When Joe Price took a sick 6-year-old into the Peoples Drug Store in Olney to have a prescription filled not long ago, it could have been a real trauma.
The child was as scared of the cure as of the ailment and the prescription couldn't be released until later in the day.
But, says Price, Peoples pharmacist Juliana Peck "took the little girl back and showed her how the prescription was mixed, labeled and filled and then gave her a dose." "This young lady deserves special mention for her tact, 'bedside manner with children' and just general politeness. She certainly is a credit to the Peoples Chain."
Juliana Peck, the friendly pharmacist, is one of more than a dozen Washington area residents who were nominated by customers in response to my recent plea for examples of service above and beyond the call of the cash register.
The plea, unfortunately, also brought a new spate of examples of crimes against the customer. (How would you like to have spent the last rainy month driving a $23,000 Cadillac that leaks from all four windows, drips water on your knee and has a bad paint job to boot?) And there was one self-serving plea from a real estate broker who assured me that her star agent was the Albert Schweitzer of Realtors. (I'll believe that when I hear it from the customers.)
But mostly, the responses were reassuring evidence that some business people will go out of their way to do things right, even of what's wrong is not their fault.
It was pleasently surprising to find that several of the people who drew praise are in occupations that more often are derided for ineptitude or inefficiency: bureaucrats, auto dealers, mechanics, travel agents. You'll find no more harping here, just a few stories of the unsung superstars of Washington Business:
Alex Fraser of Washington had just paid Anton Motors in Rockville $1,000 to have his car repainted when a vandal scratched his door. With a long face, he went back to the body shop to see if they could "touch it up."
Not only did the Anton crew do the best it could with the scratches, Fraser said, they also "adjusted my windshield wiper and found a clip for a loose tire cover, all at the same time. Took them about five minutes and helped me feel a lot better. Sure, I still have a marred paint job, but the people at Anton made it a lot less traumatic."
A gold star with good conduct ribbon to Anton's body shop.
Diane Kritt of Lanham sings the praises of the crew at Greenbelt Road Shell in Greenbelt: "They have kept our cars running with never a repeat visit to fix something that was supposed to be done the first time. They always discuss the problem and the possible remedy and the costs with us. No pressure, lots of courtesy."
"Recently, I stopped in to see if my battery was okay after I had run it down. They spent about 15 minutes testing it and cleaning the terminals and poking around generally, then sent me away with no charge to my wallet, plenty of charge in my battery."
Andrew Belekaitis has similar praise for a Rockville master mechanic. "I firmly believe no other area businessman deserves mention in your column more than George Vincent" of Nebel Street Automotive. "He has consistently delighted my family and friends with his honesty, low service prices and expertise."
Mae Barnes, assistant leader for Girl Scout Troup 629, singles out Denny Gordon, group sales manager of the Capital Centre, for his helpfulness in what must be a hazardous occupation. Meredith Maclay of Bethesda says Diane Stevens of Travco Travel Agency in McLean "has re-written tickets four or five times at successively lower fares--even though it cuts into her commission. On several occasions she rewrote the tickets at a lower fare and I was not even aware of the fare reduction."
"If anyone is seeking the old-fashioned business virtues of total courtesy and accomodation, based on a solid foundation of honour, honesty and integrity, come out to Silver Spring to 'Doc' Ellis Gadel's Four Corners Pharmacy," recommends Virginia McKee.
The U.S. Passport Office is so efficient that Marilyn Scambos and Mike Munson began to suspect the service had been contracted out. "On two separate occasions, we met with such courtesy, efficiency and bon voyage wishes. . . . Surely these were not your average bureaucrats--able to smile unceasingly even as the line grew longer at lunchtime. And, to top it off, new passports arrived almost immediately."
Other folks say the same thing: getting a U.S. Passport or a new District of Columbia driver's license is so quick and easy that either bureaucracy could teach plenty of private enterprises about service.
That extra effort that makes the difference between mediocrity and excellence is no better exemplified than in the story of Leonard Short, a foreman at Pepco's plant in Alexandria.
He was on his way to work last January, when something in a townhouse doorway caught his eye. Unlike many a sleepy commuter, Short stopped, looked again and realized the house was on fire.
Banging on the door brought no response. Short yelled at a neighbor who was picking up the morning paper to call the fire department, then threw a trash can through the glass; finally a man stumbled from the smoldering house.
Half a dozen cars cruised past without stopping as Short used two more trash cans to awaken the neighbors, then went round the back of the burning building to roust another occupant. The firemen came and then the police and Leonard Short got back in his car and drove to work. He was five minutes early.