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Results of Global ‘Courtesy Test’

20 June 2006

Reader’s Digest Announces Results of Global ‘Courtesy Test’

Auckland In Top Ten Of Global Courtesy Survey Residents of New Zealand’s biggest city have confirmed kiwis’ reputation for helpfulness and courtesy. Auckland finished an impressive 7th out of 35 cities, with trans-Tasman neighbour Sydney coming in a distant 23rd.

Some people say courtesy is dead, but Reader’s Digest magazine found it alive and well – at least in some cities – following an unprecedented 35-country test to measure courtesy and politeness in what was essentially the world’s biggest real-life test for common courtesy.

Reader’s Digest sent undercover reporters from its editions in each country to assess politeness in their most populous city.

In every location, they staged scenarios to see if people would hold open a door, say “thank you” after making a sale in a shop, and help someone pick up papers dropped in a busy location.

Points were awarded for polite responses, and the results for each city were tallied and compared. Reader’s Digest will publish results in the July issue of all 50 of its editions, the most expansive simultaneous global collaboration in the magazine’s 84-year history.

So how good was Auckland? While around the world citizens were on average slightly more likely than not to pass the tests (55 per cent passed), Aucklanders romped home with a tick in 67 per cent of cases, while Sydneysiders scraped a mere 47%.

While the test was not a scientific survey, but it provided a fascinating snapshot of behavior in the countries tested. Aucklanders finished in the top ten for all categories except one – holding doors open.

It seems that manners are thrown out the window when it comes to holding a door open for others – particularly in the younger age groups. One offender was asked why they let the door fall on our undercover reporter, their reply “you can get it yourself”. New Yorkers finished first in courtesy, placing in the top five in all three tests, and Mumbai was bottom of the courtesy table. New Yorkers were particularly polite at holding doors open.

“I don’t even think about it,” said a young woman named Kirsten Chieco. “Most New Yorkers are courteous.”

Other cities scoring high included Zurich, Switzerland (second), Toronto, Canada (third), and Berlin, Germany, Zagreb, Croatia and São Paulo, Brazil (tied for fourth) Zagreb residents were the world leaders in helping with dropped papers. One man insisted on helping despite having arthritis and a bad back.

“I always help someone in trouble,” he said. In São Paulo, even petty criminals were polite.

As Reader’s Digest bought a pair of cheap sunglasses from a trader, shouts rang out that the police were coming. The market turned out to be illegal. The merchant gathered up his goods to flee, but not before saying “thank you.”

Shop assistants were especially polite in Auckland – smaller businesses took out first place worldwide for having a 100% strike rate for thanking our undercover reporters after they made a purchase.

Lee Tito of Hallensteins explained, “It leaves a lasting impression when you are polite and it’s welcoming too. I put myself in the customer’s position. It makes others feel good!”

Did the world pass the courtesy test? Globally, respondents did the courteous thing 55 percent of the time – but in some cities, the score was far higher. If common courtesy is the oil that keeps society running, a check of the level of the world’s courtesy suggests that there’s plenty of oil in the engine – but some cities could use a ‘top-up.’”

Reader’s Digest magazine, part of The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. (NYSE: RDA), is published in 21 languages and reaches 80 million readers worldwide. The magazine celebrates the best of humanity and delivers a compelling mix of special reporting, humor, personal service and human-interest stories.


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