Monday, December 27, 2010

9 Days of Atkins Hell & And 1 Great Lesson: No Sale Is Too Small

What an eventful 9 days it has been.

On a positive note, I am emerging from Week 1 of the Atkins Diet Plan relatively unscathed by the usual trio of "induction flu" symptoms: brain fog (left me literally dumb), tiredness, and a bit of muscle pain. Thank G-d for Google and the many Internet sufferers who reminded me to drink a lot of water, take calcium and potassium (salt), and be patient. 

Also a note of thanks to Chicken of the Sea for coming up with packets of wild-caught tuna and salmon that you can take anywhere and rip open at a moment's notice, relatively discreetly, so that you don't starve while in the company of others who aren't suffering quite the same way as you are. I am buying these for $1 apiece at CVS, which is a pretty good deal, and you can get them online too.

While I'm on this I will note that although I don't endorse any company or brand, Chicken of the Sea has a nice FAQ section on their website that addresses typical questions about mercury and other nutritional issues related to the foods they sell. 

I will also note that if you are on Atkins and you are going to take literally the advice that you can smother your food with oil (healthy fats preferred but any mayo will do in a pinch), you may want to ask your table-mates to avert their eyes as you start pouring. (Let's be frank: Plain fish in a pouch needs a little help if we are going to get through Induction. I've lived by tossing it with spinach, olive oil, parmesan and salt, but when the oil starts flowing it really freaks people out no matter what bed of greens it's on.)

OK so you are waiting for me to get to the point. Will do.

During this vacation I have visited many a shopping establishment. I saw salespeople both good and bad. But one thing that really stood out, which applies whether you're behind the counter of a Starbucks, selling shoes, or dealing with people in general is:

No sale is too small.

Meaning: You are never so high and mighty that you can afford to blow people off. 

Meaning: Don't decide how you will treat people based on their looks, their mannerisms, their title, or the price of the item they are considering buying.

Here are two stories that illustrate. Details altered to protect the innocent from an annoying email claiming it didn't actually happen this way.

Example #1: Expensive product, average-seeming customer (me)

I go into an establishment to inquire about a particular product. It costs a lot.

Salesperson - fully, artificially manicured and featuring Bath Fitter-type teeth (gleaming but with no indentation between the teeth, as if someone had fitted shocking white dentures over the normal set)  - asks what I want politely. I explain. Salesperson says, "Give me your email address. I will send you some information, and then follow up."

Email never arrives. Salesperson seemed sincere. But it was all just an act.

Needless to say I got the message: "You don't look like someone who would buy what we sell, so I am not going to waste my time on you."

Example #2: Inexpensive product, also average-seeming customer (me)

I go into establishment and order a sandwich. (This is before the Atkins thing.) We're not talking 99 cent special here, and it's not the million-dollar truffle hamburger, just an average sandwich from an average place that sells them.

I sit down thinking that the sandwich will arrive soon.

Ten to fifteen minutes later I am still waiting.

I go up to the cash register and ask politely where my sandwich is.

The cashier seems not to recognize me. Then I repeat my order. She points to the back of the sandwich preparation area, where two or three similar sandwiches are lined up. 

She says, "We have a big party here today. You will have to wait."

The message there was clear as well: "Big sales come before little ones."

In both cases, the salespeople employed faulty logic.

First, they both assumed that the sale began and ended with the sole interaction, and wouldn't have any consequences later on.

Second, they assumed that it's the dollar amount of the sale that determines the way one treats the customer, and not the fact that the potential customer had taken their time and chosen, out of a plethora of choices available, to visit that establishment.

The reality is, I carry the memory of both of those interactions with me. I wouldn't patronize those establishments again. And given any opportunity, I will tell other people what happened specifically and in a more general way.

Eventually, retailers who approach customers at any point of interaction, with anything less than respect and minimal keeping of promises, are going to find themselves at a huge disadvantage versus those who instinctively act with basic human decency.

These days, with the economy so tight and the competition for jobs fierce, you can never afford to alienate a potential contact. And you also never know whether the person looking out at you from the no-name outfit is average or simply an influential person who tends to dress a little shleppy. (Especially in D.C.)

Moral of the story: All the old adages are still true and I will now mix old and new. "Don't judge a book by it's cover," because "It's the content that counts," and regardless of how much the potential contact can bring to you, "Treat others the way that you would want to be treated yourself."

Happy holidays!