No matter which side of the cash register I’m on, I inevitably find myself cooing, stroking, apologizing or bending over backwards to make the other party feel better about the transaction at hand.
When I worked at an ad agency, clients routinely abused our staff. Nothing we did was good enough, fast enough, cool enough, or cheap enough. Now, I’m working client-side, and the shoe is on the other foot. But guess what? The shoe is now a soccer cleat. And it’s still kicking me in the temples. Repeatedly.
I sit in meetings with vendors, and they tell me how I can make their lives easier.
"Listen,” they say, “Here’s what I need you to do so I don’t get in trouble …”
And how do I respond?
I TAKE NOTES!
I called a tradeshow vendor this morning to ask them to please fax me a final invoice, so I could pay them however many thousands of dollars we owed them.
The customer service rep yelled at me.
"MA'AM, THE SHOW JUST ENDED! I HAVEN’T EXACTLY HAD A CHANCE TO TALLY UP THE FINAL INVOICES!”
And what did I say?
I said, “I’m sorry.”
"I'm sorry! I’m fucking sorry! I’m sorry for asking how much I owe you, so that I can ensure you receive your payment in a timely manner! How ever can I make it up to you?
Two days ago I was asked to schedule a feel-good meeting with the heads of an association to whom our company pays hundreds of thousands of dollars for endorsement. Why? They’re feeling nervous about our relationship! They’re afraid maybe we don’t VALUE their endorsement! After breakfast, I’ll probably end up lying in bed and holding them. “It’s not you,” I’ll say softly. “It’s me.”
And obviously it is me. Somehow I’ve managed to cultivate my inner doormat and lay it out for the entire world to wipe their feet.
Come back next week, and I'll throw in a free shoeshine.