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So what’s wrong with a smile and eye contact for goodness sake

The last weekend before Christmas, and I had to head into the local town. Not that I had an urgent need to be there, not because I’d forgotten anything, but only because one of the packages I’d ordered online was delivered whilst I was out yesterday and was deemed “too large” to force headlong through the letterbox. I’ve learnt from past experience that its easier to get in the car and drive to the sorting office than it is to try and ring them, and get through to, and ask politely if, the postman could, just possibly maybe,  bring it with them the following day. Nah, I’ll drive over there and fetch it myself. My fella opted to come with me for the ride, we parked reasonably easily in the town and  walked through the grey wetness of a sleet filled Saturday morning to the cheery (huh!) centre of the postal sorting office, and joined the short queue of similarly intent people at the counter. When it was my turn a hand infront of me held itself upwards for the docket in my hand. I handed it over, through the slot in the glass partition, and the body it belonged to disappeared into the furthest reaches of the mass shelving to reappear 20 seconds later with my treasure, I took it, and looked up expectantly. Nothing. But it still rankled with me, it always does. No eye contact. No smile. No recognition of another infront of you. No communication. Of any kind at all. It might as well as been an automaton, and not a real life living woman infront of me. I know she’s doing her job, I know its the weekend before Christmas, I know its the busiest week of the year for the post office workers, I know they get tired, I know it was a cold day on my side of the glass. But some contact would have been nice…..any would have been nice.

….out into the cold bleak greyness of the day, and we decided to extend our voyage a little further, and walked over the road to the small but adequate shopping centre, buying a few necessary  toiletries and popping into the local Costa for a coffee in its welcoming and warm body-filled-to-capacity red tinged and well lit interior, the girls serving with a smile whilst taking our requests, the women at the next table smiling as we sat down, and a joyous feeling of feeling welcome and comfortable both with the place and the ambience in it (as opposed to the Starbucks visitation we had last weekend in another area, where my *hot* chocolate was actually luke warm, the mug it was served in both half empty and chipped! and I had to pay almost three quid for the pleasure of it, and haven’t stopped moaning about it since!!!!!!!). We meandered out after feeling replete and after buttoning up coats against the stiff breeze wandered into the local charity shop to peruse their large and very well stocked shelves of second hand books, both fiction, and non fiction, helpfully stocked in alphabetical order and subject matter, both my fella and I finding books that we wanted, and happily paid for, to read over the coming weeks as we are both avid readers. As I walked out of the shop, an old chap working there was at the door, ready to hold it for me, and thanked me for visiting. I smiled back at him, and he smiled at me, eye contact made and I made a resolution to revisit in the near future…..

….from there we ventured further up the main road, dipping into another couple of shops and making small purchases, until we came to the equivalent of a departmental store in that small town, and went in, intrigued as to what it sold. It sold a lot of things – furniture, household items, carpets, electrical goods, clothing, and toys. And of all the people in the shop, there were about six of them serving, and just my man and me there shopping. Except we didn’t. We just looked. Even though the shop sold nice things, even though the staff asked if they could help, we didn’t buy anything. The one thing I wanted, they hadn’t got (a spice rack) and there was no proper pricing on anything, so you had to search for it, and I felt was a little bit off putting, and that doesn’t add at all to the happy shopping experience that soon turns into a shopping frenzy if the atmosphere is right. We walked sadly out, and I said to myself that I bet the shop won’t still be there in a years time. Who’s going to buy from them? As we turned to go back towards the town, there was another shop a few doors away, which looked like an interesting privately owned shop selling household items and furniture, again the same thing, little eye contact, little help, and we walked out again a few minutes later, our money still firmly in our pockets even though I’d seen a couple of things that I really liked there, and might have been persuaded to buy if I’d been encouraged to do so.

Now, I know all of this is easy for me to say. I know that times are hard. I know that in some areas money is tight. I know that business is difficult. I know that there are a million problems shop owners have, from staff to their overheads. I am fully aware of all of that. And have a lot of sympathy for them and their predicament.

But, all of this reminds me of the conversation I had yesterday…….

When I was walking through Ashby de la Zouch,  on the way up to the printers to collect some more prints, it was cold, wet and dark with sleet in the air again, and as I walked along, a chap walked out of one of the many side alleys in that town, and as we both looked up at each other, both of us smiled. And make good strong eye contact and said “Hellowww!” to each other with our smiles, as we both strode past, but then he stopped, and said something, and I turned back with a smile, and we stood there, at that spot for twenty minutes talking, in the shivering cold,  nodding at each other in agreement, talking about the thing that we both know is so important. That thing that brings us together, that thing that he and I find so easy to do, but others don’t. That thing that makes or breaks business. That thing that is so important whatever business you’re in. And what is it? It’s called *Communication* with a capital C. And he said sagely that a lot of businesses are going to struggle even more over the next few years, they’re going to lose business, and money. I agreed, I know that that is the case. But, I also know there is some money around, its just finding it.  We parted after our 20 minute chat, and shook hands. We didn’t kiss, since we don’t know each other, infact we only met last week. When he was selling double glazing in the town, handing out flyers on the pavement, and because of his smiling face, and his extrovert manner I stopped to chat with him. I didn’t want double glazing, and maybe I was wasting his time by stopping him trying to sell to someone else, but he was happy to banter with me, and we shook hands as we parted then. And this time? He had remembered I was an artist. He had remembered because he was interested, in me as a person, he had remembered because he likes people, even though I didn’t buy anything from him, and it was over a week later on. He had made the effort, and I was impressed. But, then, that’s what I do too. And that’s why we stopped to chat. Because, that’s how you do business


~And as a post script to this little interlude of me lecturing on making communication, I made conversation in a cold calling phone call this week, to someone who was recommended to me from someone else I met a few weeks ago. And it turns out the first person and I have actually met, this last year, and remembered each other from that meeting. And the reason I was ringing? To offer some artwork to her. And at the moment, she’s interested, and it looks like I can provide her with what she wants. Because I’m offering what she’s looking for. And had taken the trouble to find out. 

More about that later…… 🙂