Sunday, April 26, 2009

Is personal service coming back?

A lot of folks I chat with in my shop are talking about something they are noticing more and more nowadays with the new economic realities we are facing. It seems in the past, businesses and we all created this incredible consumer society. It started seeming like we could have it all. If you didn't have the money right then, just whip out the old credit card and have it anyway. You could always just pay later in small increments. No problems. Life was good.

Of course credit was the devil in the details for this insane, wasteful, stupid path we all got caught up on. The truth is the devil eventually wants and demands his due, which is of course what finally brought this house of cards down to it's knees and damn near destroyed the entire world economy in the process.

The scary part and really the good news about all this is most if not all the stores that came along to sell us all the stupid plastic phony crap we really didn't need in the first place are going to go bankrupt and quit or just close their doors. That would include some big ticket items also. Gas guzzling cars, Giant Trucks, 5,000 square foot McMansions up on the hill, Jet boats and on and on. Buying crap we not only didn't really need but could not afford in the first place.

What we will be left with is regular stores selling things we actually need. Now these stores will all have generally the same items and prices, so how are we to choose which one to make our purchases from? Competition will always exist, so what will make them stand out from each other to get our attention?

What people are noticing coming along now is the fact that an almost lost attribute is slowly but surely sneaking back into the business world. That would be simple humility and gratitude. Those rare attitudes are bringing back a wonderful thing from the past called "Service". You know, where the owners and employees of the stores make it plain that they appreciate you coming in and are ready to help you in any way to make your shopping experience a fruitful and enjoyable one. Where they approach you with a smile and a good attitude, making it clear they are glad you're there.

I was at our new Home Depot store in Auburn Ca. the other day and one of the employees told me about a new policy they just instituted there. I thought whoever thought this up deserves a medal. He said they worked out the most volume of customers is between 10 am and 2 pm. During those hours all the employees are now supposed to ONLY help customers. No stocking, cleaning or anything else. Just find customers who could use some help and stick with them. All I can say is WOW!

I have to admit something here to avoid anyone thinking I might be above all this nonsense. I'm not. Having been barbering for something over 40 years now, I have caught myself becoming a tad crotchety about certain types of customers also. My main problem was the type of person who comes in like once a year and clearly doesn't give a crap about his hair or appearance. In fact, I was thinking in the last couple of years of just telling them to go find someone else to cut their hair. My attitude was becoming "I care exactly as much as you do about your hair. If you don't give a shit, then neither do it".

Well even though my business is actually doing better than ever right now, which I am forever grateful for, this whole economic crash we are experiencing kind of put the fear in my bones too. Now when Mr. "Don't give a shit" walks in, I only have one thing to say to him. "Hello sir, sit right now, How would you like your haircut?".

Humility, thoughtfulness, gratitude and service. I think and hope those wonderful things are coming back into our collective lives.

What do you think?

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Don't you dare retire....

Don't you dare retire! Don't even think about it. You'll have to wait until I die, then you can retire......

People say this to me all the time now and I feel the same way about a whole host of other people in various businesses I deal with on an ongoing basis.

When you spend years dealing with your favorite businesses and service people, something starts to happen. Before you know it, you take them all pretty much for granted. You don't think just how important and vital they have become to your normal everyday life. I'm talking about your Mechanic, Bookkeeper, Butcher, Barber, Baker, Doctor, Dentist, Therapist, Grocer, Boss, co-workers, best friends and on and on....

We reach a point where we really have no desire to find a new copy of any of these irreplaceable people and services in our lives. Can you imagine if any of them were just not there one day. What would you do?

What they say to me is "Don't you dare retire, I have no intention of finding some other haircutter to take care of my hair. If you go, I'll just have to shave my head, because I am NOT going to trust anyone else and I sure don't want to try and find one and then retrain them to my likes and dislikes. It's too damn much trouble."

I feel the same exact way. We've been using the same bookkeeper for instance for something like 25 years now. We can just walk in there and she knows every tiny piece of our financial lives. We basically just sit there, talking about the weather and each other's lives while she completely takes care of our tax needs and we trust her explicitly with our affairs.

Beverly, forget retiring, you're stuck with us for life.

Our Doctor has become a personal friend through the approximately 30 years of our relationship. In fact just the other day, he put his finger where no other man may ever dare and it was a good thing. Because he found with that and other tests that I would live on in health a lot longer. Would I want to find some stranger to perform these wonderfull procedures for me. Nope!

John, forget retiring, you're stuck with us to the end.

Our Dentist has become an irreplaceable part of our life. He is the only one we trust to put his fingers in such an undignified dark place and keep everything in there healthy. Besides, how in the hell would we hear all about his love life if he were to go away.

Walter, forget retirement, your stuck with us for life.

I'll bet everyone reading this rant has lots of folks in their lives who they don't ever want to replace. People who have been doing special things and services for you for years and years and the idea of replacing these fine folks is pretty much out of the question.

Damn, it kind of makes one wonder who is going to start going to all the new, just starting out practitioners of these vital services? Oh that's right, I guess there is a whole new generation coming along after we're gone. I sometimes forget we're really not the center of the universe. Of course they'll have to establish their own "irreplaceable service people" themselves, won't they.

I'm starting to think we all should somehow give these people in our lives who are so important a huge hug and a "Thank you" for all they do for us. That they do matter greatly to our sanity and health.

Well, I took care of my Bookkeeper, Doctor and Dentist with this Blog. Maybe just maybe, I'll get around to thanking all the other fine people on my list someday before too long also.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

With ripening comes wisdom.....finally......

When I asked a very old timer customer (approximately 85-90) how he was doing recently, he had a great answer for me. He said: "Son, when you get my age, there are only two things that matter." "and what would those be sir", I asked? He said: "A good fitting pair of shoes and a good shit". Being called "Son" put a little smile on my face that lasted for hours, by the way. I've heard plenty of these gems through the years in my shop from old timers, some of which had a kernel of genius, with a large dollop of humor and truth involved.

Speaking of old timers, I've had this thought running through my head for years that we should at some agreed upon age allow old timers a pass on ALL social conventions. You know, like kindness, thoughtfulness, manners. All the things we have agreed on that make a person an excepted part of the normal human race. So, when they reach this special time of life (how about 70?), they can do, say or act any way they want at that moment. The rest of society would just learn to take this wild behavior in stride and just say: "Oh well, he/she deserves the pass because they lived this long with all those wonderful attributes intact and now they deserve to just let it all go". So the next time some low life tried to give them a bad time they could just say: "Hey, you low life @$%&^*#, I don't like you. Get out of my face now or I'll kick your ass". Anyone within hearing distance of the exchange would just applaud and smile. Or lean way over in public, let one rip and laugh right out loud with gusto. Again, the only reaction would be a smile, because in the end, we would all be waiting with glee for our turn to drop all the social conventions and have some fun again before it's all over.

Ok, one last thought on my little "getting older" jag. As we all know, there are tons of little things that are not in the least fun about getting older. Making all those disgusting grunting sounds when we get up from bed in the morning or even from a chair after setting too long. All the little pains and sore spots that somehow just started appearing one day without any warning or foreknowledge, thank the stars above. Crossing ones legs while sneezing because we don't want to depend on depends yet. Carefully passing gas incase it's not.

There is however one hugely wonderful thing about our ripening (cool take on aging huh?) in this life. That would be our mind, intelligence and intellect. You know, everything from the neck up. When younger, we are easily and immensely embarrassed by the slightest things. We turn red at the drop of a dime. We stumble and stammer when trying to gather our thoughts about most any subject we have to deal with. When confronted by a salesman for instance trying to talk us into buying his plastic crap we have no need whatsoever for, we lose all ability to form intelligent reasons why we're just not interested. In fact, most of us have bought some piece of crap at some point in our lives just because we didn't have the cayones to say NO THANK YOU!

Well, with age comes this wonderful new ability to say and do whatever you want. We tend to have gotten over our reluctance to hurt idiot's feelings or to suffer fools lightly and are now free to tell it like it is for each of us. Most of us have learned how we really feel about most subjects and can just blurt out our truths unhindered by conventional bullshit. I don't know about you but I'm telling you right now I LOVE THAT FACT! No more beating around the bush, just straight to the point and let the cards fall where they may.

Damn I love that part of life I'm in right now.....

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Age Invisibility Factor

Something I've noticed coming on for quite a few years now is what I call the human Invisibility Factor. You know, when you're young and vital with lots of friends and leading active, vibrant lives you stand out in the crowd and everyone knows your name and you're supremely there and alive at all times. You go through all these cool, active stages of life with incredible energy. You take off on a whim on adventures at the drop of a hat and live life large every waking moment. You take chances and do things just this side of dangerous without giving it a second thought. You feel there is no end to this life and nothing bad will ever happen to you.

You keep doing new and exciting things that are challenging and creative and easily feel bored if not on the run constantly. You spend time dabbling in religion, spirituality, philosophy and all night bullshit sessions with your like minded friends. You love with all your heart, lose your heart deeply with each relationship gone bad, jump into the whole sexual world with all your being and soul, with all it's incredible highs, lows and complications. Living life like there is no tomorrow.

I have to add that these wild times my friends and I lived involved the Sixties. So we also lived relatively cheaply. Rent, utilities, second hand cars and everything else you needed to live were very cheap and easy to come by. We had huge gardens and invited everyone over for these great "eat off the land" parties. This was the opposite of the "consumer society" we just got done with, I'm happy to announce, in the present times. We actually needed very little to be happy then. Mattresses on the floor for couches, bricks and boards for furniture, a wood stove for heat. Even our highs came from the land naturally.

Then slowly but surely, the financial realities of life started creeping in. Things started to cost more and more, forcing most of us to get real jobs (heaven forbid), cut our hair (good for me....."^), wear normal clothes, speak in plain understandable english (verses hippy talk). In other words we had to start looking and acting normal, like all the other robots of the world.

Well, as you start to blend in with the crowd and get older, a funny thing starts to happen. Your adult life starts out just a little transparent to others, especially the new generation coming along. Less and less strangers have any need to talk to you, ask questions of you or interact in any way with you out in public. It all starts to get more intense when you pass your sixties and into your seventies. By this time you become basically invisible to most people, especially strangers. This is what I call the Age Invisibility Factor.

Now there are exceptions to these new truths. The main one being our jobs. There in most cases is where we are still completely alive, vibrant, intelligent and alive. That and the new harsher economy is why most older folks are now staying in the workforce much, much longer. As far as the new economy, the new saying I hear more and more often these days is "I'm on the work until I die plan". For most of us the idea of quitting work, going home and basically dropping out of society is out of the question. In my case my job is my main social outlet. The most important realities of my life would be #1, my wife and life partner and my daughter both of which I owe everything I have and love to and #2 would be a very select few life long friends and #3 would be my long time customers which I consider to be my very good friends indeed and I have no intention of just walking away from them.

So, I guess I'll just have to accept my Invisibility Factor in life and know that I do matter to the people I love and care about and to them I am important, if for no other reason to keep them all from looking like bums.

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