It’s been a long time coming.
After my wife and I married, we hadn’t the funds for the all-inclusive, drinks-on-the-beach honeymoon we had hoped for. After admitting to having no honeymoon plans, on repeat, to everyone congratulating us on our recent nuptials, a pattern emerged. In place of a tropical beach vacation, our friends recommended we take a weekend trip to Saugatuck, Michigan.
They described Saugatuck as an oasis in our midwestern desert: cute shops, fine dining, and stunning views of Lake Michigan. If only we heeded their advice, but Saugatuck, too, found itself outside our paltry millennial budgets.
Instead, we found ourselves in Sheboygan, Wisconsin – the Coke Zero of cute midwestern getaways. But fate smiles on the patient. This past weekend, and one year later, we turned our Sauga-dreams into Sauga-reality. We rented a house along Paw Paw Lake, a mere 1-hour drive from our anticipated destination.
When we finally reached our beaming city of certain joy and over-priced cherry preserves, we were, oddly, met with some conspicuous sass.
When we arrived in Saugatuck in the late afternoon, we were famished, starving, and generally suffering from insufficient bodily nutrients. We had to eat.
The cutest and nearest place was on the corner, or at least that’s where Google Maps thought it was. Arriving at the footsteps of a converted home-turned-restaurant, a homesteraunt, we soon uncovered two conflicting bits of news:
A sign reading ‘closed’ rested against the window and faced the street in clear view of all passersby.
Inside, people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and migration patterns nibbled away happily at the bar, on canvas loveseats, and along the adjacent window, looking out at the peasantry as they passed by
Since both my wife and I subscribe to literacy as a concept and as a general practice, the sign indicated to us a shared understanding of reality: the establishment on whose footsteps we found ourselves was, in fact, inaccessible.
In most cases, such data, and none other, is sufficient to bring a malnourished married couple to one conclusion: find another place to eat. Ah, but that is where the second piece of news makes its dramatic entrance, stage right.
The very presence of people dining inside the establishment directly conflicted with our initial findings. How can an establishment both be inaccessible and yet serve so many?
As we were both of sound minds yet hungry stomachs, our mutually-shared interpretation of these conflicting observations was, thus, please be open; we are starving*.
Now, if the word ‘closed’ held any meaning in this reality, the door to this establishment would give not one inch to our feasting advances; but alas, it swung open. We entered.
As we attempted to attract the attention of a hostess, we met the side-eyed glances of a mob in the making. The disparate patrons scrutinized us as one does broccoli lodged firmly in the crown of a triple-Oreo milkshake.
The manager approached. By the looks of him, he is a put-together gay man in his early 50s. “Sorry, we’re closed.” Time stood still long enough for Larry David to jot down a few notes.
Closed? We hardly made out the word over the sound of people crunching, sipping, and carving initials onto their place settings.
Rather than use his next breath for popping the bubble of cognitive dissonance in which we now found ourselves trapped, he informed us, “we open at 5.” Sure you do, and I bet you go inside-out when the moon strikes Neptune.
As we hangrily hunted down our next meal, Simona pointed out that if a business owner reaches the point of frustration after repeatedly turning customers away despite the presence of a ‘closed’ sign, perhaps the customer isn’t the problem.
The short business moral to this long personal story is this: assume your customer is reasonably intelligent but somewhat irrational. A ‘closed’ sign is sufficient for a cold, calculating machine. To a person well motivated by their hunger or desire for your product, the presence of any conflicting information may result in further curiosity and, as a consequence, wasted time and avoidable mistakes.
Your customer does not like to be wrong, does not wish to be misled, and does not enjoy being blamed for the confusion you caused. Put up the ‘closed’ sign, lock the door, draw the blinds, and lose the attitude.