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I know this sounds awful

Franjipani Maldives
Creative Commons License photo credit: Badruddeen

On a late afternoon errand run, I stopped into a local hardware store for a bag of potting soil.

I asked the woman at the counter if they had any left. She stared back at me as if I had asked her for a date (she was at least 25+ years younger), responding “Anything we have is on aisle 5”.

A few minutes later, I’m approaching the register.

As I take my place at the back of the line (now 2 people long), a car pulls into the parking lot as the guy in front of me asks about another possibly out-of-stock item. After answering him, she sighs and comments about another customer coming in 10 minutes before closing time.

Another employee approaches the front of the store and while ringing me up, she suggests to her peer, “Can you flip the signs to closed so they’ll stop coming in?”

Then she says “I know that sounds awful, but I have another job to go to.”

Yes, it does sound awful.

While I will think twice before burdening your employer with my business again,  I do appreciate your moxie at doing whatever it takes to make ends meet.

Sometimes that voice in your head should stay there.

4 replies on “I know this sounds awful”

Mark, I’m thinking a lot about this right now. About how small town businesses *can* be some of the very best in service, but too often they are not. I’m thinking about how we help those businesses improve their quality and service. Our small town future may depend on it.

Becky, I’d say our small towns depend great deal on it. It cuts directly at the core of what “Business is Personal” has been about since 2005. Every time someone drives out of town or buys online, it isn’t just one store that loses. Every one of their retail neighbors, the local watering hole, the restaurant/cafe etc get taken out of the picture for that trip to town.

Astonishing, sort of. On one hand, it’s a shame our current economy forces some people to have multiple jobs (if they’re even lucky enough to find them and get them). I’m sure this worker was tired.

But on the other hand, I see over and over a lack of professionalism in the modern workforce. Yes, having a low-wage job is difficult, challenging and usually real “work.” But part of what you’re paid for isn’t your mere presence, it’s to serve as the face of that business in as professional and appropriate a way as possible.

This morning I had breakfast for the first time at a new place in Watertown. The place was clean, the staff extraordinarily accommodating, fast and friendly, and the food was first-rate. The owner stopped and said hello. We also got incented to come back via a $3 coupon. The old saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is meaningful. That young lady needs to be aware of it.

Bruce, I think a lot of it comes from owners/managers not training their staff to understand how front-desk-behavior can impact their business. Little things make a big impression.

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