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First Impressions

#FirstImpressions #PickYourBattle #Stress #EyesOpen #Awareness #Options #Choices #Lesson #Learn #SmallBusiness #Branding #Welcome

Shawn Trautman Lessons - Life - Learning - Blog by SHAWN TRAUTMAN
“I don’t know if she understood, dad” says my daughter. “And, why do you do that to people?”

I pondered this for only a few seconds before answering and then my answer was clear.

But, first, my perspective needs to talk…

Businesses are not cold, lifeless buildings that simply hoard products we consume and pay dearly for just to come back and do it again and again with an automated checkout procedure.

Or, at least they shouldn’t be.

Granted, that’s the direction some people would like to see the world go in. This way, we eliminate all the useless humans that drabble on and on and suck up resources when we could replace them all with computer systems that we just have to invest in and program once (with a million updates).


So, here’s the deal.

I learned long ago (when I was 17) how important it was to personally greet people or acknowledge them in some fashion within seconds of entering a room.

I wasn’t just unaware of this prior, I was BLATANTLY unaware.

The girl I was dating at the time was with me and we were practicing for a performance. Her parents came to watch and I noticed them walk in and then I gave them something to watch. Allegedly, I didn’t acknowledge them in any form or fashion (not even a smile or a head nod or a wave) nor personally greet them. I just went about my way and thought everything was great.

Then, later that night I got an earful as to how disrespectful I was, how pissed off they were that I didn’t make any attempt to say hello and how rude I was being.

Mind you, I didn’t do anything. Literally.

But, in that very moment, I understood. I listened carefully to what their complaint(s) was and it hit me like a brick. I thought, wow, this could have easily been remedied had I even pretended to care. By doing nothing, I let their imagination run wild into thinking they weren’t important and that they didn’t matter and, whether true or not, it doesn’t age the way wine does.

I made it a point from that next day forward to be better. To say hello to people. To acknowledge their existence. To greet them in a way that makes them feel important. To use names when I can (I often cheat and use name tags if in a store).

It mattered then. It matters now. Heck, I’d say it matters now more than ever as we’re all facing the possibility of being replaced by self-checkouts, online interactions, remote overseas customer support, and driverless delivery trucks and whatnot.

So, to my point. When someone walks in on something I’m a part of, I make it a point to include them. When I walk in to something else, I make it a point to make sure I’m included.

Now, I understand that while this particular girl might have dated a lot of people, the vast majority of folks I know never learned this lesson from her parents. If you had been in my shoes and heard what I heard and saw what I saw and dealt with what I dealt with, you’d be making damn sure you don’t neglect anyone because if you know, you know.

You know?

Now, I’ll be Jen and circle back. My daughter and I walked into a local coffee shop. We saw that there were two young ladies working. One was making coffee and the other was looking at her phone. The one who was looking at her phone looked up and made eye contact with us as we opened the door and then went back to her phone.

No acknowledgment. No greeting. No “Welcome to Moe’s!”. No welcome whatsoever. The “Welcome to Moe’s!” would have been cool though and I’d have been puzzled.

After about a minute she walks over to the cash register where we were standing, picks up her order pad, looks up with a straight, emotionless face and says “what do you want?”

Me, being me, said, “Hi, good morning” and then just smiled and waited for a response. A moment of silence, if you will. She responded with “do you know what you want?” I actually did know what I wanted, so I restated it in a way she could understand… “Hi, good morning”.

I wanted to hear her say “Good morning”. I wanted some kind of a “Welcome to our store!” I wanted to feel some level of appreciation for walking in to this particular coffee shop when I had several other choices. I wanted to believe that I mattered to her.

What I got as my “first impression” was essentially what this coffee mug (pictured) says. “meh.”

Interestingly, by her inaction and personal phone usage when we walked in I could tell she wasn’t busy. She didn’t have crowds of people lining up at the door. She didn’t seem interested in being there, whatsoever. And, she looked bothered by the small talk.

She stared at me. I stared at her. Her eyes cut over to my daughter and then back to me.

She then said “Do you need more time?”

“Hi, good morning, yes, I’d like a large black cup of coffee” to which she said, “we don’t have drip coffee here, is a Caffe’ Americano okay?”

My bewilderment became more apparent than ever and, needless to say, that drink is what I walked out with 5 minutes later. A coffee shop with no black coffee? (enter dumb look on my face here with me nodding) – true story.

I let myself out with my own parting line of “Hope you have a great Monday” to which there was a brief smile and a response of “come back and see us”.

So, here’s the thing. She looked to be a college student. So did the other girl. At some point she had been trained by someone who presumably owns the place (it’s not a franchise). The owner may or may not have made it a point to cover this detail, I’ll never know. She did know to use the words “come back and see us” though, which equates to “please bring us more money”.

Note who this favors (it’s not me).

But, what I do know is that her current behavior and lack of people skills is what will get us all replaced in the future. I’m not saying we should all date the girl I dated when I was 17, but we all need someone to let us know the importance of appreciating others just for showing up.

I never did get the “Good morning!” I was hoping for that morning, but I did get to explain it to my daughter who has a real good shot at always making people feel welcomed because of what I do on a daily basis and I am getting to share it here.

I’m not better than anyone, but I won’t be ignored nor feel like I don’t matter. If I have to be the welcoming party in someone else’s store, you can bet I will. And, based on my reception, I have no problem letting myself out as well.

I get to choose where I shop, how I spend my money, and what I form habits doing based on how I’m treated and how I feel as a customer who doesn’t have to be there.

And so do you.

For everyone, everywhere, especially those in the service industry (heck, we’re ALL in that in some form or fashion), know that “first impressions” matter and there’s a huge difference in “meh” and “Good morning!”

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