While We Still Have Some Time

Summer is in full swing. Once the 4th of July holiday has come and gone, it seems that summer speeds along. With many schools starting by early August, the lazy days of summer soon come to an end. Before Fall descends on us with all of its busyness, it is a good time to take stock of how close we are to our 2021 commitments. This year is more than half over, and the rest of the year, with its holidays, will pass quickly. Time is one resource that once spent cannot be recovered.

Think back to the beginning of 2021. Granted, we had some unknowns at that time, the most significant of which was COVID-19. We hoped for widespread vaccines, but we had not achieved such at that point. Since that time, many people have been vaccinated and much of life has returned to some sense of normalcy. While most countries are not completely virus free, people in the U.S. do have hope that our lockdown has ended. Travel domestically and even internationally has resumed.

A previous blog of mine posed the question, “If you only knew?” If you only knew, what would you have done differently? If you only knew that COVID-19 would take at least a year of your life, what would you have done differently? Would you have spent your time differently?

We do know that time is not promised, whether it is taken from us or changed. We do know on some level that time is finite, that we are not promised anything past this very moment and this breath. Does that knowledge change anything? Or do we rock along, oblivious to this gift of life? The recent and unexpected passing of my dear Uncle Barry, who was my most constant father figure for almost seventy years, has made it impossible for me to take life for granted. But knowledge is only valuable if it spurs us to action. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake alone is useless.

It amazes me that I am almost seventy years old. It amazes me that I have much more life behind me than in front of me. I remember the shock of turning 50 years of age. These past twenty years passed in the blink of an eye. I can only assume that whatever years I have remaining will go even faster. At their end, what will be left? What will be my legacy? What do I WANT to be my legacy? Whatever that is, I best get started living it.

If thinking of one’s legacy is too much of a stretch, let’s go back to thinking of our 2021 commitments. Let’s start there and do our best to keep those commitments while we have some of 2021 left. While we still have some time.

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The Customer is KING

It is a holiday week, and I should not be fussing, but I think I will. When my time is wasted due to lack of information, I am stressed. I am stressed anyway this week due to still grieving the loss of my dear Uncle Barry. That will be with me for a while, and I know the loss comes in waves. I should probably just go away for a few days and let the feelings wash over me. But I am home, trying to take care of things around here that have been neglected the past few months.

I got in the garage earlier today and tried to organize some things that had been sitting unattended too long. I took a couple of lamps to be repaired. I cleaned out some other things and made a trip to Goodwill. I filled up the trash cans. And the trash cans, or trash pickup, are one thing I will fuss about.

On holiday weeks, usually the trash pickup is delayed by one day. They used to call and let us know that. But not lately. Waste Industries, our trash pickup company, was bought by GFL, and I do not know if that is the reason we have not received a call about delayed trash pickup, or if they will pick up on schedule. So, trying to figure this out, I went to the internet to find a phone number to call. I never could find a phone number! So here I am not knowing what to do, other than take the trash cans to the road tonight as I normally would and let them sit an extra day if trash pickup is delayed this week. Who knows, they may not even come. They failed to pick up at all last week! I called, and that was not a pleasant phone conversation.

Our normal trash pickup day is Thursday. The person who I spoke with had the attitude of she could not have cared less about my problem. She told me they would pick my (delayed) cans up on Tuesday. No apology and no warm voice. So, what was I to do, leave the can at the street for those days, or take it back up and down again on Tuesday?! I did not like either option. When it was clear that I was not going to get anywhere with her, I asked to speak to the manager. Of course, he was unavailable, but he would call me back. I never received a call. But, amazingly so, my trash was picked up the next day.

Back to this week. I suppose my safest bet is to take the trash to the road tonight and hope pickup is tomorrow, and if not, leave the cans there one more day.

My concern about lack of information is not knowing if the trash pickup is delayed this week, or not. Also, when I spent my time on their website, and I couldn’t find a simple phone number, that was a waste of my time.

I am more patient since COVID, and give some service people a pass, knowing that most businesses do not have enough help. But when a customer next to me can’t get his martini in a martini glass because it isn’t washed, unacceptable! Go wash it. Putting a martini in a champagne glass isn’t a good solution. It was about half of the pour, and of course, no apology or discount was offered. Unacceptable.

I could give other examples, but I will only get more stressed if I continue along this vein. The point that I want to make is really aimed at the company and its culture. When the two service people I referenced treat customers the way I was treated by the sanitation office worker, and the customer next to me at the bar was treated by the bar staff, the fault lies first of all with the company and its culture. The people part of the business is lacking. Management is not doing its job.

When a phone number isn’t available online for those people who prefer to get their information by phone, the company systems are at fault. Management is not doing its job.

Both companies have not made it clear to the staff that the customer is KING. Or, the staff is not being held accountable for treating the customer as he should be treated. No, the customer isn’t always right. But the customer is always the customer. And no business can survive long much less thrive without loyal customers.

I feel better. Now, I will take the trash cans to the road. And consider a new trash pickup company that deserves our business.

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Freedom of a Different Nature

The 4th of July, when we celebrate our nation’s freedom, is Sunday. Many will be gathering to honor our country. This is fitting, a tribute worthy of our time. Tomorrow our loved ones and friends will have a gathering of a different nature. We will be having a gathering to celebrate my dear Uncle Barry, who passed away last Wednesday after several weeks of declining health. I was/am not ready to let him go, but the timing of his passing was not up to me. Nor was it up to him. As I think many thoughts during these days, the words, “if we only knew” keep playing over and over in my mind.

If we only knew. If we only knew today would be the last day that we would see our loved one, would we do anything differently? Would we have different priorities?

If we only knew. If we only knew this would be the last day we could hear our loved one’s voice, would we call? Would we call instead of text, or worse yet, do neither?

If we only knew. If we only knew this would be our last opportunity to repair a relationship, would we do so? Or would we spend our time thinking about how wrong the other person is?

If we only knew. If we only knew this would be the last time we could forgive our children for their wrongdoings, would we do so? Would we tell them how proud we are of all their good qualities, not failing to discipline them, but disciplining them in a loving manner?

If we only knew. If we only knew this would be the last day that we would be able to give our time and attention to our loved ones, would we do so? Would we want our last memories to be of watching TV, or scrolling on social media, instead of reaching out and touching our loved ones with our time and attention?

Some things to ponder about. Not just to ponder about, but to do something about. As we celebrate the 4th of July and honor our country, let’s also honor and celebrate our loved ones. While we still can.

Happy 4th of July. And rest in peace, Uncle Barry.

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When Time Stands Still

My heart is broken. My dear Uncle Barry, who I have blogged about many times, passed away yesterday in the early morning. Uncle Barry was more than an uncle, he was my most constant father figure. He cared for me in so many ways when I was young and taught me many lessons in the past few years as we became even closer. He vacationed with us, spent most holidays with us, and was in all ways an important part of our nuclear family. His absence will be felt by our family in a way that would surprise even him, although he knew we loved him. Love is action, and we showed him our love, and he us.

It is absolutely true that our hearts can physically and literally hurt. It is after 3pm now, and I have done nothing but cry and talk to loved ones since hearing the news. Given that, those of you reading this who wonder how I could write at this time are not writers. Writers will understand.

I have many thoughts and emotions, and need to write some of them now, some later. I do not want to waste or forget the lessons I learned with Uncle Barry.

Uncle Barry was 90 years young, and so wanted to live. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer last Fall, had two surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. Since early June, his health has been failing, but when I left him in rehab on Monday, I thought he was recovering, and would be there when I returned later this week. I spoke with him yesterday a couple of times, and he was fine, at least he sounded fine. He was still “taking care of business,” including wanting me to cancel a doctor’s appointment he knew he had so he wouldn’t be a “no show.” When he talked to me about that he said, “I know when I tell you to do something it will get done.” I took that as a compliment. Those were (I think, I am still foggy) the last words he said to me, other than “I love you, too” in response to my, “I love you.” Verbalizing love wasn’t easy for Uncle Barry, but he got better at it the more I told him I loved him!

Lessons from Uncle Barry to the rest of us:

1. Forgive. Don’t judge, don’t hold grudges, and move on. The best example I have of this is Uncle B’s relationship with his ex-wife, Alexis. They were married for (I think) about 5 years and have been divorced for about that amount of time. They remained friends. Uncle B’s last decision and action (again, I think) was on Monday, which was to have me order food, which he paid for, to be sent to Alexis’s family, to be delivered Thursday. Alexis’s youngest sister passed away on Sunday from pancreatic cancer, and Uncle B wanted to show his caring. His gift of food will arrive after his death. I will always remember Uncle B was thinking of others and doing for others until he passed.  

2. Take care of your own business as long as you can. Uncle B planned and paid for his cremation several years ago. He told us he did not want anyone else to have to worry about that. We also know he wanted to control that! He was tight with his hard-earned money and did not see any reason to waste any on more elaborate arrangements. We will, of course, honor his wishes, certainly those he put in writing.  

3. Pay your bills, avoid paying interest, and have enough financial resources to meet your needs. Uncle B lived a simple life, but he could afford what he had and even left some behind. I paid his bills recently and dealt with his bank, making sure that his financial responsibilities were met, since he was not physically able to do that for himself. He no longer has to worry about his credit, nor do his creditors have to worry about their payments.

4. Stay positive as long as you can and be grateful for what you have.  Uncle B never complained. He told jokes (some not so clean!) and was grateful for what he had and his life. He told me that he never thought he would live so long, that he wanted to live until 2000, the turn of the century, and that any years longer were a bonus. Even so, he so wanted to live. That is why he went through two cancer surgeries and six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. But I think he was at peace the past few days.  He never complained. He took life as it came, doing his part to live as long as he could.

This list is not intended to be all inclusive. It is a beginning. There will be more as time goes by.

Hold tight to your loved ones. Tell them you love them. Forgive. Reach out and help others, showing love in action as well as words. Know that life is short, regardless of how long we live. Make the best of the life and the time you are given.

Do these things. If not for yourself, in memory of Uncle Barry.  

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Honor Thy Father

Father’s Day is fast approaching, so of course one could think that this blog is because of Father’s Day. While the thought of doing a blog on fathers was stimulated by the holiday, the points made within are not just for Father’s Day. We should honor our parents all the days of our life, and theirs.

Not having had a stable father in my life, this is not an easy blog to write. I now know, and have known for many years, that my legal father was not my biological father. I have known who my biological father was for twenty years, although he never acknowledged me as his child. That story is not the subject of this post, so enough about that for now. I am grateful to my half-sisters who have acknowledged me, and for DNA testing that answered that father question for me. Both my legal and biological fathers are deceased.

There are many references in the Bible about honoring one’s father and mother. “Honor Thy Father” does not have a qualifier attached to it. It does not say, “Honor Thy Father if he is a good father.” Some fathers are not good. We are to honor them anyway. But what does “to honor” them really mean?

The dictionary definition of honoring someone is “to treat them with respect and admiration.” We could carry this analysis further and ask, “what is respect and admiration?” But I do not think we need to do that. We know what this means in layman’s terms, don’t we?

The most important way we show someone respect and admiration is by spending time with them. That is why spending time with our father or father figure on one day of the year, Father’s Day, is an insufficient way to honor them, or even to celebrate them. They deserve more than that.

Sometimes the physical distance between us and our father makes it difficult to see him frequently. Regardless, we need to make him a priority. We should make the commitment to see him as frequently as possible and keep that commitment. Additionally, we need to call frequently, and that means at least once a week. Not text, call. I have a couple of friends who call their parents daily. That is admirable, and not something most are willing to do (note I did not say “are able to do. We are all able to, just don’t!)

I know that some reading this have had difficult relationships with their father. This brings to mind the abusive father writer Pat Conroy had, who he wrote about quite openly in his books. Thankfully, Pat Conroy and his father made peace before his father died. I hope the same is true for those reading this who need this example. “Making peace” does not negate the trauma or excuse it, but it does help the healing.

Perhaps this Father’s Day can be the beginning of a renewed commitment to spend time with, to care for, and to honor our fathers. While we still can.

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers!

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Remaining Fresh

What keeps a business in business? Why do some retail establishments weather changes, and others not? What makes a business a destination that people flock to, even when one main aspect of the business is subpar? I found myself pondering this question on our family vacation this week to Hilton Head.  I may be left with more questions than answers, but questions are a good place to start. Asking the right questions gets us closer to answers.

I have three examples of this from our week in Hilton Head. I often focus on “threes.” It works for the Trinity, why not for other things?! My three examples are two restaurants, The Salty Dog Café and Skull Creek Boathouse, and a retail establishment, Fresh Produce.

The Salty Dog Café is a destination restaurant on the water within the Sea Pines development. To access the restaurant, one must pay to go onto Sea Pines property, presently $9 per vehicle, which is not reimbursable by the restaurant. One can consider it a tax levied for the privilege of accessing the property and eating at the restaurant.

Our family always goes to The Salty Dog, and always complains about the food. While we eat there, we do not really go for the food. We go for the experience. The experience of waiting in line one to two hours to eat outside on the water. The experience of spending lots of money on merchandise that advertises the product. Our family of 12 had an enjoyable time, and although The Salty Dog is a restaurant, the least enjoyable part of the experience was the food.

Skull Creek Boathouse is a restaurant that has some similarities to The Salty Dog Café, but the quality of the food is not one of them. The food at Skull Creek is excellent. The similarities are waiting in line at least two hours for the evening meal, eaten outside by the water when it isn’t raining. Valet parking is complementary, and there is no cost to access the property. While there is a company store, the merchandise at Skull Creek is a minor part of the experience. The beauty of the setting and the quality of the food are the best parts of the experience.     

Fresh Produce is a clothing and accessories store located at the beach end of the island. The name comes from a clothing and accessories line that went out of business several years ago, selling its assets to another company. While one can still find Fresh Produce merchandise in some locations such as Hilton Head, the failure of the Fresh Produce Company is sad to those of us who have loved the brand for many years.

I went into the Hilton Head Fresh Produce store to try to find a pair of shorts like the ones I had on. I wear these shorts so often that I am afraid they will eventually fall apart. While the store had some Fresh Produce merchandise, they did not have my shorts. The store clerk showed me another clothing line similar to Fresh Produce, but that line did not interest me. She said the store will eventually change the name of the store, once they have “gone through all of the many bags they have!” This conversation precipitated my thinking, “What keeps a business fresh?”

What creates a loyal customer following? What makes many people willing to spend hours waiting in line to eat subpar food? What makes one spend lots of money to wear a brand’s logo? What keeps a business fresh? What keeps a business in business?                 

First and foremost, a business remains strong when it creates a positive, memorable experience for its customers. An experience that keeps customers coming back even when all aspects of the experience are not what they should be.

Of course, a business must have capital, and strong financials. But these alone will not keep a business in business. What keeps a business in business is a loyal fan base, loyal fans that keep coming back. Like what The Salty Dog Café and Skull Creek Boathouse have created.

And Fresh Produce? I do not know. I just know that I regret its demise.

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Changing Again

June is in process, and that means that we are almost at the halfway point of 2021. This is a good time to take stock. Are you who you want to be? Are you where you want to be? If your answer to either or both of these questions is “no,” it is time to change something to get closer to who and where you want to be. If I am honest, and I want to be, I must answer these questions “no.”

Earlier this week I went back physically to WW, which used to be Weight Watchers, and still is for me, although the company has rebranded itself and no longer refers to itself as Weight Watchers. I was out of town, and decided it was time to return physically to WW. All through COVID I have been on WW through my app, recording my food intake daily. But I have not been to a physical meeting since WW started having them again. Although the group leader commended me for coming while away from home, I knew I needed to be there. Although I do not often attend the group meetings, I knew I needed to this time.

Although I have been recording my food intake daily, one of the main ways I stay on the plan, I have seen my weight creep up a few pounds in the past couple of months. I have not gained much weight, but more than is good for me. I can easily continue to gain if I don’t find a way to reverse this trend. I needed some inspiration to turn this around. And I received it. The meeting was about Change, just what I needed.

The group leader gave us a short quiz about our change identity. She said, “The way we think about ourselves related to change affects our ability to change, which is our change identity.” I was not surprised that I scored “Embraces Change.” That is one reason that I am slipping lately on WW. I am bored with the weight management process. Once I think about the fact that I embrace change, it makes sense that I am bored with the sameness of this. I must find a way to make this process new again. For it is a life-long process for me. I do not ever want to be overweight again.

So, what changes have I made that have resulted in weight gain, if only a few pounds? I am eating more sweets and bread, which I need to balance better. I will not be able to eliminate them completely, for I would not stay on any plan that required that. And I do not need to, I just need to be in better control of what and how much I am eating.

I have stopped my daily two-mile walk in the past month, due to bursitis in one of my hips. Well, the bursitis is here to stay with me, it seems, so I must find a way to get the same amount of exercise in without it hurting so much. I need the walking for my mental state as much as my physical state. I have also recently started physical therapy for the bursitis, months after it was recommended for my hip by my physician, and hopefully that will help.

Enough about me. How about you? What will you change to be who and where you want to be? We only have a little over six months to make these changes in 2021.

The hardest part of any change is getting started.

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Managing Our Frustrations

With effort, our behavior can be as calm as this ocean.

Things seem to take longer lately than they normally do. The “lately” part relates to since COVID. Now that many businesses are open again and many people are out and about, there are some definite challenges with service. You have probably noticed this also. This, coupled with the increased frustration level of many people, makes a frustrating situation dangerous. The Southwest Airlines flight attendant who lost two teeth in an altercation with a passenger a few days ago is only one example of frustration becoming dangerous. The apparent road rage incident that resulted in a six-year-old child being shot last week may be another example. Regardless of our frustrations or the actions of others, we must find healthy and humane ways to deal with our frustrations.

I was in a fast-food line last week, and it took much longer than acceptable for me to be served. When I got to the window to get my order, I politely asked why it had taken so long. Without even having to think about her answer, the staff person said, also politely, “We are slammed, and we do not have enough help.” That is all too common lately in many restaurants and other places of business. I hear some people lament, “People do not want to work. They can make more on unemployment than they can working.” That may or may not be true. But we need some solutions to help us manage the challenges that not having enough help creates, since more and more of us are going out and want to enjoy the experience.

Since I am often focused on change and helping others (as well as myself!) deal with change effectively, I wonder if any of my work with change can help with this. After all, this is a change. I recall a Three-Part Model for Effectiveness that I developed years ago, and I think it can help us deal with the changes creating increased frustration.

Part One of this model is Plan. Plan better than you think you need to. This includes planning that things will take more time than they normally do. If you have been to a Post Office lately, you know what I mean. Plan for traffic and construction delays. Plan for slower deliveries of most things. (Other than Amazon; how do they do it?) Leave earlier and expect that many things will take at least twenty-five percent longer to complete than they did in the past. Take something with you to read or work on while you are waiting. Make good use of the waiting time. Do whatever you need to so that your “hot buttons” are insulated. Eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. Make sure you have enough time for reflection.

Part Two is Purge. This is getting rid of what is not important or essential, so that you have the energy you need to be at your best, on your best behavior. You most likely know that you are nicer and calmer when you are not rushed. We all are. So why do we back ourselves into a corner time wise, creating reactions that make us less than nice people? Often it is because we are trying to do too much. Some people take pride in multitasking, even when we really can’t do more than one thing at a time well. Yes, we can juggle, but we are not our best selves when doing so. Consider what you need to purge to be able to allow more time for what is important and essential. It may cost more to buy convenience food than to cook, but if it is affordable, it may be worth the time it saves us. Purging clutter and disorganization gives us more time because we are not spending excess time looking for displaced or lost items.

Part Three is Perform. This relates to doing the high-performance activities that will help us accomplish our goals. In some cases, things here are the opposite of the things in Purge. Also, Planning and Performing are closely aligned. For example, if we are organized, a key area in Perform, we do not allow clutter to take hold, or we have purged it. If we Perform, we Plan. But Planning without Performing is ineffective. Planning and Performing go hand in hand. Perform is about executing and doing so consistently.

This upcoming holiday weekend is likely to test us. There will be many people on the roads, so we can expect traffic delays. There will be many people in the grocery stores, so we can expect shopping will take longer than we want it to. Restaurants will probably be packed, so if we go out to eat, we should expect service delays. This is a good time to implement Plan, Purge, and Perform.

Let’s be on our best behavior and be nice.  

            

                

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Our (Almost) New Normal

The different phases of the sun rising seen from my window on my American Airlines flight this morning. A good metaphor for change.

When the CDC removed restrictions for indoor and outdoor gatherings for vaccinated people last week, and governors followed suit, a new normal began. We could almost hear an audible sign as many took off their masks and rejoined society at a different level for the first time in more than a year. While some businesses are still requiring masks and even more still requiring social distancing, the feelings of freedom are palpable.

This past year of COVID has been an amazing time in our lives. If it taught us a anything, it should have taught us that we individuals are not in control. At any given time, our lives can change on the dime. Just think about our recent and even current gas shortage. We could not have imagined that before we even get out of our COVID crisis, we would have another one to deal with, a gas shortage.

Both of these events, COVID and the gas shortage, limited our flexibility greatly. Whereas prior to COVID we could travel without restrictions, since March of 2020, we have been somewhat home bound. Although there is great variance in how the virus and the restrictions have affected us, most people around the world have had to forego many of their freedoms. In the U.S we are very fortunate by having sufficient vaccines, while many in other countries are not so fortunate. The recent changes of loosening up restrictions is more of a U.S. phenomena, not yet available to many others around the world. Our friends in Canada are a good example of an industrialized nation that is still virtually on lockdown from COVID.

From all of this, especially from COVID since it has been a longer lasting crisis, we learned, or should have, that stability and even predictability is an illusion. Just when we think life is rocking along normally, our normal changes. So, what is our (almost) new normal in the U.S.?

The best word that describes our current, and I propose future, reality is ambiguity. Ambiguity is the unknown. We are living in a time when ambiguity needs to not just be accepted, but embraced.  We need to have a high tolerance for ambiguity, releasing our need for predictability. If we don’t expect ambiguity and get better at embracing it, we will not thrive, we may not even survive. The stress of trying to hold on to what we know and want instead of accepting and embracing the unknown can destroy us.

How do we do this? What tips and tools can help us accept and even embrace ambiguity? I have three ideas for consideration.

First, we must know ourself. We need to be very clear about what we need to feel in control of ourselves, even, or especially, when things are out of our control. What centers us? What restores our calm when all around us is crumbling, when the ground under our feet is shaky? Our answers to this tell us what we have to have to weather these times. What are our needs? Needs are different from wants. Our needs are nonnegotiable; we have to have them met to get through tough times.

Another idea is to surround ourselves with people who bring light and love to us, and minimize or  eliminate those who have the opposite effect on us. People need people. Not all people need people to the same degree, but we all need the connection we feel from positive people in our lives. To deal effectively with ambiguity requires that we have those people who we need to be present for us.

My third idea for consideration during times of ambiguity is to have systems that help us manage our time, money, and other resources. Time of great ambiguity are not the times to spend with abandon. Nor or they the time to spend our time with less than worthwhile endeavors. This is the time to conserve, so we have sufficient resources including energy to meet the demands of this time.  

What are your needs? Are you clear about those? Are you able to get them met most of the time, especially during times of great ambiguity?

Who brings light and love into your life? Are you able to be with them enough, either physically or emotionally? Have you or can you rid yourself from energy depleting people?

Do you have systems in place that help you conserve resources? Are you able to rest, sleep well, eat healthy, exercise consistently? If not, your body may give out, and an unhealthy body cannot manage times of ambiguity. Are your finances in order? If not, what changes can you make to begin to correct that? Are there some activities or obligations that need to be replaced by time for rest and reflection?

A lot to think about. And even more to do something about.       

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The Customer is King

If we love our customers, they feel it. They also feel it if we don’t. 

Customer Service has always been a passion of mine. I do not know where it came from, but it has always been a part of me. Customer Service has been one of my main platforms in my Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching Leadership Development business since it started in 1993. Last weekend I got the opportunity to match my words with my actions.

A good message for customer service.

In addition to my main business, The Fralix Group, Inc., I have a small antiques and gifts business inside Northrop Mall in Southport. I have had this business since the early 1990’s. This is my fun side. Mike reminds me that it is more of a hobby than a business, which is absolutely true.

Last weekend I was at the mall, puttering around. While I do “work” two to three days a month there, as many dealers do, on this particular day I was not scheduled to work, although I was helping behind the counter when a couple came into the shop. The woman was so excited and started to tell us how this was her favorite shop, that she had been quarantined for over a year, and this was her first trip to a store. She was so excited that she was bubbling over!

A friend, Pat Hughes, has been giving these hand sanitizers (in different scents) to restaurant staff and friends for months. What a nice touch! 

Then a problem surfaced. Her male partner was not wearing a mask. The staff member in charge politely told him that he would need to put on a mask, to which he replied, “I do not have one. Do you have one I can have?” The staff member told him we had some for sale and pointed those out to him. He replied, “You mean I have to buy one?! You don’t have any for customers without them having to buy one?” He was told that we previously had some for $1, but those were all gone, and pointed the ones out that were for sale for $7.50 and $8.00. He was becoming increasingly more frustrated. The woman who accompanied him seemed to be somewhat oblivious to what was happening about the masks; she was shopping already, properly masked.

For whatever reason, and the only reason I know of is that I wanted to turn this negative situation around, I decided to intervene. I told the man, “I am going to give you a mask.” And I did. I gave him one of the $8 masks that I had for sale. Those masks were on consignment, which means they were someone else’s, not technically mine, but that did not matter to me. I was willing to pay for the $8 mask myself to turn this situation into a positive one. And it did just that. The man was appreciative and commenced to shop.

If we are kind, we probably are “others” oriented, and customer service comes naturally. 

About an hour later the couple checked out after having spent more than $1700! For an $8 mask. I am convinced that none of those sales would have happened if the customer had not been given the $8 mask. Maybe because of the principle of the matter. Maybe he really thought that the shop should have supplied him a mask. Maybe it was financial. It is possible that he did not have $8 to buy a mask. (How could this be, if they spent more than $1700?! She spent more than $1700! He spent nothing.) Or maybe for another reason. I did not know the man’s thinking. I did not really know the thinking of anyone else who was looking on to this situation, and there were several people around and aware. I only knew mine. I was very clear about my thinking. What was my thinking?

One way that Capital One in Georgetown serves its customers. 

I wanted to de-escalate the situation, and by giving the customer the mask, it did. I wanted the customer to know we heard him, that we cared about his dilemma. He saw that, and I think, felt it. He thanked me several times over the next hour while his female friend shopped. I did not want us (not just me, but the other staff and the mall as well,) to stand on principle, to be right, and in so doing, make the customer wrong. I wanted to solve this problem and have a satisfied customer. I do believe that all of that was accomplished. And this wasn’t about me. It was about the customer. The customer is King.

A customer service example from our recent trip to St. Maarten/St, Martin. The Medical Clinic in Marigot gave FREE Covid tests to any customer with a passport. The same tests were $75 pp at our resort and $100 pp at the airport.

This does not mean that the customer is always right. Far from it. Nor does it mean that the customer’s expectations are reasonable. They sometimes aren’t. What it does mean is that the customer is King. The customer can do without us. But we cannot do without the customer. If we forget this, and allow ourselves to focus on the customer’s responsibility (such as coming in with a mask, or having to buy one) instead of ours (solving the customer’s problems,) we do so at our own peril. The customer is King.  

None of the more than $1700 in sales went to me. In fact, solving this customer dilemma cost me $8.00, since I will pay the person whose mask made the sales possible.

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