Happy Monday on time and Happy Mother's Day after the fact.
As I wrote in a Facebook post over the weekend, I think the greatest way a man can honor his mother - besides the day we all do - is to spend the other 364 being polite, kind, decent, gentle, loving, respectful, honorable and chivalrous, to all the women (and men) in our lives - for it is within these loving expressions, that the impact of the voices of our own mothers who taught us to be so, can be felt by the world. "He was raised by a good mom," they will say - the greatest honor bestowed upon any mother.
As a brief and perhaps unrelated personal aside...
My mother was in the Air Force, stationed in Texas, when she discovered she was preggers with a future Unsecret Shopper, in 1963, a year that was still several away from the cultural shift that would make it acceptable for a woman to be roaming around the countryside, unwed, and with child.
In that year, we weren't quite there yet. And so my mother's reaction was understandable.
"I want an abortion."
The response from Mom's mom, my future grandmother, was ambiguous.
"The %$#@ you will. Get your #$@% home."
Being very cognizant of the Military Chain of Command, Mom followed orders from her superior officer.
She got a discharge from the Service, returned home to Boone, Iowa and her mom, and went about the business of raising a son - who would be born from both women, in a sense.
And so every Mother's Day - and every day that's not - a sort of battle is waged inside my head, between the voices of those two extraordinary women, each laying claim to whatever part of my humanity, isn't coated in testosterone. I bear no grudge towards one, am grateful for the wise direction of the other, and feel incredibly blessed to carry both within me.
I hope the man they raised, honors them - especially their penchant for shopping :)
Speaking of which - welcome to Monday Morning Reaction!
Lots of reader response, from two weeks worth of posts - on everything from secret shopping reviews of Target and Home Depot to the mysterious passing of a customer service icon, to unmasking the mystery of mystery shopping.
A not-so-quick point on Target.
Why would a perfectly good retail store like Tar-jay, choose to invite us in to enjoy the shopping circus, only to claim that playing the steam-driven Calliope, might make the elephants stampede?
It was pointed out and said better in Thursday's Secret Shopper review of the location at 1111 East Army Post Road. I've since visited the other three Des Moines area Targets, to see - hear - if they, too, are tune-free.
Being a curious cat, I purred my way up to a random employee at each location and asked, yo, what's the dealio-dough?
Jon, in Electronics, at the 35th Street Target location in West Des Moines, told me this:
"In the five years I've worked here, I've never heard music played during store hours, although it does get turned on after hours, or before the store opens."
"Why do you think it isn't it played during store hours?" I asked.
"One of the reasons," he replied, "is probably because it's hard to find something that's appropriate."
At the Mills Civic Parkway location, Kathy said the same thing, that music is played outside of store hours but not when customers are actually in the store, shopping.
"I don't know why," said Kathy, "but I think the reason is so employees can hear each other - so they can more easily communicate over the two-way walkie talkies."
At the Plum Drive store off I-80/35 in Urbandale, Bob - who appeared to be a manager - said that they do play music during store hours, but only on special occasions.
"They'll have Christmas music playing the day before Christmas, and also around Thanksgiving. Other than that, in the 15 years I've worked here, I've never heard music played during store hours."
Any idea why?
"I don't really know," he said. 'Maybe it's because of different opinions on music. Maybe it's easier not to [play music]."
Great point. Of course, people also have differing views on silence - and on everything else.
Without knowing what Target's corporate position is on this - I have a call into their Minneapolis headquarters - I'm going to toss out the two reasons why I think those few stores that don't play music, don't play music.
1. There is no music that every shopper likes.
Right as (Oooh I hear laughter in the) rain. Finding tunes that every human being agrees on, is like locating a restaurant that will meet the appetite desires of a bus-full of little leaguers.
But, like any smart little league coach will tell you, there's an answer - ice cream.
Same thing holds true with music and retail - find the sweetest stuff, in the middle of the road. Pick songs with a mid-tempo pace that won't give your Great Aunt Edna a coronary, but won't put your 10 year-old to sleep.
On second thought...
Go for bland, non-suggestive lyrics - no Snoop Dogg - no wailing guitars - no Van Halen - and no 17 minute drum solos - no Inagaddadavida, Live!
I think the word that comes to mind is "fun." Play fun music, like what they play at wedding dances in the first hour, when the D.J. you hired for $250 an hour, wants to get everyone on the dance floor and keep 'em dancing, so he/she can make the person paying the bill, happy, and maybe even get hired for an extra hour around Midnight, when AC/DC and Alabama won't offend anyone, because those it might are either gone, or "gone."
Some bands/artists that come to mind are The Little River Band, Kool And The Gang, Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, Olivia Newton-John, Stray Cats, some Rolling Stones - basically combine Lite 104.1 without the ballads, with 100.3 The Bus without the hard rock, and you've got WTRG - all Target music, all the time.
But a warning : if they play Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," my heart and spleen and all attached appendages will go on and out to the parking lot, and I'm bringing every patron with me, by force if necessary. ("Hey everybody! Free thousand dollar bills outside!")
Finding mass-appeal music is the easiest part of this. You just gotta wanna.
2. Employees complain, because they don't like listening to the same music, over and over.
No matter how wide you toss the musical net, the time will come when an associate in Sporting Goods hears You've Had A Bad Day for the 27th time, and starts screaming.
I am not without empathy on this point. I was a radio broadcaster for 20 years, and did wedding/event dances on the weekends for the first 10 of them. Do you know how many times I've heard Old Time Rock And Roll??? Enough so that the chords and lyrics show up on my brain MRI.
A close relative of #2 is that employees also don't like not having control over what is played.
I always ask for feedback from staff, on what music to play inside their workplace. This is their home for eight and up hours a day, and they deserve a say in what they have to listen to for that chunk of time.
Yet, as we've established, one employee's Rolling Stones is another's Milli Vanilli.
In the end, from Target's standpoint, the solution is simple - tell employees to use the sweet music of their own voice, talking to customers, to drown out the music overhead.
And now, for some of the reasons why the inside of Target - and every retail space - should be filled with the beautiful voices and melodies and lyrics contained inside one of the most powerful gifts, God gives us - the ability to make music.
"Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak." - William Congreve, Playwright/Poet
"Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought." - E.Y. Harburg, American Lyricist
"Music fills the infinite between two souls." - Rabin Dranath Tagore, Indian Poet
"Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything." - Plato, Philosopher
"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." - Berthold Auerbach, German Novelist
"Where words fail, music speaks." - Hans Christian Anderson, Danish Author
"I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else." - Lily Tomlin, Comedian
Play the hits, Target.
Now...on with the countdown.
We appreciate your feedback because it helps make Target even better. Sincerely,
Target Guest Relations
“Can’t remember the last time any staff person at Target said a word to me, other than the cashier. Course I can’t say I get a lot of it from retail employees in general, no matter where I’m shopping at.
“I didn’t notice the lack of music – and most of the employees didn’t notice me. Target on the south side has big problems.”
“As a current Target employee, I say hi and smile at customers all the time. I do the same thing wherever I am. Why wouldn’t I? I think you see what you want to see, without looking at what’s going on.”
“People will give you what you give them. If you’re walking around the store with a frown, why would you expect anything else right back at you? I smile at employees, they smile back.”
“I guess I’m not very observant, or wasn’t, until I started reading your reviews. So I really looked at the Target workers when I was there today to see if they were smiling or if they say anything to me, and only one employee did. Maybe that’s why I always feel in a bad mood when I shop.”
"Is Billie Sue, a real person?
"Loved the post. You are so clever. And in honor of Billie Sue...:) :) :) :)
“My Billie Sue was dead, but after reading your story, I think she’s been resuscitated.”
“If you hadn’t explained it at the end, I never would have gotten it.”
“Very clever. I’ll never be able to look in the mirror again without seeing the face of Billie Sue Mafuta.”
“I saw you come in to Gateway Market [on Saturday] and almost said something to you, but honestly, the shirt kinda freaked me out.”
“I can’t believe what happened to you at Bike World. I’ve been going there for a long time – you’re right, they really do lose track of customers, even though they’re usually very nice when they find you.”
“I wish you would just shut up about Caseys. For the love of God, leave them alone.”
“Your review of Swift Stop was funny, and accurate. Gary [Thompson] would be horrified – by their service, and by your horrible play-by-play call.”
“Just sayin'.... I went shopping in Ames and did NOT have a secret shopper t-shirt on. Got really good service at the Ark from an employee I had never seen there before (sorry - don't know his name). Thanks to your blog, I called the owner (Dave) to report this extraordinary treatment to complement the employee. Dave is used to taking complaints instead of compliments. Who knew buying cat litter could be such a good thing? I'm thinking good feedback to amazing service oriented employees may be my calling. Cost = free= priceless”
“This is Sarah from Home Depot. Thank you for your feedback and observations from your recent visit to our West Des Moines store. I have personally contacted the store management team to make them aware of your concerns. Please come back and visit us soon and let us know if you see changes based on your feedback. Keep in touch and help us continue to improve. I look forward to hearing from you after your next visit.”
The Home Depot
Atlanta, GA 30339
“As the owner of a secret shopping company, I have to say I just stumbled on your blog today. I love it. Do you mind it I add it to our blogroll? Would you like to write a guest post for our blog?”
Owner, Measure Consumer Perspectives
“My bad experience was I called yesterday to ask about something I bought there [at Home Depot] last year. The extremely rude woman on the phone was so helpful...she proceeded to tell me that they don't carry what I was asking about and that they'd never carried it. She just got more mad when I mentioned to her that I had bought said product there last year! She put me on hold to get someone to help me and then after 10 minutes, hung up on me."
“You don’t suck as much as everybody says you do.”
"I've been in Home Depot hundreds of times. They are always very courteous. Did you really go there or just make up some crap for this review, to get readers?"
"The worst part of shopping at HD is the cashiers. They are terrible. They act like they're doing you a big favor by waiting on you, and always seem like they want to be somewhere else. That's why I use the self-service aisle."
"Please delete me from your [email] list."
"Smiles are two-way streets. Whenever I'm shopping, I try to be nice to the people who are working too -- cuz I'm shopping and they're not..."
"We need someone like you here in Michigan... I had the worst customer service at the Pak Mail store today. I was furious!”
"I've threatened people/clerks/representatives of stores that ticked me off before that "you never know, I may be a secret shopper" --- I've ALWAYS wanted that job!!!"
”…Great service from Rachel the cashier at Target & also from the young blonde at the Christian book store!!!”
"Kudos to Taly at Progressive Auto Insurance at 6:30 a.m. this morning. He was awesome. He listened to everything I had to say to him without batting an eyelash. I want him on my team!"
A last word on music, and moms.
This day after Mother's Day, a series of lasting impressions and lingering thoughts, starts with a man and woman, both singing into her pregnant belly, to the baby inside - to the baby, after birth, held in Mom's tender arms as she gently rocks it back and forth while softly humming - to Mom singing a Goodnight Lullaby to her baby before bedtime, to Mom leading the family in "Happy Birthday" sung on her baby's special day, to Mom's teary eyes watching her soon-to-be-graduating baby march into the gym to Pomp And Circumstance, or into the church to the Wedding March...and on it goes.
Our moms really are band leaders, directing the orchestra as it plays through the soundtrack of our lives.
And to my own special favorite, which my mother sang to me at bedtime.
"Diddle diddle dumpling, my son Jon, went to sleep with his stockings on, one shoe off and one shoe on, diddle diddle dumpling, my son Jon."
For whatever song plays for you today - let it be sweet to your ears, and bring you joy and peace throughout your day.
Jonnie Wright is a customer service trainer and evaluator, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of "The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show," Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350 KRNT. Email Jonnie at email@example.com.
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