Business and work Mindsets

I walked into the @PicknPay Hyper to return a bag of oranges

I walked into the Pick n Pay Hyper in the Norwood Mall with the bag of oranges we bought over the weekend. I didn’t have the receipt but I still had the tag and an image of my wife’s Smart Shopper Card. Like most of the oranges we buy from this store, many of the oranges in each bag were rotten but given the size of the bag and the R16 to R20 price tag, I suppose that is the risk you take. If you go to Woolies, you pay about R19 for a bag half the size (even if rotten oranges in Woolies bags are pretty rare).

I walked up to the Customer Service counter and my first shock was how quickly the lady behind the counter saw me and greeted me (with a smile too!). She started to ask me how she can help me, noticed the oranges, frowned and asked me if I was dissatisfied with the oranges. The argument I prepped in my mind evaporated, her concern disarmed it and, for a few moments, I had no words. She smiled patiently and I found my voice again.

“Um, yes, my wife bought these oranges over the weekend and many of them seem, well, I’m not happy with the quality …”

I hoisted the bag of oranges on to the counter and she lifted bag, looked quickly at the oranges, scanned the tag and placed them down behind the counter in a large basket. She looked up at me and uttered words I simply didn’t expect to hear in that store:

“I’m sorry you are not happy with these oranges. I will let the department manager know as soon as I have sorted you out and we’ll make an effort not to let you down again.”

She gave me a small form to fill out with my details, processed the refund and handed me a gift card with the balance credited to it.

“Thank you for returning these oranges to us and letting us know you are unhappy with them. Please let me know if you are dissatisfied with anything else and we’ll do our best to address it.”

I was floored. Almost all my previous interactions with this store’s staff have been either neutral or aggravating. It has almost been as if the store staff decided that because they are probably the best option in the area when it comes to price and stock (well, mostly), they don’t have to bother much with decent service and basic courtesy. I was really expecting an argument when I entered. I expected to leave the store irritated, offended even. Instead I wandered back into the store, picked up some additional items and, on my way out (I was still in a bit of a daze – even the cashier was friendly) the lady at the Customer Service counter smiled again and waved as I left.

The weird thing was the sound of a child’s voice calling me as I walked out and I couldn’t quite work out what it was until I woke up and realised it was our daughter calling me, asking for a drink of water.

As I rolled out of bed and went to her room, I could still feel the euphoria from my dream. If only my experiences in that store were so pleasant …

Mindsets Social Web

A parable about hubris and an ongoing digital tragedy

Row of Postal Clerks Processing Mail

This post was originally published on Medium

It feels like a lifetime since the Pushers left and the Communicators stepped up. Before then, the Pushers shaped the Message, told us how we would feel about their brand, their products and services. We either accepted what we were told or, well, we didn’t have much choice.

Then, it all began to change. The Manifesto taught us that “markets are conversations” and even though the Manifesto was soon overlooked by a younger generation, its central social message persisted and shaped our interactions with brands. This new generation, the Communicators, began to explore what a more collaborative, engaged conversation would sound like, feel like and what it could do for brands desperate for attention in an evolving digital world where we didn’t have to accept what we were told. Over the course of a few years, we discovered we had our own voices, choices and perhaps even power to influence others too.

As the Communicators rose from among us, we joined them in their journey and became their followers, their fans and co-creators. For a while we were on this wonderful voyage together, Communicators and followers. We formed new communities and we shared our lives more freely than we ever had before. We looked up to our new leaders with great admiration. They were like us and we loved them.

We had a brief Golden Age when we were finding our individual voices. Facebook brought us closer together, Twitter brought the world to us with such immediacy we were astounded at first. More services and tools followed and, today, we have so many ways to share, we are forced to choose based on where our communities are strongest. Once we thirsted for creativity, today we are inundated with it and we use terms like “overloaded” because we haven’t developed effective tools to filter our consumption. Still, its a good time for self-expression and there is so much of it.

The Communicators embraced these new tools for the brands they serve and they used them to capture our attention, share wonderful stories that entice us and weave new fabric to clothe those old brands the Pushers told us about. The Communicators learned more effective techniques as time passed and as they rose to greater heights and found that the brands they served worshipped them and their mystical magick (we knew it was nothing of the sort but then we still believed we travelled with our new prophets). Slowly, almost imperceptibly to most, the Communicators began to believe the praise heaped on them by the brands that also paid them richly. The Communicators began to believe they were the embodiment of the new Social Message and rather than being its interpreters, they started shaping it to suit their vision of this new era. They created new mantras and new laws.

Perhaps the rarified air and great heights led them to forget their earthly origins with us. Perhaps they simply saw themselves as the Pushers’ rightful heirs. Either way, our Communicators changed. They demanded more attention, more praise and they did it in subtle ways. They hosted grand parties and dinners and treated us as beloved followers, graced us with their attention and public praise as if that would somehow sustain us or even elevate us. Some of us became officials in their courts and rose above the rest of us, enjoying success for as long as they were in favour.

Then the Message changed. Our conversations became distorted. We only heard stories of joy, success, praise and favour. We didn’t heard stories about tragedy, disappointment and failure (well, except where failure was heralded as the seed of success). We noticed that officials in their courts disappeared and were replaced and heard quiet rumours about followers who fell into disfavour, were cast out and exiled. Nothing confirmed and yet the rumours persisted.

As the Communicators rose to even greater heights it was as if the Sun shone even brighter on us all and it was tempting to believe times were never this prosperous but this new light didn’t shine everywhere anymore. With this great light came more shadow. The Message was shaped even more and something unfamiliar crept into it: intolerance. Once again, we are told how we feel about brands, their products and services. The Message is no longer a shared construct, the Communicators shape it for us. For the most part we like it and, if we don’t, well, does that matter?