Where is the passion when you need it the most?

"Lunch" boxes at my fave bagel shop

I’m a creature of habit. (Go on, confess. You are too.) For a very long time, when my schedule permitted, I ate lunch at the same place several times a week. My routine’s changed and it’s not as convenient, so it’s probably been a couple of months, but I still get a hankering for my favorite bagels that must be obeyed now and then.

Today was one of those days. I’d had a bit of a drive before I got there, so I decided to… freshen up… before ordering and settling in to do some client work on lunch.

The restroom wall opposite the door as I walked in had peeling paint on it. Odd, I thought. I always loved their funky restroom. Hm. They’ve let it go a bit.

Then I noticed another wall also had peeling paint. Yuck.

The bathroom ceiling has those awful super-cheap acoustic ceiling tiles, I noticed while washing my hands. And a couple of them are stained orange from some leak from above. Not near the paint, either, in case you’re wondering (as I was) if the two things were related.

Of course, I’d never even noticed that they have those cheesy ceiling tiles before. With the peeling paint, my eyes started wandering, and then the stain caught my eye.

Standing in line (a line of 1, just me) seemed to take forever today. I wasn’t greeted as guests usually are there. Even if staff are jumping between making orders and taking them, they usually make eye contact and let you know they’ll be right with you.

I had plenty of time to notice some floor tiles were cracked, and the whole floor had a film of grease on it. Geez.

After I ordered I went to the self-serve area for my usual massive diet Coke to caffeinate my afternoon. The soda machine’s large, inviting logo was cracked and the lettering had worn or peeled off on about a third of it.

It’s only been a couple of months since I’ve been in the place. What the heck?

I didn’t stay long. I usually spread out some work on a table, but only the bar was available (nobody’s fault), where it’s hard to put out paperwork because it’s shallow. Their funky blend of music usually makes a great white noise barrier between me and folks who came to socialize, but the music wasn’t on and the place was too noisy to concentrate anyway. I ate and packed up to leave.

On the way out to my car I passed a smoking employee, leaning on a wall (on the outdoor terrace where patrons can also eat), and stopped to unlock my door while staring at the mess you see above.

Yes, right next to the outdoor dining area, in full view of guests. It had been there when I went in but I didn’t register it until I was on the way out.

Did you notice that many of these flaws must have been there back when I was eating there regularly? The cracked floor tiles, the worn/torn soda logo. Certainly the hideous ceiling tiles were there, and maybe even that dried old stain on the bathroom ceiling. Yet I never noticed them before.

Moral of the story?

A couple of them.

One: Get fresh eyes to look at your business periodically. Eyes that see the same things every day (even sharp professional ones like mine) may not see everything… may not even see anything.

Two, and most important:

The harsh truth if you want to make happy customers into raving fans… You can’t have that one, first thing go wrong.

I’m sure I’ve had imperfect service there before. No doubt the floor’s not always spotless, since I often get there shortly after their huge lunch rush. Some days, yeah, they forget to turn on the Muzak.

If the peeling paint on the wall of the loo hadn’t caught my eye, I probably wouldn’t have seen any of the rest.

When you have a bad day, loyal, regular customers may not notice—but the new customers you need to grow and thrive (and the old customers who’ve fallen away and would love to be romanced by you again)—they’ll notice.

Your buyers will start noticing everything

once they notice one thing.



Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson