I thought I was getting ahead of the blizzard, After all, the snow wasn’t supposed to start until Friday morning. But apparently I wasn’t the only one thinking Thursday morning was a good time to slip out to our local Trader Joes. Every register was open and the every line stretched all the way to the back of the store. I had to give them credit–they had clearly planned for the onslaught and called in reinforcements.
Knowing that customers weren’t happy, the manager was getting on the microphone being a merry as possible.
“Hey everybody, oh my gosh, did you hear it’s going to snow?”
A few minutes later she was back on the mic.
“Okay raise your hand if you are number 7 in your line.”
We all worked together to count. Nice distraction.
“Wow! Just wow! Today is your special day! Everyone of you in the number 7 spot gets a candy bar.”
She approached the #7s behind me, “Can you share?” The skinny 70 somethings behind me looked at her longingly and she caved, “Okay here’s two.”
She was clearly trying, and empowered.
After about 45 minutes, I was next in line. The woman in front of me tried to pay with her smartphone and it completely crashed the computer register in my lane which I had already observed was lane 8, #justincasetherewasanothercontest. At this point I was hungry.
They had to call headquarters IT. After 10 minutes of trouble shooting, I turned to the candy-bar-crunching 70-something- number-7s behind me.
“Okay, they were doing great, but now this is a fiasco. I’m a leadership and organizational effectiveness consultant, here’s what I think they need to do next… I’m so ready to go give them some free consulting. Do you think that would be rude?”
They were all ears on my plan, so we began chatting about how I could offer to help in the spirit of being useful vs. obnoxious.
As it turned out no intervention was necessary. The jolly manager once again grabbed the mic.
“Okay, so this happened…. we have a lane down, so here’s what we’re going to do. If you’re in lane 8 raise your hand.”
We were all ears in lane 8, and eagerly raised our hands in surrender. Everyone else just rolled their eyes.
“First of all, if you are in lane 8, Steve here is going to come by and ask you what your favorite Trader Joe’s item is. He’s going to go get it for you and you will get that for free.”
But here’s where the rest of you come in. Some of these folks in lucky lane 8 have been waiting for nearly an hour just like you. So, you don’t have to do this, but if you would be willing to let them step in front of you, raise both of your hands (yup, that’s how many feet of snow we’re getting), and you too will get your favorite Trader Joe’s item for free. Raised hands all around, and the people began chatting and moving in an orderly fashion.
Her plan trumped mine by a landslide.
The lady next to me kindly let me step in front. We both got our steaks for free.
As my new cashier was ringing me up, she was all smiles.
“How great is this?” She questioned. “Can you imagine ANY OTHER grocery store that would respond this way?
We both knew the answer.
“This is why I work here.”