I'm a big believer in saying nice things behind people's backs. I have been known to write letters of complaint, and I feel that if I'm going to complain I have an obligation to praise when something is done well. Besides that, people really like it, they're so appreciative, and sometimes I even getting better service down the line. But mainly, I just think it's the right thing to do. And in the end, I feel good about it.
I was wondering through my local Ralphs grocery story today. (Not to be confused with Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery in Lake Wobegon.) And as I browsed the produce section, I saw a group of what appeared to management types checking it out. I've seen that on occasion here -- and for some reason it's always the produce section. The store is fine, nothing great, some things very good, some things ordinary, but they have a pretty nice produce section. It's not so much that the section itself is so great (it's definitely good), but it's very well-run and the people there are very nice and helpful. So, on those times when I've seen the Management Gaggle, I like to go over and praise the section.
I sought out the person who looked best-dressed and seemed most officious. I figured that he might be from the produce division in the area or something, so I asked if he was the one in charge here. No, he said, it would be that woman -- he pointed -- she's the president of the company. Well...boy, howdy, I picked the right group to send out some praise.
I went over, and asked if she was in charge. What I always love is that you can see in peoples' eyes a quick look of concern, since I'm sure most people come over to complain and ream them out, and the relief and pleasure in their faces when they realize you're actually giving praise is a true joy. So, I dive right in and don't let that momentary look of fear linger.
Needless-to-say, she was very pleased by my praise. (Not as pleased, I'm sure, as the person in charge of the produce section there, and the store manager, hearing this in front of the Big Boss...) We exchanged some pleasantries, and she noted my Cubs cap and talked about that, as well -- saying it was the first time she'd ever watched all seven games of a World Series when her favorite team wasn't playing. (I said that, yes, having a 108 year wait has an effect like that on people.) And then I wandered off.
But then, I realized I had a great opportunity to follow-up on something that did bug me about the store. I walked back over and said I had a request. There's a company called Mrs. Richardson's that make toppings which the store carries (like hot fudge and butterscotch). It's very high quality and wonderful. They also make a fat-free hot fudge topping that is stunning, otherworldly. I'm not a chocoholic at all, but I've sometimes eaten this by the spoonful -- it's rich, creamy, remarkably delicious, and hard to believe it's fat free. Years ago I could find it here, but not for years. I could mail order it online, but the shipping cost is deeply prohibitive, unless you order about a dozen jars.
I implored them to consider ordering it for their store. They already get Mrs. Richardson's products. And they have two other fat-free hot fudge products, one from Smuckers that is tasty, but not close to Mrs. Richardson's. I said that I understood if they didn't think it was something that would sell, but I at least wanted to bring it to their attention. In fact, the store manager said, fat-free hot fudge is a good seller, and he would personally look into it and have it in the store in a week. I am not holding my breath on that -- hey, for all I know the Mrs. Richardson's company doesn't ship that product to the West Coast for some unknown reason -- but I live in hope.
I do know one thing though -- if I hadn't started the conversation with a totally random praise of the produce section, my request wouldn't have been met with the same response.
And it helped too that I picked the right group to ask this to, with the president of the company there...
For those who aren't as fortunate as to run into the president of your local grocery store chain, and who are willilng to pay for shipping prices, you can find the Mrs. Richardson's Fat-Free Hot Fudge topping here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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