Miffed, the customer shook his head in disgust as he continued to load his can goods and cereal boxes in the checkout lane. Then he got mad and glared at the cashier in exasperation.
The cashier had just informed the customer of the grocery store’s policy: one package of toilet paper per customer during the Coronavirus crisis.
The customer was determined to thwart the store’s policy. He passed the second package of toilet paper to his 6-year-old daughter at the end of the lane and told her to start walking down to the self-serve checkout area. The customer ignored the cashier’s protest.
The irate customer paid for his groceries including one package of toilet paper. And then he hightailed it down to the self serve checkout. The cashier notified the manager. And the manager confronted the customer standing in line at the self-serve checkout with a second package of toilet paper.
If you were the store manager in this situation, how would you have enforced the company’s one-to-a-customer policy?
Do you intervene commando style, grabbing the pilfered product and making sure the offending customer gets the message with your authoritative voice and demanding demeanor?
Or do you hop on your guilt-ridden horse and try to embarrass the offending customer into submission?
Or do you intervene with a softer collegial style that tries to reason with the offending customer with your pleading, puppy-dog eyes?
Or do you do something completely different like this manager did with her rigid body language, stiff neck and an even a stiffer spine?
The manager’s stern, beady eyes projected a hard-nosed, bull-headed posture that seemed to defy her 5-foot-2-inch stature.
She stood an-arm’s length away from him, virtually in his face. And stared UP at him for longer than the 3.3 seconds that research shows creeps people out.
Finally her Medusa-like stare — a stare that could turn others into stone, according to Greek mythology — caught his attention. He looked DOWN to her.
They were locked in a staring contest for what seemed like another creepy 3.3 seconds. Their staring contest seemed to evince the gritty fortitude of attentive soldiers standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Neither would budge. Or blink.
Finally, the manager spoke softly and confidently (although later she admitted that she had to masked her shaking hands and minimize her fear).
“You know I can’t let you have that package on THIS SHOPPING trip.” She stood firm and silent. Her stern eyes seemed like so many daggers digging into his eyes as she counted to herself 1001, 1002, 1003. Finally the offending customer blinked. He said simply: “I know.”
He handed the package of toilet paper to her and left with his dignity still in tact.
And the manager left with her authority recognized. Her stern look had enforced her company’s policy without causing a scene that would make other shoppers feel less than secure and jeopardize future revenues. Her stern eyes –like so many shining stars — had shed some light on the darkest hour of that customer confrontation.
So the next time you are about to get into a shouting match with a customer, defer to your eyes as so many stars to speak for you as the situation darkens, tempers flare and nerves fray.
Be stern —serious, unsmiling, frowning, poker-faced, severe, forbidding, grim, unfriendly, sombre, grave, sober, austere, dour, stony, flinty, steely, unrelenting, unyielding and unforgiving —as the dictionary defines stern. And become a managerial star in your own right. After all, the German word for star is stern.
For more tips on leveraging body language to persuade others, consider purchasing a copy of SPEAKING Like a Leader, the 300-page book now available on Amazon.com.
SPEAKING Like a Leader is part of the Leadership Mints Series that also includes a book on creativity —THINKING Like a Leader , a 296-page book filled with 77 Leadership Mints and a 300-page book on empathy filled with 77 more Leadership Mints-LOVING Like a Leader.
All three books in The Leadership Mints Series are designed for busy leaders seeking to refresh their feeling for leading in 5-minutes or less — the average reading of a Leadership Mint.