By Léo Azambuja

Leo SurfI’m well aware of the power of bad service. The math is as simple as it is unfair: A good experience yields three comments, while a bad experience is spread to seven people.

I don’t know why this obsession of delivering bad news. Perhaps we tend to focus on the negative. But the truth is, outstanding service is a trademark on Kaua‘i. Aloha is powerful and omnipresent. But we need to become aware of it to really enjoy it.

Two months ago, I arrived at Hanapepe’s Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple half hour early for a photo session. So I drove to a coffee shop for a snack, getting there seconds after 5 p.m.

As I stood in line behind a couple, I was eyeballing a drink and a scone when the guy behind the counter told me they were closed, and to come back in the morning. I vowed to never come back.

Asking myself where was the aloha, I drove back to the temple and straight to my answer. Five people had sacrificed their time, four of them dressed up in traditional Japanese attire, without asking anything in return. Aloha was right there in my face, five-fold.

And by the way, I did go back to the coffee shop, and really enjoyed the food and friendly service.

Last month, I was at an Eastside coffee shop, sitting outside with a friend, drinking coffee and playing cards. The place had been closed for 20 minutes, when a tourist knocked on their door. He wanted to buy a T-shirt. A worker came to the glass door and told the man to return the next day. They were closed, I get it, but would it have been that hard?

Truth be told, I always get friendly service there, and their sweets are awesome.

But what bothered me the most recently was an incident at Kapa‘a Post Office. A friend and I arrived there five minutes before closing. She had to mail a few boxes, all of them already labeled and paid for online.

Still, it wasn’t enough for one worker.

“Look who is here, the queen of coming late,” he yelled for everyone to hear. I was outside bringing boxes in, so I didn’t witness it first hand. If the humiliation wasn’t enough, he told my friend, “We have a life too.”

I was surprised with the worker’s attitude, because Kaua‘i’s postal workers are actually quite friendly. I’m usually greeted by my first name in Kapa‘a, and I cannot even begin to tell you how much Kalaheo Post Office workers have gone above and beyond their duties to help me out in the recent past.

A couple weeks ago, I was back at the Kapa‘a Post Office, and I heard that same worker yelling, “after the next customer I’m going home.” I think the aloha here is, he must have an awesome family waiting for him at home.

Last month, I bought a T-shirt at Déjà Vu in Kapa‘a. By the time I paid for it, they had already closed. As the sales clerk, Mary, unlocked the door so I could leave, a tourist asked to come in to buy a T-shirt she had tried earlier. It wasn’t put on hold, but she knew what she wanted. Smiling and without hesitation, Mary opened the door to let the lady in.

I was already leaving, but I turned around and told Mary, “I just needed to tell you, that was great customer service.”

In May, I was chatting with Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple President Gerald Hirata at a coffee shop in Lihu‘e, when he told me, “There’s a Buddha in all of us, we just have to be aware of it.”

I guess we can easily translate it to aloha.

There’s aloha in all of us, we just have to be aware of it.

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