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Posted: January 16, 2012

Business encounters of the ham kind

Can't a customer just get the bread?

David Sneed

A couple years ago, I took my daughter to lunch. I won't say where but, if you want a hint, its name is a way to get around (and, oddly enough, they sell a meat/bread product named for a different form of conveyance).

This was my first time here, and I was nervous. Everything looked good, but the smell of fresh-baked bread was driving me crazy. Could I order just the bread? Do they serve butter? Unwilling to risk embarrassment, I ordered a ham sandwich instead.

The rest of the encounter went like this:

Him: Ham, you said?

Me: Yes. But that's too much meat. I only want half of that.

Him: I can't do that, sir.

Me: Ha ha, but seriously, that's too much ham for me.

Him: I still have to put it all on.

Me: I'd rather you didn't.

Him: Sir, it comes with this much ham.

At this point, I saw a problem developing.

Me: I'll pay for all of it. I'm not trying to get a cheaper sandwich - I only want half of the ham.

Him: But then you won't be getting what you pay for.

Me: I'll worry about that. Just throw half of the meat away.

I'm in my problem-solver pants now.

Him: I can't just throw meat away.

Me: Then keep it. What do I care? Take it home and feed it to your cats. (He struck me as a cat guy for some reason.) I just don't want all that ham.

Him: That doesn't sound right. I HAVE to put all the meat on. Why don't you just take it off after I give it to you?

Now he's problem-solving.

Me: I could do that, but then it'll have mayonnaise on it. Why don't you just not put it on in the first place?

Him: Sir, you're making a scene. Do you want the sandwich or not?

Me: I don't think I do.

My request seemed reasonable at the time. I was, after all, the customer, and it isn't like he was Henry Ford and I was asking for a white Model T. As I drove away with my daughter, who was laughing hysterically, I wondered if my company also does this. Do we make it hard for a customer to do business with us?

Our internet contact form was a nightmare. When someone wanted an estimate, we'd ask for more than just their email address. And if any of the info, their phone number for instance, didn't fit the xxx-xxx-xxxx format, they had to start over. Why?

The marketing people said that data is king, and the more we know about Joe Customer, the better we can sell to him. Granted, that's probably true, but we made it hard to contact us - and God only knows how many people threw up their hands and x'd right off of our webpage. They couldn't get less ham.

Not anymore. I now try to make everything easy for customers because, when I do, I don't have to worry about selling them anything. They'll come back on their own when they're good and ready. If I get their phone number great, maybe I'll call them - but they emailed us and probably prefer an email response anyway.

My goal though, right now, is to make it easy for them to get whatever they want, right now.
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David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at  David@EveryoneHasABoss.com

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

This is hilarious! What a great way to remind us not to serve our customers more "ham" than they want! Will share this with my staff tomorrow - thank you! By Snow White on 2012 01 25
GOOD POINT DAVID!!! Sound advice with a humorous story virtually everyone can relate to. It is refreshing to know that other parents give their kids this kind of ammo to work with as well By Dana tePoel on 2012 01 16
HAHA! I love your humorous articles! As a customer, I love to see when stores or companies are working to make things easier for customers. It gives me a sense of security when shopping around because I know those companies will be the ones working with me. By Cat Lover 100 on 2012 01 16

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