If people hate shopping in your store, your marketing doesn’t matter.

Just because this is a rant doesn’t mean there isn’t a point.

Christmastime always seems to bring out my latent crafty-craft tendencies, and this year is no exception.  I decided to make these chocolate-covered marshmallows on a stick:

marshmallows on a stick

(I seriously need a better camera than the one on my phone.  Come to think of it, I need a new phone.)

I’d probably make stuff like this more often – put anything chocolate-covered on a stick and you’ve got a high-perceived-value kind of edible – but it generally takes me the whole year to steel myself to do them.  Not because they’re hard to make (they aren’t), but because getting the sticks and the melting chocolate and the little bags requires a trip to Michael’s Craft Store, and I can’t bear to even contemplate that more than about once a year.

This is what the lineup at Michael’s looks like, all the time:

lineup at michael's craft store

Okay, this isn’t a photo of Michael’s. But you see how there are, like, a zillion people in line?  That’s what Michael’s is like.  

Today, I was the 33rd person in the line, and while it took me only 7 minutes to select the items I needed, it took me 23 minutes to get from the back of the line to a cashier.

And all I could think was:  If I’m limiting my Michael’s shopping expeditions to once a year because I can’t stomach the thought of waiting in line, how many other people are doing the same thing?  

I have similar thoughts about Winners and Tim Horton’s:  There are plenty of times when I pass a Winners or a Tim’s and decide against going in because I can see the line is 10+ people deep, there are only 2 cashiers working, and I know that by the time I’ve been in line for more than 11 minutes, I’m going to need to go on beta blockers for sudden-onset high blood pressure.

How much does this cut into revenue?

It’s at times like this that I wish I was one of those behavioural psychologist researcher types who specialize in retail behaviour, because I would really like to know how much my – and I’m assuming I’m not alone – reluctance to enter certain stores ends up cutting into the bottom line.  

How many people, running a little late for work in the morning, bypass Tim’s because they don’t have 15 minutes to wait in line?  Does Winners lose business to other clothing stores because people like me can’t face spending 45 minutes combing through the racks followed by another 30 minutes waiting for pay for them?  I know these stores have to balance cashier wages against purchases, but is a cashier:customer ratio of 2:10 really the most cost-effective in the long run?

Customer experience isn’t just about friendly salespeople.

Winners, Tim’s and Michael’s all seem to be leaders in their categories, and maybe they don’t worry too much about the business they may be losing.  Maybe they can’t worry about it, because it’s impossible to measure.  After all, as I said the other day, people in focus groups lie when they’re asked about purchasing decisions, so it’s easy to dismiss the “I spend less money at your store than I would if you had faster checkouts” claims of someone like me as false ultimatums.

On the other hand, Winners, Michael’s and Tim’s spend lots of money on advertising, so they must want more business.  Once you’ve got good brand awareness – which all 3 of these chains do – then your marketing is really about keeping yourself top-of-mind so that people purchase more stuff, more often.  But when staying top-of-mind can’t conquer people’s reluctance to shop in your store, you might want to reallocate your marketing budget to staffing, or even process engineering.

Is it ever okay to lose your shizzle at work? Yes.

Sometimes, throwing professionalism out the window is all you can do.


The day I smashed the phone down so hard that it cracked in two.

I was 30, a month into my first ‘Director’ title in an ad agency with a big dot-com salary, and 3 days away from launching a $100k website.  (It was my first big website project, and I was still learning that ASP was not, in fact, a Shakespearean viper.

I wasn’t too worried, though:  The VP had hired a project manager:  “This guy’s a genius with the internet,” said my VP.  “You do the client management and he’ll take care of all the technical stuff – he’s a genius!”

“Don’t worry,” said Genius Boy.  “I’ve been running online bulletin boards since the internet was invented – I’m a bit of a guru.  Just don’t make me talk to the client.  I hate clients.”


People who call themselves gurus usually aren’t.

72 hours before the site was due to launch, I discovered that Genius Boy had completed none of the tasks he’d been assigned. He hadn’t implemented the changes the client requested (“They’re stupid,” he said, dismissively); hadn’t tested the site on IE (“Microsoft is evil and I’m not wasting my time fixing bugs in IE,” he said with a fastidious sniff of derision); had fired the Flash director (“Flash is stupid, and anyway you can’t put it on a site with html,” he said, erroneously); and he’d called in sick.  

I lost it. 


From ‘A-list’ to ‘nutjob’, one phone at a time.

I phoned Genius Boy at home.  I don’t remember exactly what I said – thought I’m pretty sure it contained something about how I was sick and tired of his arrogant “…Apple-centric, passive-aggressive, Filemaker-Pro-is-the-best-database-in-the-world’,  OS-dependent moral code” deluded worldview – but when I was done, I smashed the receiver into its cradle so hard that the handset cracked in two.  It’s possible I uttered an oath at well above ‘indoor voice’ levels.

Five seconds later I hear a tentative “Um, Sarah?  Are you okay?” from two cubicles away, and I suddenly realize that everything within a 30-foot radius of my desk was enveloped in this thick fog of silence:  No talking, no typing sounds, no rustle of papers – nothing.

“Uh-oh,” I thought.  “There goes my career.”

As I saw it, I’d just gone from ‘high-performing leader who handles stressful projects and impossible deadlines with grace and aplomb’ to ‘unpredictable freakshow’ in about 3 minutes.  “I probably won’t get fired for this,” I thought.  “I mean, I didn’t punch him or anything.  But I guess I won’t be getting that promotion when I have my annual review next month.  No one wants to promote a loose cannon.”


Losing your shizzle can be a great career move

The website got done and the client was (very) happy.  A month later, in my annual review with the VP, I got the promotion – and a raise.  But I was still feeling awkward about The Phone Incident.

“Don’t worry about it,” said the VP.  “You got the job done.  And to be honest, before that happened I thought you were too anxious to keep everyone happy all the time.  As a manager you can’t be afraid to let people know when you’re angry.  The Phone Incident is one of the reasons you got the promotion.”

I said I still thought that raising my voice in a work setting was ‘unprofessional’.

“Ha!” the VP chortled.  “That’s a myth!  Sometimes it’s the only way to convince people that you’re serious.  Sure, do it every week and you’ll get a rep; do it once a while and you’ll find people give you a lot more respect.  And if means the difference between delivering on time and letting the client down, err on the side of on-time delivery.”


And because no blog is complete without them:
5 tips for losing your shizzle at work!

Ideally, of course, we would all meet deadlines and client expectations without anyone ever losing their temper.  But even paragons of virtue lose it once in a while.

So how do you ensure you’re losing your shizzle strategically

Here’s what senior management people say:

  1. Don’t use long strings of invectives.  Three minutes of non-stop “F-you*&*&%$bleeping a-!@%^*^#&&*” will push you into Mel-Gibson-crazyland.
  2. Don’t get personal.  Referring to a co-worker’s ‘thunder thighs’ is the kind of insult that could destroy a working relationship forever.
  3. Keep it brief.  A one-off, 3-minute explosion gets your point across; an all-day scream-fest just makes you look like you need anger management classes.
  4. Keep it contained.  Don’t start yelling, “And as for you, buddy…” at everyone within a 20-foot radius.
  5. Don’t do it more than once a year.  More often, and not only will you get a reputation as a loose cannon, but your outbursts will lose their efficacy.