
“This is a good place, and we’d like to keep it that way,” said Lynda Kettler of Grass Valley. “The people who live in Grass Valley are raised with good values. I mean, this is the only DMV that has chairs,” she said. “Even Auburn doesn’t have chairs.”
Penni Dant sat in one of the orange-and-yellow chairs, pondering America’s manners.
She hates long prerecorded customer service messages, she said.
“I immediately press ‘0’ until I get somebody live,” she said.
The survey also suggested that America might be a kinder, gentler nation since Sept. 11, a notion Dant dismissed.
“I think we’re really the same,” she said. “I’m sure there’s been a change on the other coast, but not here.”
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