I recently found a portfolio containing all 64 business columns I wrote for Business a.m. 10 years ago (clearly, I was little more than a child at the time). Reading through them again was fascinating. While many of the names and companies may have changed over the years, the relevance of the business messages remains the same – and in some cases, has become even more important.

So I thought it would be fun to share the old columns with you, with a little bit of an update alongside.

I’d love to know what you think.

First up is November 10 2000 – I wrote this after a long weekend in New York where the customer service proved to be dismal. Since then I’ve been back a number of times, and I have to say that it has improved over the years, while the service in Scotland appears to have regressed. Where are we going wrong?

I’VE just spent five days on a girlie shopping trip to New York. What an experience: nine girls, much mayhem and merriment, even more shopping. The end result? Serious jet lag and a plastic meltdown not seen in recent history. I don’t think that city will ever be the same again.

But that’s not the only thing that has changed. My outlook on service has been changed beyond recognition. I used to believe the hype that Americans were the best at customer service. Not any more, I’m afraid.

Service in the States is disappointing. No, it’s worse. It’s appalling. Poor service in Scotland is actually admirable in direct comparison to the poor service my friends and I received at the hands of New York sales assistants this week.

From the moment we set foot at JFK airport to the moment we boarded the plane home, (Icelandair weren’t much better, it has to be said) we were continually disappointed, and at times outraged, at the shocking service we experienced.

We were met at the airport by a chauffeur-driven limousine for our trip into Manhattan. At least, that was the plan. We were met by the chauffeur, but the limo was a half hour walk away – and that was once the chauffeur remembered where he parked his vehicle. We were marched up and down outside the airport twice before being led through a construction site, dodging bulldozers and carrying our own luggage. Not the most auspicious of starts to our holiday.

Our arrival at the Marriott East Side, on Lexington Avenue, was greeted with despair when the guy at reception realised they had reserved us just one room rather than the four we had paid for in advance. And as they managed – slowly – to find us accommodation in the hotel we were made to feel grateful for their efforts.

The bellhop who brought our luggage in from the limo interrupted our dispute with the manager to request his tip. And then abandoned us in the lobby to manoeuvre it up to our rooms.

All part of the experience, we thought. Once we start shopping things will improve, we thought. We thought wrong.

First stop Tiffany’s the jewellers, where service is delivered reluctantly by snooty sales assistants whose interest in the customer and his or her purchase relates directly to the colour of the credit card. Pay by cash, and you’re little better than pond life. Use a credit card and your status rises marginally. You might even receive a grunt, translated as “have a nice day”. Flash a gold credit card and the sales assistant will perk up and show a little more interest in you. A platinum card will win you a smile, and the assistant may in fact hand-wrap your gift, rather than dispensing one of her minions to do the dirty deed.

In Macy’s, the world’s largest department store, a friend walked away from a purchase after the sales assistant snapped a jewellery box closed on her fingers to take it to another customer. Another friend endured a 25-minute process for her purchases to be checked through the till. Nary a word passed the lips of the assistant the entire time.

“Please” and “thank you” could have been profanities, if the reluctance to use them was anything to go by.

That was annoying enough. But even more infuriating was the sales assistants’ use of personal mobile phones whilst serving customers.

Twice, I was witness to remarkable personal arguments over the mobile phone while my items were being rung through the till. “Whatever!”  drawled the assistant, “You need to grow up,” she yelled, before slamming the phone down on the counter. Not an apology, not even a smile, to make amends for her rudeness.

And in the famous “Windows on the World” restaurant at the top of the World Trade Centre in downtown Manhattan, we were completely ignored until we eventually caught the eye of the bartender and requested a copy of the wine list. “By the glass?” he asked patronisingly. “No, by the bottle” we replied. He became somewhat more attentive then, and when we ordered a bottle of champagne he realised we were serious. It has to be said that he demanded payment prior to pouring our drinks, but at least this was done with a smile.

Cab drivers grunted, policemen were outstandingly ignorant and the concierge in our hotel appeared to have something rather smelly under his nose when speaking to us.

Despite all this we had the most fabulous time. Poor service didn’t stop us spending pots of cash. And we got our own back on the bellhop who had to carry twice as much luggage out to the limo when we left.

The moral of the story? Service matters. And we in Scotland are actually quite good at it.

Next week – Get a grip of your knickers, it’s gender equality in business.