The Magic Fire Department Jacket Of Excellent Customer Service

One great way to get good customer service is to wear fire department gear. Usually my relationship with local merchants is pretty neutral. I give them money, they give me goods and services, and we both go on our ways without too much in the way of exchanging of pleasantries. But recently my EMT buddy gave me a super-comfortable official FDNY sweatjacket (it’s got a zipper, my name on the pocket, a FDNY badge on the left shoulder, an (empty) station badge on the left breast and FDNY stitched in outline on the back) for my birthday and when I wore it to get breakfast, both the bagel guy and the coffee guy were much friendlier than they’ve ever been. I do not in any way condone impersonating emergency workers or law enforcement personnel, I just thought it was interesting to see in person the difference in how stores treated me just based on the jacket I wore. Though, I couldn’t help thinking about wearing it and going back to Commerce Bank and see if they’ve changed their mind about waiving that account inactivity fee…


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  1. frankadelic says:

    Hopefully the bagel cart won’t go on fire when you’re around!

  2. Wheels17 says:

    My brother-in-law is pretty clean cut, often wears a sport coat, and drives a used crown vic police interceptor demonstrator. All white, cop tires, cop hubcaps, antennas, vinyl floor, etc.

    He drove up to a fast food pickup window for a soft drink. The clerk passes it through the window and says “No charge, officer…..”

  3. B says:

    Of course, if you want to experience this for real, you could always become a volunteers fireman. And as an added bonus, you’ll be helping out your fellow humans and doing something good for your neighbors.

  4. petrarch1608 says:

    this seems kind of sleazy. Its like calling yourself Doctor without getting the MD or PhD. Its disrespectful to those actually in those professions.

  5. IphtashuFitz says:

    Frankly I’m not surprised. I was a volunteer in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary for 15 years. It’s a branch of the USCG made up entirely of civilian volunteers. We wear the exact same uniforms as the USCG except the insignia are slightly different (silver instead of gold, a red or blue ‘A’ in the middle of insignia, etc). Virtually none of the general public can tell the difference between active duty Coasties and Auxiliary volunteers. I always felt like I got a bit nicer a response from the general public I interacted with when wearing one of my uniforms, even if it was just a “work” uniform consisting of a dark blue shirt & pants, a USCG name tag over the breast pocket, and a USCG ballcap.

  6. Buran says:

    @petrarch1608: I’m not so sure. He didn’t claim to be operating in any official capacity, doesn’t have an official badge or station marking of any sort, and did not demand any special treatment.

    You can go to T-shirt stores and the like and buy FDNY shirts (that’s a fashion I don’t get — what the heck? Makes no sense, but there you go) and if there was an issue with it, the practice would have been stopped a long time ago.

    I’ve seen people on the street wearing those who aren’t firefighters (probably; I can’t be 100% sure) and … I live in St. Louis, not New York.

  7. IphtashuFitz says:

    @Buran: I think a lot of the FDNY ones you see, especially outside of NYC, are people who feel it’s a tribute to those lost on 9/11.

  8. theirishscion says:

    Funny, I’ve found this to be true from the other perspective. I was read-ended by an off duty fireman back in 2001, quite hard, almost wrote my truck off. As soon as I spotted the uniform and ID I stopped being nearly so pissed. Not entirely sure why. I guess their job is to put themselves in harms way for you, so it’s reasonable to cut them some slack. The cop who showed up 15 minutes later seemed pleased that he didn’t have to cite the guy (I’d already got him to get his insurance company on the phone and admit fault so I had no need of a police report)

    I never cease to be amazed at how badly cops and firemen seem to be paid in this country. There have to be some perks!

  9. Penn of Penn & Teller once told of how he used to wear a firemans jacket in his youth I believe devoid of markings that he got, and he said it was an awesome chick magnet. That being said, at the flea market last weekend, I saw one, but it was too big for me. Damn.

  10. Snowblind says:

    Maybe your attitude is the one that changed, hrm?

    Maybe wearing the jacket made you less of a jerk, lest you soil the reputation of the people you were impersonating?

    /sarcasm off

  11. davere says:

    The guy I’m dating is a cop and sure enough, I also noticed that we seem to receive friendlier service when he wears anything official.

    (I really just wanted to say that I’m dating a cop)

  12. Wormfather says:

    @Buran: what IphtashuFitz said…but other than that I aggree.

    [Insert witty comment here]

  13. chiieddy says:

    @IphtashuFitz: Official Merchandise benefits the FDNY fund which advocates fire safety education.

    There is also merchandise of this nature that benefits the widows and children of firefighters lost in the line of duty.

  14. xthexlanternx says:

    When I was in the military, I always wore my uniform on flights. I got extra bags for free multiple times. I got upgraded to the seat in front of the door with the extra leg room multiple times. Also, I got free coffees and drinks at the bars. There are perks to the uniform, although I wouldn’t do it anymore since I’m no longer serving.

  15. consumersaur says:

    You could always do what I do and wear a local fireman’s skin.

  16. catcherintheeye says:

    @Wheels17: It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?

  17. Turcicus says:

    I received some job training at the FBI academy, and while there I picked up an FBI logo window cling for my car. Shortly before going to the training I was rear-ended and took my car to a shop for an estimate. The shop was booked up for a while, so my car had to sit in my driveway awaiting repairs, during which time I was in Quantico. When I returned I put the cling on the car and took it to the shop. While they were somewhat nice to me at the estimate, there were much nicer when I came to pick up the car after it was fixed.

  18. @catcherintheeye: It’s 106 miles to Chicago. We’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.

  19. narcolepticdoc says:

    @Snowblind: Speaking of attitude and being a jerk, maybe you should buy one of those jackets and put it on before posting next time.

  20. Smitherd says:

    @narcolepticdoc: He used a sarcasm tag. He was just making a point.

  21. iMike says:

    In a similar vein, as far as Chase, BOA, Citi, United Airlines, Delta, Hilton, Starwood and my mortgage company are concerned, I am “Reverend” iMike, which I believe helps with customer service.

  22. iMike says:

    And the church sticker I have on my car may or may not have gotten me out of a ticket or two.

  23. theBIG says:

    While it is true that cops and firefighters get good customer service (and a TON on discounts!) IN some areas you get treated worse.

    I have a friend who is a firefighter for the city of LA and he says that if they are in a crappy part of town, the people are still jerks.

    I can understand this attitude towards cops, but firefighters?….. I dont get it.

  24. Landru says:

    I heard once that the way to get into a packed restaurant is to put your name on the waiting list as “Dr.” So-and-so. I tried it once at a popular place that had just opened and it really worked. I only had to wait about 30 seconds. It did feel dishonest, however.
    I was wearing a suit at the time, fwtw.

  25. @iMike: Go online and get ordained. I did. I have window placards, ID cards, ID Badges, and decals. Almost all my packages get addressed to me as Rev. My mailman is also a minister.

  26. @Landru: Just tell them it’s an honorary degree like Bill Cosby. If an actor can become a Dr just for being in a movie, than why can’t you?

  27. kc2idf says:

    Just carrying a commercial-grade walkie talkie can get this sort of attention. This is something that I discovered purely accidentally (and don’t exploit) while carrying a high-end MURS radio to keep in touch with some other family members. (I don’t like the el-cheapo bubble-pack FRS/GMRS radios)

  28. ChuckECheese says:

    @B: As opposed to, say, blogging?


  29. Black Bellamy says:

    Is anyone here a marine biologist?!?

  30. macinjosh says:
  31. missdona says:

    @iMike: Years ago my dad had a used car with a silver and black “Clergy” sticker on it. It got him out of a couple of sticky situations.

  32. martyf says:

    I’m a volunteer firefighter, and I can confirm that this is even more true if you are actually a firefighter, especially in local situations where people actually know you’re a firefighter. Really, I highly recommend it to anyone, it’s rewarding, it gives you skills and confidence, and YOU GET TO DRIVE A FIRE TRUCK! DO you have any idea how fun that is? For a moment, the 9 year old in me comes alive when I turn on the siren and head to a call.

  33. ManiacDan says:

    I have a “New York District Attorney’s Squad” turtleneck that gets me a lot of respect, in retail and otherwise. There’s a hilarious story involving a convict attempting to escape from the police and running face first into the badge on my chest, but I’ll safe that for another time.

  34. Peeved Guy says:

    But, does it have the cigarette lighter?

  35. Peeved Guy says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: Hit it.

  36. travisPickle says:

    Ok, I’m amused.

    Almost 10 years on the job (FDNY), and I could count on one hand how many times I have been extended “special courtesy.”

    People, take it from me. Whether on duty or off, most people see you as another person, nothing special. And that’s the way we should be treated.

    BTW, ask your friend, who is on the job. The jobshirt you’re wearing, while cool, would not be worn by most FD personnel unless they were on duty.

  37. keith4298 says:

    Definately true. After 9/11, a lot of the fire departments were selling t-shirts in NYC to raise money for the families of falled fire fighters. I had bought a few from one by my office.

    People to this day treat me nicer when I wear it – and most ask if I’m a fire fighter (I used to be an EMT, does that count?).

  38. WV.Hillbilly says:

    You know what’s sleazy?
    It’s the merchants giving cops and firemen stuff on the cuff.
    And it’s sleazy for the cops and firemen to take it.

  39. numindast says:

    @theirishscion: Regular people have accidental accidents too. Meaning, OMG ACK Whoops!

    It’s the jerks who blame me for their mistake that the anger starts shooting steam outta the ears.

    Back on topic, though: I frequently see NYFD on ballcaps, shirts, jackets, etc on the Chicago subway. I wonder if they get friendlier-than-usual treatment too? /grin

  40. emt888 says:

    When I was an EMT, I went to a Waldenbooks after my shift one day, so I was still in uniform. I had two different people ask me if I worked there and could I help them find books.

  41. Juggernaut says:

    And you thought it was so funny when Eddie Murphy did that white guy thing on SNL


  42. @Peeved Guy: We’re on a mission from God.

  43. @Landru: My undergraduate advisor (an anthrpologist) told me that he always used “Doctor” when making airline reservations, because sometimes flight attendants would give him a free upgrade to first class. It was the old “I’m a doctor, but not that kind of doctor” gag brought to life.

    (He said the trick didn’t work in Europe, so he put “Professor” on his reservations there.)

  44. @emt888: I get that thing happen to me all the time. I was once in Target in a lime green dress shirt and black pants, and somebody asked me if I worked there. I was at Lowe’s once wearing overalls and a blue shirt, and same thing. I usually give them a deer in the headlight look and say, I think it’s over there, but since I don’t work here, I’m not sure.

  45. remedies says:

    @Black Bellamy: the sea was angry that day, my friends…

  46. Benny Gesserit says:

    I once spent a year or so doing consulting work with a retail fuel company a couple of hours from where I lived; far enough that I only went home on weekends.

    One friday I was very late leaving so I didn’t bother changing (even forgot to take off my name badge.) An hour into the drive home, I needed gas and a bio-break so I stopped at one of the company’s stations. After filling I walking to the retail store to use the washroom and the staff’s chins hit the floor. They scattered like roaches in a 1000w light.

    After I used the washroom, I picked up a snacky-bit at the cash, paid a woman who looked at me in shear terror and left.

    The next monday I mentioned what had happened to the consultant coordinator. She had a great laugh and said “You walked in wearing business clothes with a name-badge with your LAST NAME on it!” (Retail staff only get their first name.) “They thought you were doing a surprise audit and they freaked!”

  47. @Git Em SteveDave: “Hit it.”

  48. @catcherintheeye: Fix the cigarette lighter.

  49. Buran says:

    @Michael Bauser: Huh, I shall have to tell my Ph.D.-toting dad about that.

  50. lockdog says:

    As a wannabe angry suburban middle schooler I often wore an old combat jacket that still had a few stripes on the shoulder and one or two other patches. I finally gave it up after one too many old guys on the street would salute me, or ask me where I served or something like that. I never quite believed in the “crazy ‘nam vet” stereotype, but there are a whole lot of guys out there who apparently couldn’t figure out that a 14 year old with long hair, ripped jeans, and a jacket six sizes too big just might have found said jacket at a flea market.

  51. strathmeyer says:

    Hey! We give this service to hot chicks, too!

  52. nsv says:

    I stopped at a store for food after a fire once. I was dirty, smelled of smoke, and wearing bunker pants and a sweaty FD t-shirt, but I was absolutely starving. I ran in, made a surgical strike to the sandwiches, and ran to the register.

    The old man behind me made a point of turning up his nose and sniffing, then dramatically stepping back to get away from my stench. The cashier looked at me like I was begging for a handout. (Yes, I had my wallet in hand, expecting to pay.)

    I hope they never need my services.