Diplomats and government bureaucrats are involved in important discussions with allies and foes around the world. They go through training programs in order to master the finer points of negotiation. (Given the lay of the land, perhaps a refresher course is in order).
I suggest there is no finer on-the-job training program than the one to which they would have been exposed had they worked during the Christmas season in my mom’s little retail boutique.
It was the same year that mom had her experience with the “rose pens”, (discussed in an earlier post entitled, “The Art of Retailing”). The next biggest sellers that season were some very lovely belts. They were made of an expandable gold-finished metal. The clasp on the belt was a snake’s head (snakes were in that year) and the clasps came in white, turquoise and coral. The belts were available in three sizes – Small, Medium and Large.
Mom was in the back. She was wrapping purchases made earlier in the day which we would deliver that evening. As I watched her expertly cut just the right amount of heavy gold wrapping paper and then artfully create a bow for each one of them, the door to the store opened.
Mom looked at me and said, “That’s Countess Neverovsky. Please see if you can help her.” I went to the front of the store to assist this lady.
“Good afternoon, countess. Is there something that I may show you?”
The countess might have weighed ninety pounds dripping wet. She didn’t give me a very warm and fuzzy feeling as she looked me up and down. The attitude she projected was that I almost certainly was incapable of doing anything for her.
“I would like to see one of the snake belts you have in a medium – in coral.”
I knew that a medium would be far too big for her. In fact, I questioned whether she would be able to wear one of them in the small size.
But, as mom had taught me, “the customer is always right”. So rather than disagree, I reached into the cabinet under the counter where we kept our inventory and pulled out a coral belt in medium.
I said, “You know countess – these belts run a little large. Perhaps you would like to try it on.”
She snapped back, “There’s no need for that. I always wear a medium. Just add it to my account.”
There was nothing to do other than hand-write her sales slip, put her belt in one of our little shopping bags and add this purchase to the store account that she maintained with us. The countess took her purchase and left.
Mom had, of course, heard the mostly one-way conversation.
I apologized to her. I knew the countess wouldn’t be able to wear the belt and would return it.
Mom just said, “Don’t worry, dear. She does this all the time. Pull one of the small coral belts and bring it back here. That way when she comes back we’ll be sure to have one available for her.” I did that and we taped a little piece of paper to it that said, “Countess Neverovsky”.
Two days later the countess stormed into the store with her shopping bag and the belt. She was a woman on a mission – and she wasn’t a happy camper.
She said to my mother, “If your children are going to work here you should teach them how to wait on customers. The belt I bought the other day is far too big. I need one in a smaller size.”
Mom apologized for the inconvenience, went in the back and exchanged the medium that the countess had insisted on purchasing for the smaller one that we had set aside for her. The countess apparently had enough of our ineptitude – so she decided to try on this belt. It fit her perfectly.
If we are ever to find a path to world peace; if we are to live in a world where compassion and courtesy are the norm rather than the exception – here is my suggestion.
Pull all the bureaucrats and diplomats from their posts and have them spend a week as sales people in retail.