At a sandwich shop in the Albany, NY airport, I ordered a hot turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread. The young woman behind the counter shook her head and said, “Turkey sandwiches are made on white bread.”
“‘Scuse me?” I asked.
“Turkey sandwiches are made on white bread,” she repeated. “That’s the rule.”
“The rule?” And…breathe, two, three, four. “Is it a New York state law?” And, breathe six, seven, eight. “Is it a universal rule? Like gravity? Or thermodynamics?”
“No,” she scoffed. “The boss says so: turkey goes on white bread.”
“The boss…” I caught myself at early eruption. “Okay, then, if you can’t put it on wheat, forget the whole thing. I’ll pass.”
“Okay, fine,” she said. “I’ll put it on wheat.”
“Thank you,” I said, getting a handle on my temper and feeling quite proud of my self-control. But then, before I could catch myself, I slipped into passive-aggressive muttering mode. “A white bread rule?” I grumbled under my breath. “Unbelievable! What the hell kind of way is that to do business?”
Apparently it wasn’t exactly under my breath.
“Jeez,” she said. “What’s your problem? I’m doing you a favor.”
This is what I said to myself next:
“A favor? You’re doing me a favor? Listen, toots, I’m doing you a favor by not vaulting over that counter and tap-dancing barefoot in your condiments. I’m doing you a favor by not calling your boss and telling him that his employee has a virulent Ebola-like infection and she’s sneezing on the customers. I’m doing you a favor by...”
Here’s what I said out loud:
Spit-free turkey on wheat was my reward.
And I learned something, too:
On the road to zen-like patience,
Zantac is a wonderful thing.
The 50-something owner of a local Quiznos was training two new employees in his spanking new shop. I ordered a smoked turkey on (of course) whole wheat, and while someone was assembling my order, I scooted over to the cash register to pay.
And then I heard something remarkable. To you this may sound trivial, but to me it was…it was like music
The boss, who had been watching his young charge work on my lunch, said this:
“Nice work, Mike.”
Now that I think about it, that was the first time I’d even noticed the owner. So, as I settled up with the cashier, I paid him closer attention, and I noticed that he was still watching Mike. And as Mike cut my sandwich, wrapped it, and handed it to the cashier, the boss nodded and said,
“Good job, Mike.”
It was such a simple thing. Practically nothing, really. But it really struck me. A few words of encouragement in a simple work setting. So why did it have such an impact on me?
And then it hit me: I’ve been around for a while. I’ve eaten in a lot of sandwich establishments, shopped in a lot of stores, flown on a lot of airplanes and consumed more than my fair share of goods and services in my half-century-and-change of existence.
And as a retail customer, until that day at Quiznos, I had never, ever overheard a boss compliment an employee. I’m not saying it never happens; it just doesn’t seem to happen publicly.
And retailers wonder why, in their businesses, ridiculously high turnover is a “fact of life.”
So let me say this:
Nice work, Mike’s boss. Good job.
There’s a sandwich shop in Albany that could use your help.
(Adapted from a couple of earlier posts).