A Tribute To Bill Coward

By Michael Goings
Quite a few years ago, an article was published in the Dillon Herald about Mr. Bill Coward entitled “The Hot Dog King.”  I certainly agreed with the information and facts of that article, seeing that I was brought up on his delicious and famous hotdogs.  There perhaps will never be another merchant like him who had an unforgettable and unique style in how he went about making his hotdogs.  I would stand almost spellbound as I would watch him go about his trade with his tongue slid to one side of his mouth.  He would meticulously put together each hot dog as though it was being prepared for a king.  To him, it was not a tedious task, but a special service that he seemed to enjoy.  Mr. Bill Coward went about making hotdogs like Beethoven composed music, like Shakespeare wrote plays, like Michelangelo painted or sculptured art.  Like them, he was the master of his trade.  However, the emphasis of my commentary today is not about his renowned culinary skill as the “Hot dog King.”  It is about something of far greater significance that we often overlook as being a part of the legacy and character of Bill Coward.  It is about his courtesy toward the people who patronized his store, regardless of their race, creed or color.  I enjoy visiting the various business establishments in our locale and especially interacting with those who deal with the customers.  Although there are quite a few who have friendly people working at the counters or drive-thrus who have good people skills, far too many have employees in these strategic positions who are essential to their businesses yet are inhospitable, rude and snobbish.  I do not mean to offend owners and managers when I say, such impolite folks should not be permitted to work in positions where civility and good people skills are very necessary while interacting with your customers.  They are a liability to your business and discourage people, like myself, from wanting to patronize your establishment.  Furthermore, those who are employed by the city, county, or state must also be reminded that they are there to render a service to people and citizens who are (technically speaking), individual components of their corporate employer.  Such people, whose salaries are being paid by the taxes of the citizen, should definitely not be discriminatory, rude and snobbish.  I am not at liberty to say which ones, but I have gone to certain governmental establishments to transact business and was greeted and serviced by impolite, ill-tempered people who either had a bad toothache, a chip on their shoulder or who had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.  Let’s go back to Mr. Bill Coward as I conclude my comments.  Certainly, everyday for him was not easy.  He was human like every one of us and had to contend with challenges, conflicts and contradictions.  However, I can never remember a time when I entered his store to purchase some of his famous and delicious hotdogs, that he would not greet me with a smile and words of kindness and civility.  I will never forget his words to you as you left his store.  “Come back friend,” he would say with sincerity.  There was something that was comforting and convincing in those words that made you want to go back. In an era of dwindling decorum, insensitivity and ingratitude, we need to go back to the future.  We need to remember and imitate the likes of Mr. Bill Coward while dealing with other people, especially if we have been put in a position to serve or attend our fellow citizens or consumers.  Courtesy in the marketplace is not just a good practice or policy; it is a necessity and the primary reason why people will return to patronize your business.  A dear friend of mine, who is a life coach and motivational speaker for many in the business community of his locale, gave me some startling statistics recently in regard to this matter.  According to his assertion (gleaned from John Maxwell), 87% of the people who regularly patronize businesses do so because of the polite treatment they receive compared to only 13% who patronize for the actual product.  If there was no other reason for owners and managers to train and demand that their employees who deal with customers do so in a courteous fashion, this alone is a compelling enough reason.  The bottom line is simply this: product knowledge, as important as it is to a business, is not nearly as vital as people skills.  People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.