There’s a road story (most likely fictional) of two hotels in the same small town.  One had a sign on the reception desk which read, ‘Although breakfast is included in your room rate, you will not receive a reduction or credit if you do not eat breakfast.’  The other hotel simply had a note in the folder with the key, ‘We are pleased to offer you a complimentary breakfast.’  The point is the same, but the message is delivered and received very differently.

We’ve all seen stores with hand-made signs in the window that stated: ‘No shoes, no shirt, no service; no smoking, no outside food or beverages, no bills larger than $20, no checks, no credit cards for charges under $10, and so on.  These owners…don’t like any customer that doesn’t conform to making it easy to do business with them, rather than the other way around.  I am all for the ‘rights’ of business owners to operate their business as they choose, without government or activist interference, but operating for the ease of your chosen customer is a way to grow your business.  Customers, who have to jump through your hoops, won’t be your customer but once, if then.

While attending a ‘Master-Mind’ session in Rhode Island I and three others wanted to eat at a restaurant called ‘Al Forno’.  It allegedly originated the thin-crust pizza.  They often make the list of the top restaurants in the US (their marketing effort may be better than the chef).  Because of my frequent travel and having to eat out a lot, I prefer the local fare but don’t necessarily seek the ones on the list of top US restaurants.

Like my opening point, the real problem is that Al Forno is egotistical and sends the wrong message.  There are no reservations, so we were expected to wait a very long time to be seated; except for the special friends of the owners who scooted by everyone else who waited.  We walked up to the second floor reception area when we came upon a stuffy fellow posted on the staircase.  “Are you here for dinner?” he asked, in an unfriendly tone.  “Yes.”  I wanted to add, ‘no, we’re here to exercise on your stair case’, but kept my mouth shut.  “We can’t possibly seat you for maybe two-and-a-half hours”, stated with the same tone.  One in our party told him we weren’t staying.  It wasn’t the wait time; it was the egotistical, unfriendly tone of the restaurant.

When I’m not traveling; at the end of the day, if I have any coins in my pocket, I put them in the ‘piggy bank’ and take them to my bank when it’s full (about $100), for deposit to add to my emergency fund account.  The other day, on such an errand to the bank, I was greeted at the inside walk-up counter with, “we don’t have a coin counter / sorter here, you’ll have to wrap the coins and bring them back”.  I stated that I have been doing this every few months for over 10 years.  A teller, probably a supervisor, standing at the back, said something that I couldn’t hear.  When I looked at her and said I couldn’t hear her; rather than walking to the window at the counter to speak to me, she looked at the teller in front of me and said, “You tell him”.  So much for customer courtesy.  Finally, the teller at the counter, seeing my irritation said, “Well, we can send your coins to a branch where they have a coin sorter and get them deposited into your account, but that may take a couple of weeks”.

If you’re going to be in business of any kind, you can’t make customers feel like bothersome intruders.  Competitive alternatives are such that your customers can find almost anything they need or want and with a great receptive attitude and encouraging manners.  That ranges from restaurants to attorneys and from bike shops to banks.  But I always appreciate a complimentary breakfast, whether I eat it or not.

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