Monday, January 18, 2010

Whose Line is it Anyway?

I had the strangest thing happen to me at Staples a while back. In the course of business I, like most professionals, have to make copies and what better place to do this than your convenient local office supply store? On this day, however, I would find all the machines at my local Staples either out of ink/toner or paper or both. Maybe this should have been my first clue. Being the only customer for miles I went to the copy and printing desk and waited for the young lady behind the counter to acknowledge my existence. After a few moments of being totally ignored, I acknowledged her existence and asked if she could help me. "What do you want?" she queried. "Can you make me five copies of each of these pages?" I asked. She seemed taken aback that I had actually asked for prints from the printing desk. Her next comment stunned me. "I can do it back here," she said, "but what do I do if a customer comes in?" As I looked behind me in line and realized I was the line, I thought to myself, "What the heck am I -- chopped liver???" I smiled, gathered my papers and went next door to the post office and made copies.

This scenario has happened to me more than once; maybe I have "NOT A CUSTOMER" inked on my forehead or maybe we've lost the ability to focus on the person who is standing directly in front of us. Do we give them the proper attention? Or do we become distracted by a phone call, a text message, email or the potential of a conversation when, in actuality, we are already engaged in conversation.

I have a personal rule: if I am speaking to someone face-to-face, I will not answer my cell phone if it rings -- sometimes to the annoyance of the person trying to call. (Two words: voice mail.) The person I am speaking to deserves the respect of my uninterrupted attention. They are the customer.

How do you handle distractions and the constant pull of ringers, texts and emails? Better yet, how do you feel when someone puts time with you "on hold" to answer their own distractions?


  1. The person I am speaking to deserves the respect of my uninterrupted attention (good manners?) There has to be intentionality here. i.e. will I chose to be polite and observe good manners. On the other hand, who is teaching and learning good manners today? I suppose when a movie theater management kindly asks you to quiet your mobile phone and do not text during a feature, yet, a plethora of the audience ignores the request, it is just rude.

  2. I think I know the person you have encountered...sometimes the copy service there is everything but "service"!! Hang in there...

  3. Yes, I've been to that Staples, too. Wait.. was I with you?