The other day I was going through the security line at the airport.  The TSA officials were doing their diligent job of getting people to remove metal items from their pockets, take off their shoes, place computers in a separate bin, etc.  The woman behind me was obviously an amateur when it came to airport travel.  She didn’t quite know how to take in all of these requests.  She was especially taken aback when the TSA official told her she couldn’t bring her soda through security.


He was very nice about telling her.  Just about any direction you looked had a sign with the posted rules and regulations that explain what can and cannot be taken through security.  Still, she was somewhat confused, if not even a bit agitated.


She wasn’t sure what to do.  Our TSA official managed it beautifully.  He knew she wasn’t trying to get away with something.  She just didn’t know the rules.  So, he put on his biggest smile and said, “This is an exciting day for the Missouri Landfill Association.  They are going to get another plastic bottle of soda.  The Missouri Landfill Association thanks you for your generous contribution.”


She laughed at his attempt at humor, tossed the bottle of soda into the waste basket and apologized for not knowing the rules.  He told her not to worry and to have a safe journey.


Lesson:  Humor in the right places can defuse anger or confrontation.  At a minimum, sometimes a smile can go a long way to winning them over.  In its simplest form, just be nice.  Kindness and courtesy are at the root of a positive customer service experience.


Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.  As a professional speaker and author, Shep helps companies develop loyal relationships with their customers and employees.  For more information on Shep’s speaking programs and books, please contact (314) 692-2200. Email:  Web: For information on customer service training, go to


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