Making it Easy to be a Customer

A couple years ago I took my daughter to lunch.

This was my first time here and I was nervous.  Everything looked good, but the smell of fresh baked goodness was driving me crazy. Could I order just the bread? Do they serve butter? Unwilling to risk embarrassment, I ordered a ham sandwich.

The rest of the encounter went like this:

Me: ½, on white.

Him: Ham you said?

Me: Yes. But that’s too much meat. I only want half of that.

Him: I can’t do that, sir.

Me:  Ha ha, but seriously, that’s too much ham for me.

Him: I still have to put it all on.

Me: I’d rather you didn’t.

Him: Sir, it comes with this much ham.

At this point, I saw a problem developing.

Me: I’ll pay for all of it. I’m not trying to get a cheaper sandwich – I only want half of the ham.

Him: But then you won’t be getting what you pay for.

Me: I’ll worry about that. Just throw half of the meat away.

I’m in my problem-solver pants now.

Him: I can’t just throw meat away.

Me: Then keep it. What do I care? Take it home and feed it to your cats. (He struck me as a cat guy for some reason.)  I just don’t want all that ham.

Him: That doesn’t sound right. I HAVE to put all the meat on. Why don’t you just take it off after I give it to you?

Now he’s problem solving.

Me: I could do that, but then it’ll have mayonnaise on it. Why don’t you just not put it on in the first place?

Him: Sir, you’re making a scene. Do you want the sandwich or not?

Me: I don’t think I do.

My request seemed reasonable at the time.  I was, after all, the customer, and it isn’t like he was Henry Ford and I was asking for a white Model T. As I drove away with my laughing hysterically daughter, I wondered if my company also does this. Do we make it hard for a customer to do business with us?


Our internet contact form was a nightmare. When someone wanted an estimate, we’d ask for more than just their email address. And if any of the info, their phone number for instance, didn’t fit the xxx-xxx-xxxx  format, they had to start over. Why?


The marketing people said that data is king and the more we know about Joe Customer, the better we can sell to him. Granted, that’s probably true, but we made it hard to contact us – and God only knows how many people threw up their hands and x’d right off of our webpage. They couldn’t get less ham.


Not anymore. I now try to make everything easy for customers because, when I do, I don’t have to worry about selling them anything. They’ll come back on their own when they’re good and ready. If I get their phone number great, maybe I’ll call them – but they emailed us and probably prefer an email response anyway.


My goal though, right now, is to make it easy for them to get whatever they want, right now.

Please Stop Saying That, You Sound Like A Moron

Whenever I hear someone say “We need to raise the bar,” my first thought is: “Won’t that make it easier?” I guess not everyone is a limbo dancer.

Another expression that gives me pause is: “Thinking outside the box.”  Last week a surly, neon tressed barista clubbed me with this one when I asked her why the smallest drink they have is a medium. “I can tell you aren’t creative,” she said art majorly, “You aren’t thinking outside the box.”  Hoping to avoid further abuse, I ha-ha’d softly and slid over to the register to pay for my medium coffee.

I was fatigued by all the banter so I didn’t have the strength to tell her that using a cliché to describe creativity makes less sense than telling someone to “shut up when you’re talking to me.”

Clichés aren’t always bad of course, but some of our speaking habits are and they can cause us to lose credibility with our bosses, or worse – our customers. A couple of years ago my company was building a fence for a guy I know, and he asked if we could paint it white.  “White as a sheep,” I assured him.

This guy laughed me out of his yard, down the street and around the corner.  I should have said sheet. If you’ve ever heard Stewie Griffin mocking Brian for his novel “Faster than the Speed of Love,” you’ll understand the ridicule I suffered.

None of us wants to seem stupid, and that’s plenty of reason to make sure we know what we’re saying before our lips start flapping.

Here are some of the words, phrases and ideas you’ve probably heard misused. They’re all worth looking up, especially if you aren’t sure of their meanings:


v  Raises the Question/Begs the Question

v  Regardless /Irregardless

v  Moot/Mute

v  Jibe/Jive

v  360/180 degrees

v  Literal/Figurative

v  Table a topic/Bring up a topic

v  Voila/Wa-Lah

v  Founder/Flounder

v  Decimate/Devastate

v  Pike/Pipe (coming down the)

v  Granted/Granite

v  Penultimate/Final

v  Flaunt/Flout

v  Supposedly/Supposebly

v  Either/Each



(If you can think of other misused words or sayings, please add them to the comments.)

While I’m thinking about ambiguity and catchy expressions, Waterloo is another one that slows my end of a conversation when I hear it, as in: “She fought City Hall and met her Waterloo.”

The way I understand it, Waterloo was Napoleons final defeat (and not a British plumbing system as I originally believed.) Okay, but Waterloo was also where the Duke of Wellington chalked up his greatest victory. So to me, hearing “Super Bowl XXXII was John Elway’s Waterloo” tells me the Broncos won the game – not that they suffered a crushing defeat. Maybe I’m just the kind of guy who always sees the glass as half greener on the other side of the silver lining.

I didn’t mean to write a pedantic article, but I guess I did. In any case, these kinds of verbal fumbles hurt our image and they’re worth knowing about. After all, if you have a smart boss and he hears you say something like “We lost our shirt on that deal – we need an escape goat,” he may just think you’re the perfect goat for the job.