My wife and I had an interesting experience this week. We are currently shopping for a new mattress and thought we’d hit up a few stores to get a feel for what’s out there. Our first stop was the RoomStore and while we immediately had a greeter start a conversation with us, she had a bizarre, passive-aggressive style. When she asked us what we were looking for we replied that we were pretty open and were shopping for something that fit us. Her answer was that if we didn’t know what we wanted then she couldn’t help us. She then led us to the mattress section and walked away. I was surprised and bothered at the same time. Worse yet, she watched us from a distance. Now I only worked sales for a few years of my life, but I’m pretty sure that when someone is open you take that opportunity to guide them to something they will fall in love with. Not happening with our lady.
I looked at Michelle as we walked out and said, “That was weird, right?” She agreed.
We walked a few stores down to another mattress store. At this one, we saw a salesman again as soon as we entered. He was coming from somewhere in the back and after he said hi to us he sat down at a desk up front. The rest of the conversation we had with him, in which we asked him a few questions, he responded to us without making eye contact. He just continued to stare at his screen. We decided it was time to go again.
I looked at Michelle as we walked out and said, “I’m done shopping for mattresses, let’s get dinner.”
As we reflected on this bizarre chain of experiences Michelle made a telling observation. “They don’t think we have money.” As soon as she said it I realized that was it. We were young, dressed casually, and probably looked a bit sleep-deprived (and we didn’t even have our four kids with us).Â But as a middle-class white guy, who has always been a middle-class white guy, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’m not used to this feeling, especially as extreme as we experienced it.
But here’s the irony: we’ve saved the money to buy any bed in either of these stores with cash. And I don’t have a specific bed in mind to limit our options. A good salesperson could have had an ideal customer on their hands.
But we evidently didn’t look the part.
So in an area that is built on commission and snap judgements, we were deemed not worth the time. This is a tough pill to swallow, especially when you know that it’s wrong. Selfishly, I wanted to walk back into each store and explain to them what they had just missed out on (I’m told this is a “Pretty Woman moment”). But it doesn’t take long to play out that scenario to realize how petty it ultimately sounds. So instead, I’ve tried to make this a learning moment.
The reason why is that we all make the same mistake our mattress salespeople made. We make snap decisions that affect the way we treat people around us. And like our salespeople, we risk losing opportunities. So what are we to do about it?
Don’t let your opportunities depend on your ability to see people accurately. (click to tweet this)
Treat everyone like they matter, because they do. And while that may sound like the cheesy church answer, they may also have a story that would blow you away. The older I get the more I realize that there are people who seize incredible opportunities because they don’t see people the way the rest of us do. And I want to see people like that.