Bill, Silent Guy, and Dumb-Dumb

Last week I was at a Macy’s Store in Milwaukee for a Designer Accessories Shop installation.  That’s what I do or I should say that’s what the company that I work for does.  We manufacture and install custom retail store fixtures.  As the V.P. of Operations I have project managers that are working all over the country (and sometimes internationally) setting up new stores or handling remodels.  Often our customers’ shops are inside a department store – we call those ‘shop in shops’ (don’t blame me – I didn’t make up that name).  Occasionally when my project management teams are spread too thin I will go to installations to meet with a customer rep or just to make certain everything is completed correctly. 

That’s what I was doing this past week.  I usually don’t announce to the installation crew that I’m a V.P. because it tends to make people nervous.  I’m just Denis.  Last week the crew that was at the Macy’s store was ‘contracted out’ – meaning that are not employees but instead they are hired for a specific location.  We may or may not ever work together again. 

I was told by the Installation Company that Mike would be the supervisor of the crew.  When I arrived and asked for Mike I was greeted by Bill who explained that Mike was not there.  Bill seemed okay so I wasn’t too concerned.  His ‘crew’ consisted of two others that I nicknamed ‘Silent Guy’ and ‘Dumb-Dumb’.  Let me explain:  First of all, I know that it’s not nice to call people names but for the record I only called them names in my head (or behind their backs – I have manners).  Secondly, ‘Silent Guy’ never spoke – he only sort of grunted.  And thirdly, well – we’ll get to ‘Dumb-Dumb’ later.

Initially things went well.  Our truck was on time.  The dock was available.  The store personnel were friendly and cooperative.  But as the morning progressed it became painfully obvious that Bill and his crew were  S   L   O   W !  I couldn’t have lit a fire under their asses with a blowtorch.  And time was slipping away!  Plus I discovered Dumb-Dumb down in the stockroom arguing with the ‘Trash Lady’ about why he should have to “breakdown” cardboard boxes!  Really Dumb-Dumb, you’re going to argue with the 80 year old lady who is kind enough to help you?  Taking care of your trash is not her job!  The store was scheduled to open at 10:00AM and after 2-1/2 hours of slowly dragging stuff to the sales floor, unpacking fixtures and wiping things down “at a snail’s pace” I finally (kind of) lost my cool.  We had 30 minutes to clear the aisles, remove all the debris, and make the space ready for the store opening.  Concerned that the store managers as well as my customer contact would “flip out” because everything was in complete disarray – I yelled at Bill and crew.  I told them to stop what they were doing (whatever that was) and to get EVERYTHING cleaned up, cleared out, and ready for merchandise.  Bill explained that they didn’t usually do things that way and I responded that “today is a new day – we’re doing it MY WAY”.  I went into full V.P. mode!

Within a few minutes the space was much more to my liking.  Lots of clearing, cleaning and straightening was happening.  The merchandise specialist arrived and began arranging handbags.  While Bill and his ‘crew’ were still sulking, I was strutting around quite pleased with my command of the situation.  Then it happened…

The Operations Manager for Macy’s came by to ask if everything would be ready to go by 10:00AM.  I was certain I was ready for a verbal “beat down” because of my installation crew’s lack of efficiency and orderliness.  Instead her reply was:  SUPER-DEE-DUPER!  And then she proceeded to tell me how much she enjoyed working with Bill and “The Boys” – what great guys they were; how they made each install easy because they were so relaxed in their approach. That it was ALWAYS a stress-free experience for all involved.  That all the store personnel LOVED working with them, etc. etc.  And that I was really smart to have hired them because she wouldn’t want anyone else working in her store.  I sheepishly thanked her knowing full well that Bill and his ‘crew’ heard every word she had said.

In my uptight and reactionary way, I had forgotten where I was.  This was Wisconsin not New York.  Not L.A.  These folks at this Macy’s loved ‘shooting the breeze’ with the installers.  They were more interested in knowing about the fish that Bill had caught at his cabin up north than whether or not everything was perfect in the shop at 10:00AM.  The Packers upcoming football season took precedence over the placement of fixtures.  In Wisconsin Aaron Rodgers is way more important than Michael Kors.

I had forgotten the most important rule of customer service – Don’t treat people the way you want to be treated – Treat them the way they want to be treated.  Bill and his ‘crew’ remembered that.

So who’s the Dumb-Dumb now? 



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