Service of Details II

October 6th, 2014

Categories: Details, Retail, Security, Training

locking front door

Lots of my posts involve details—some that are missing and others I admire.

With all the news about Secret Service staff that forgets to lock the White House front door, lets any old person—in fact anyone–in the same elevator with the President and doesn’t immediately notice gunshot holes on the President’s home/office, and hospital emergency room staff that dismisses a sick patient who’d just returned from western Africa, it was time to again write about the subject.

I heard security pundits talk on WABC radio and NPR, to name two places, and in answer to “how could such mistakes happen?” both mentioned how underfunded the Secret Service is. It doesn’t cost a cent to lock a door, ask extraneous people to wait for the next elevator when the President heads towards one or to use one’s God-given eyes to check out a landmark building for gunshots. One bullet was in a window. It wasn’t seen for four days.

pick up the phoneAs for the Dallas hospital, seems nurses and doctors use a different electronic charting system where the patient with ebola was sent home. Would you leave to chance that a client or boss saw something on a chart—electronic or traditional–as important as a sick patient who had returned from a country where the ebola virus is flourishing? Communication people! Get out of your chairs or pick up the phone and speak to each other.

While some overlooked these crucial details, others gloried in attending to every one.

  • On my walk to work in Manhattan last week I passed a man by the window in a dry cleaning store leaning over a white shirt, tending to stains with meticulous care.
  • In a spotless apartment building a new employee did something to the hall floors that brought up a shine unlike any we’d seen in 10 years.
  • Merchandising in some stores is a joy to revisit, such as Cursive in Grand Central Station, Lyme Regis, Ltd. in Kent, Conn. and Lilli and Loo in Hudson, N.Y. Wizards select and place enticing treasures in eye-catching displays and are never caught off guard.

    Cursive at Grand Central Station

    Cursive at Grand Central Station

It’s ironic that these three examples are in non-essential, life-saving situations.

How does an employer best get the message to employees that how they do their jobs may be crucial to the survival of others and/or the business that pays their salary? Is attention to detail and common sense something a person is taught at home, in school, at work or are folks born with the gene?

Get the message


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4 Responses to “Service of Details II”

  1. JPM Said:

    This is a deceptively complicated question, but I’ll venture two thoughts. One, hire the right people, and two, restore the word “elite” to favor.

    As a former police officer, I know it takes a very special human being to make a first class Secret Service agent. Hire only such special people and then treat them like they are special, a true prestige elite. However, to succeed in restoring the Service to what it once was, you will have to scrap all that governmental egalitarian clap trip that is so fashionable in modern America. This not a money, rather an attitude, problem.

    The hospital, of course, is different, but the answer is the same. Hire the right people and treat them right.

    As to your examples of people who “do it right,” they just go to show that there are good people out there if you care to look for them.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Attitude is part of the problem–and solution–and I very much like the idea of treating employees as though they are important because they are!

    As important is a person’s sense of responsibility. Like attention to detail, it’s essential.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Some are more fastidious in their habits and job ethics than others, so there is not a thing anyone can do about lapses in security, medical care and other sensitive areas, other than upgrade qualifications. That also applies to the hiring of those who do the necessary research. There will be errors, because we are human.

    It would appear that few, if any, in national security, have learned much, if anything from 9/11.
    If steps aren’t taken to rectify this situation, many innocent people will pay for such negligence. Perhaps those responsible will be blown to bits as well. They will not be missed.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    We are all relieved that so far all concerned have been extremely lucky that nothing horrific has happened. However, it won’t help the innocents that the negligent are blown to bits and I hope that this never happens either.

    We all make mistakes, as you say. I imagine being in a job where a mistake involves terrible repercussions increases stress to the point that a person eventually becomes numb. The other thing that happens to me is that something like locking the door of a car, apartment or house is automatic. Then I wonder, “Did I do that?” Almost 100 percent of the time I have. This is why if I ran security at the White House I’d have someone whose job it was to double check these procedures. You wouldn’t need high tech equipment, just someone checking the locks etc.

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