Reprinted from June 1998
Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby talk about the darndest things children say. It has been my experience that the things kids say don’t have an edge on what customers say – without being asked.
People seem determined to unburden themselves on you whether you are interested or not. Of course you get the generic information thrust forth by doting grandparents about their grandchildren and their antics. This is not what I mean.
Recently we got a course in anatomy. This elderly man showed an imaginary line where the doctors had made an incision and the course took some mighty peculiar twists and turns.
Operations are good fodder for discussion. Last month a woman who’d had breast surgery drew a descriptive imaginary line about where she’d been cut. On the flip side, a shapely young thing shoved her chest forward saying she’d been augmented recently and what did we think. Yesterday a nice looking woman was looking to sell a diamond ring to pay her surgeon who’d done a chest reduction for her. She said this so quickly that Chip was really taken back and wasn’t sure what she’d said.
Ailments are another thing that give folks a “go ahead” to talk in descriptive terms and at great length. In sales books they talk about taking something the customer is talking about and turning it into a lead in for a sales pitch by saying, “Oh that reminds me… Blah blah.” How on earth can your turn someone’s bladder problem into a sales pitch for a fine gold watch?
Can you picture this? “I was retaining so much water I gained 25 pounds.” “Oh, that reminds me, if you buy this particular watch it is guaranteed to be waterproof up to 25 meters.”
Or someone is talking about kidney stones. “Oh that reminds me, we have several hundred colored stones that are on sale this week only. I’ll bet they are every bit as interesting as your kidney stones!”
If you can believe it, one customer actually took his gall bladder stones and had them polished into finished stones and carried them in a bag and showed them to us every time he came in. I was afraid he’d ask us to mount them.
I’ve had customers stand at the corner and open their mouths and touch as special tooth to show us where they’d just gotten a root canal or where they’d had work done. Unable to understand what was being said they would point and prod while making little sounds about their ordeal with the local dentist. This might be because we are located near a complex filled with dentists.
I think maybe people do this because I have a sympathetic look. Not long ago I expressed concern because a normally agile customer who was hobbling around. She said she’d had a bunion worked on and proceeded to place her foot on one of the stools provided and yank her socks off to show me. With just a bit more exposure to these things I might become pretty well educated in how to diagnose and treat specific problems.
One lady who’d just left the Women’s Center told me she’d had a mammogram and it had been her first and how much it hurt and what they did. Well, I’ve been there and done that and for what it is worth I can empathize with her, although I would rather just show her jewelry or take care of a jewelry problem.
A few years ago a couple with two children came in. They told me how one of our competitors suggested they come here. I was curious about this because it was on a problem which was not unique and they’d never sent anyone to me previously. I noticed the little boy was coughing and sneezing all over the place and then I got a good look at him and he was all broken out. The mother explained, “Oh, he has measles.” I quickly suggested they go someplace else where they could take care of this very unique problem.
One older woman came with photos of her daughter-in-law giving birth to her first child. I made little sounds that I hoped would make her feel I was far more interested than I was. I wondered what happened to privacy and common sense. When she left I was very annoyed and said a few things about it to Chip. Chip just smiled and said, “Cheer up. Just think of all the little birthstone children you are going to sell her and the mother, not to mention the potential baby gifts for the child. You can afford to be polite and interested.”
I thought about this too. Maybe he’s right. If done for a cause, I guess I can pretend to be very interested.