Guest Post By: Tony Gareri
I was pumped for my vacation. Between running a company, mentoring my team and being available for my family and community, there’s not a lot of time left over. I’m fortunate to be able to do what I love but that doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to some relaxation.
After attending Leadercast Live in Atlanta, I met up with my lovely wife in Florida for some fun in the sun – and sand! We spent a week eating our favorite foods, taking things at a slower pace and generally just enjoying each other’s company. We both noticed how everyone seemed to be happy. Granted, my euphoric state may have produced the rose colored glasses that I viewed our time in Florida through but in general, everyone seemed to share a happy vibe. Chalk it up to the warm sun mixed with famous southern hospitality.
So after the perfect amount of sun, the perfect amount of time away and the perfect amount of relaxing, we prepared to return home. We get to the airport and after quickly checking in, we decided to grab a bite to eat before getting into the air. It’s 7:30pm as we scan the area around us and find two viable options: a Starbucks and a Mom-and-Pop deli.
All I want to eat is a simple sandwich so we decide that we can grab something from Starbucks after dinner and proceed to walk into the deli. After greeting the deli attendant, I ask if they can make me a turkey sandwich on a bagel. She says, “Ok” and proceeds to begin assembling the necessary items. I quickly ask,
“One more thing, may I please have the bagel toasted?”
The attendant hums and haws for a moment before sputtering out, “Well, you know we’re closing soon.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I saw your lights were still on but are you still open?” I reply.
The deli attendant confirms that they are still open, so I say, “Ok excellent, I’m starving! So can I please have that bagel toasted?”
“Well, because we are closing soon, we’ve unplugged all the toasters already.”
I’m a pretty reasonable person but really wanted that bagel toasted, so I asked if they could turn the toaster on? The answer was no.
I said “You’re kidding me right?”
They said “No” again. I was shocked.
My wife turned to me and said, “Hey babe, if you want a toasted bagel, Starbucks has that.” At which point, we thanked the deli attendant for their time and left the establishment. As we leave, I glanced back at the attendant to see if there’s any sort of reaction, however, her face was already buried back in her phone.
So we head into the Starbucks and what a difference! Within a heartbeat, this amazing human being greets us by simply saying, “Hi, good evening and welcome to Starbucks! What can I get you today?”
I’ve been accustomed to this awesome greeting when entering a Starbucks and I always reply, “Welcome Starbucks, we’re really happy to be here!” I politely ask for a toasted bagel with butter and our guy quickly jumps into action.
As the bagel is toasting I ask him if he’d mind putting the butter on the bagel for me, to which he replies, “Absolutely! Of course sir, not a problem.”
It’s tough to explain how awesome this guy was or exactly what he made us feel. Somehow he made eye contact, was upbeat and assured Starbucks would keep me as a customer for life.
He continued to make our food with love and care and when handing us our order he asked if I would like an extra cup that I could pour my juice into.
I said to myself, “Am I in the same world? Because ten feet from here, they wouldn’t’ even turn on a toaster for me but here they’re happy that I’m here!”
I’m not privy to what the attendant at the deli’s compensation was compared to my friend at Starbucks but I’m willing to bet they’re in the same tax bracket. One practically drove my business out of their store while the other further enforced one of my true constants in life – Starbucks does it right.
Everyone who knows me knows I live in a world of WOW and how I love to acknowledge those who positively contribute to our world. I happily paid for our exchange and left generous tip that didn’t go unnoticed.
My new Starbucks friend said, “Oh sir you really don’t need to do that.”
“I really do,” I replied. “Not only did you make my dinner but you took time and made it with love. So please, just continue doing whatever you’re doing because you give companies like Starbucks a great name and I’m happy to shop at your store.”
As I walk out the door with my toasted bagel in hand I said to myself, “Why doesn’t everybody treat people like Starbucks does?” I learned a lesson that day. The price was almost double at Starbucks what I would have paid at the deli but that’s irrelevant at this point. Here are two companies, right beside each other, selling basically the same stuff. I went into Starbucks knowing I’d pay twice as much and still left a tip. The deli charges peanuts but offers no experience. Starbucks can be pricey but they have a lineup out the door.
When you’re a medium sized business like us, every interaction counts. Don’t think you can earn back patronage because once they leave, they aren’t coming back. Share your stories with your team (or this one!) and let them know how valuable they are to keeping your business thriving.
Our friend Tony is the CEO of Roma Moulding and one of 360's culture mentors. He wrote this piece today for his company's blog and we thought it was worth a share.