November has been a hard month for me healthwise. Every October, I dutifully schedule a flu shot. Most years, that’s sufficient and I’m generally flu, sore throat, and cold free throughout the winter months.
This year, beginning the week of October 20, I developed a chest cold that escalated to pneumonia the first week of November. During that time, I’d taken a battery of prescription and over-the-counter medications to combat my symptoms. Although I’m now feeling much better, I have a lingering cough that’s been tough to shake.
Yesterday, I struggled through a one-hour teleconference peppered with involuntary coughs. Even my mute button couldn’t keep up. Afterward, I stopped by my local Albertsons supermarket to pick up a few things for dinner. Although I’d recently taken a 12-hour dose of cough suppressant, I continued to cough – sometimes simply as a reflex to breathing.
When I arrived at the register, I unloaded my cart onto the conveyor belt. As the cashier rung up and bagged my groceries, I placed them into the cart. After I loaded the last bag and swiped my credit card to pay, the cashier handed me my receipt saying, “You should cover your mouth when you cough so that you don’t spread germs. I’d appreciate it.”
I was stunned. Here I was accepting a receipt for my purchases and instead of saying “Thank you” or “I hope you feel better soon,” the cashier chose to scold me. I don’t recall saying anything as I turned away. My mind was busy playing back the previous four minutes to identify when I may not have covered a reflexive cough into my hand or sleeve, as I usually do.
A little background: There are four major supermarkets and one natural foods store with six miles of my home. And I drive past three of them to get to Albertsons (I think they have the best meat department, in particular). My wife is more practical than I am. She usually drives to the nearest supermarket to our home, King Soopers. A quick peek at our budget suggests that our family spends about $18,000 a year on groceries. I estimate that half of that spending ($9,000) goes to Albertsons.
Always resist the temptation to correct customers’ inevitable foibles. It’s inappropriate to reprimand a customer for failing to cover his cough. Similarly, it would be improper for a waiter to admonish a restaurant guest for chewing with her mouth open. And it would be bad form for a restroom attendant to rebuke a customer for neglecting to wash his hands.
Be accepting of your customers, regardless of their flaws and shortcomings. Instead of judging their behavior and admonishing them, apply this advice from the Greek philosopher, Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
They will appreciate it and just may reward your understanding with another $9,000 in business next year.
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