How to keep the lights on when the meter runs out
I was up in time this morning to be one of Starbuck’s first customers. I was late with yesterday’s story and I wanted to get it to Erika Sauter before her 5 00 am alarm started ringing.
I ordered my toast only to be told there was no jam. I switched into my consumer champion mode and suggested there should be a discount. Being a regular the guy knows me well though he said no. They had run out before and I said nothing but today I said, “Well the company needs to sort it then.” He then became defensive and said, “Well it is complimentary anyway.”
“So where does it say anywhere that the jam is complimentary?” I reply. He remained quiet.
As he passed me my tea and toast he asked, “What would you like me to do?”
“ I already said.” says I.
I position myself at my usual table and start typing. As I type my head is having a conservation with itself, “Gordon that did not seem to go too well, the guy seemed bothered. You know you come here often and he is always pleasant does that not balance things out when there is no jam? Are you, not the guy who was going on the other night about switching on the light rather than sitting in darkness?”
I get up and go over to him. “I was thinking you keep a really clean shop so not having the jam doesn’t really matter.”
He replies with thanks and then apologises that he hadn’t dealt well with the earlier situation. We are now communicating with honesty so I say, “Maybe I got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning I am not sure why it bothered me?”
He says, “I think I got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning , I was rude. It is just that I am on my own as a staff member hasn’t turned in and I have been bothered by a few things in the last few days.”
“No worries,” I say. I then move the conversation on to one of my ‘impromptu customer service masterclasses’ “A customer can often be the person who sees something that the company needs to sort, their feedback can be invaluable.” He agreed and with normal relations restored I returned to my position.
Now the difficulty with conflict is when it gets stuck but if you are able to work it through you actually get a more real relationship. We both now know we are not just polite but humans with feelings.
Maybe coffee shops are the place to ‘get real’ could be easier than at home. On Wednesday night I was typing up the story near midnight in St Pancras train station. I was sitting in Pret when I became aware that a number of homeless people were taking up their positions for the night in surrounding tables. This woman approached me asking for money for a cup of tea to which I replied, “Why don’t you ask at the counter?” She replied, “Because they will want money. This is a capitalist city that is why I have to beg.”
Maybe I was tired but I failed to understand how as a customer in Pret I was being asked to provide the money to buy a tea in Pret. Doesn’t Pret speak about being a socially responsible company? Again Gordon perhaps didn’t switch on the light and sat in the dark.
In contrast, at the table adjacent, I heard a homeless man say to his friend, “I had a lovely day in the library today.”
His words remain with me as I thought at the time and still do, here’s a man who is homeless and yet he is still telling his friend that he had a good day. This man had learnt to let tomorrow look after itself as he has enough to contend with today. It is the way to live.
As I exited I left some spare coins on his table just enough to meter the light.
See you tomorrow, hopefully,
PS Don’t turn off the light!