I used to think the words to Elton John’s song Rocket Man were “Burning on the feet of Avalon” instead of “Burning out his fuse up here alone” and my husband thought Prince was saying “Two-thousand zero zero party odems” instead of “two-thousand zero zero party over, oops out of time”. Sometimes what we think we hear makes no sense but we repeat it anyway.
Every once in a while, I hear a rumor that is so ridiculous, I have to remind myself to consider if its similar to my interpretation of Rocket Man. Sometimes the content is political, sometimes it’s about people in the neighborhood but, lots of times, it’s about businesses and most of the time it’s not positive. Full disclosure: from time to time, I have been guilty of this practice. Recently, I have been trying to catch myself by listening to my words and thinking these little nuggets all the way through.
Throughout my journey in this life, I have learned the very important lesson of defending those not present. I believe it is possibly the most valuable AND challenging attribute a person can have. Like most mere mortals, I seem to forget how critical a couple of well thought out sentences can put the kibosh on a rumor. When hearing something negative, suggestions to the “victim” like “Did you talk to a manager?”, “Did you call the owner?”, “Did you let the waiter/waitress know you were dissatisfied with your meal?”, and “What was their response?” could change direction and put a stop to gossip. I find it is a good way to diffuse negativity and make people think about the words they hear. They might even decide things weren’t so horrible after all.
Recently, on Facebook, somebody was complaining about a big box store’s customers leaving garbage and (God forbid) a shopping cart on the side of the street where mostly small businesses dwell. She was really fuming. I believe in being the change you want to see happen (thank you to the original Mr. Gandhi), so I asked if she picked up the garbage and returned the cart? Excuse #1…”it was too windy and I was with my little dog, Toto”…excuse #2…”I didn’t want to cross the big, busy street” (that has a traffic light) so I asked if she called a manager at the store to let him/her know about this egregious offense. She had not. While I have no love for big boxes and I have been ticked off about poor quality, customer service issues, etc., etc., etc., this store is already here and if it goes away, we have another big empty building in our community.
During a recent event where we were providing food service, I had a customer service episode that made me wince at my response. There was one line for hotdogs, pop, chips. Nachos, candy and ice cream were at a separate station in which I was in charge. The line for the hotdogs was really long so I let people know they could step up to my area if they wanted nachos, candy and ice cream. A lady, who had been in the hot dog line longer than she liked, came up and started yelling at me. Naturally, I ignored her anger and asked her what I could get her. She ordered ice cream and nachos and was in a major huff. I took a deep breath and thought about my response. Who was going to win here? Why was I trying to be in the position of power? Wasn’t she right? How would I feel? I decided to apologize. It was sincere. I told her I was wrong for not acknowledging the issue and I completely understood, how she would be confused without there being any signage directing her to a smaller line. She was still a little angry and told me all she wanted was some acknowledgement. Don’t we all!
Next time somebody gets snarky regarding a business, I challenge you to speak up and share your experiences – good and bad. Whether the comment is in-person or on Yelp, Facebook, etc., take a minute to do that business a favor and stick up for them or get to the core of what the person is pissed about. It’s also a nice idea to let the business know if you saw something posted on a social media site so they can respond accordingly. If you are a customer who has been wronged, talk to the person who wronged you. If they don’t respond, talk to a manager or owner. If you are a business owner, look at your reviews on Yelp and use it as an opportunity to apologize if you were wrong, gently reflect your opinion or use it as a marketing tool.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Caroline Dwan is a marketing consultant with close to 20 years experience in advertising, non-profit fundraising and marketing. Her passion in life is working with small business owners. In fact, she loves it so much, she decided to marry and become one herself. Caroline and her husband own a small restaurant and catering business on Chicago’s South side.