POPPED into a coffee shop where I am a reasonably regular customer last week for a cappuccino to bring back to the office following an interview.

I’ve been trying to cut down recently so it was going to be a treat. Sad as it sounds, I’d been anticipating it all day.

It was £2.25 and I brought out my debit card. “£5 minimum transaction,” said the woman behind the counter.

Ah, let me check my purse. Darn it, I’ve only got £2.23.

She suggested I have a cup of tea for £1.80 instead. I wasn’t after a cup of tea and certainly not for £1.80.

“You could go along the street to the cash machine.” I had a taxi on the way and not much time.

So, my coffee was lost for want of a 2p piece.

I did eight years' labour in a coffee shop and I can tell you this much, I would have made the 2p up.

“Jobsworth,” I whined to the taxi driver, all the way back to work in a funk.

My barista jobsworth absolutely pales in comparison to the hard graft put in by a manager of a Toby Carvery who denied a terminally ill woman a small plate.

Yes, that’s right. The rules of a chain roast dinner restaurant are sacrosanct. One must take what one is given and be glad, even when one is dying.

A woman in Merseyside visited her local Toby Carvery and asked for a child’s plate. Lynn Deer has terminal stomach cancer, resulting in most of the organ being removed. She hasn’t, you’ll sympathise, much of an appetite.

Child’s plates are for the under-12s and there will be no exceptions. She tried to show the manager a medical card but the lady in charge was not for turning. I tell you what, I didn’t expect to spend my Wednesday afternoon in a minor Twitter spat with Toby Carvery but the chain’s pathetic, mealy-mouthed non-apology left me seeing red. They appreciate my feedback.

Jobsworths are the scourge of polite society. What can we do about them?

In this instance, staff cannot be taught empathy but they can have disability awareness drummed into them, so let’s hope some staff training is afoot.

Good customer service matters so much because bad service is to steal someone’s time. It’s a mini manslaughter – who among us has time to give away? You are taking a little piece of someone else’s life.

Ma Stewart was a bit stressed about catching her train the other week and, because of her hearing loss, didn’t realise she was shouting at the station staff member.

Instead of taking umbrage, the ScotRail worker helped her through the barrier, turned to me and said, “You go with her,” allowing me on to the platform without a ticket and without me having even asked.

What a difference it made, that small, thoughtful gesture.

We have an increasingly elderly population, a society that is increasingly moving online. It seems odd to me that my older neighbour won’t set up a direct debit for his council tax but, on reflection, it’s a day out to pay it in person with guaranteed human interaction.

Imagine that you’re a person’s only face-to-face connection that day and you make them feel bad, you rattle them, you deprive them of something they were excited for.

This all resonates so much because I was once that jobsworth. Back in my coffee shop days, while I’d have let you off with coppers, I was as compliant with company policy as they come.

We’d been told not to give cream in coffee because it curdled. I mean, it doesn’t, does it? But what I was told, I believed.

Every morning the back of 6am a taxi driver would come in for his coffee with cream. Would I give him it? Would I coco.

When he insisted, I would give him a cup with an 80/20 split – in favour of the cream.

I shudder now to think of how he must have dreaded to see me. An irritating little madam setting his day off to a tense and fat-laden start. I am filled with shame.

I saw him not that long ago on Sauchiehall Street and wanted to chase after him to apologise. Of course, that would have been awkward for him and serve only selfish me.

So what changed? Maturity, mainly. But for many jobsworths, age is no excuse.

How to encourage everyday kindness to strangers? I think it starts small and spreads, as mawkish as that may sound. Send it out in waves, each little act at a time.

But it’s vital to go in at the top. Our current insecure labour market does nothing for the discouragement of jobsworths. The pressure is twofold: if your work is precarious, why care? And if you’re at risk of a short term contract being renewed, there’s no incentive to risk using your initiative and overriding company policy.

So, be kind, complain and compliment. Be kind to staff but complain furiously to companies that implement ridiculous policies. And compliment where a job’s well done.

Jobsworths can be overcome; common sense must win the day.