Ever had an interaction with someone that left you second-guessing the message they were sending you, and wondering if you read them correctly?
Let me tell you a story.
I live ’round the corner from what’s considered a well-to-do neighbourhood in mid-town Toronto.
Every week, I walk 15 minutes to the grocery store. The street it’s on is lined with all sorts of small shops and restaurants, and just down the street from the grocery store is this one bakery.
I have a sweet tooth, and for months, I’d been tempted to go in on a number of occasions. A friend of mine had been telling me that their cookies and breads were delicious. But I never really went in there. For whatever reason, I got this impression that I wouldn’t be welcome.
Yes, I was thinking this (in 2015).
One afternoon last summer, I needed a pie or small cake to bring to a friend’s potluck. I took a chance and went to The Bakery.
I walked in, approached the glass case and scanned the various baked goods on display. About a minute later, a salesclerk – maybe in her late teens or early 20s – asked if she could help, and I explained what I was looking for.
She said she’d find out and asked me to wait. A couple of minutes later, another woman – I’m guessing she was either the owner or manager (I’ll just say manager) – emerged from the back room.
“Hi there, did you need something?” she said (or something to that effect). She was professional, but I didn’t find her overly warm. Whatever. It’s a business.
We had an exchange, and I chose a lemon-cranberry loaf. As she returned to the back room, she turned up the music and disappeared.
The gesture was pretty innocuous. But for some reason, I got a really strange vibe from that. I shook it off.
The next time I went to The Bakery, it was with the friend who’d been raving about it. We each bought two cookies, dealing only with the cashier.
The following week (now hooked on the sugary treats), I dropped in after grocery shopping, bought some chocolate chip cookies and left. Again, no problem.
A week or two later, I was back, ready to treat myself again.
I scanned the cookies behind the glass and mentioned to the salesclerk that there didn’t seem to be any chocolate chip cookies currently stocked.
While deciding on other options, the manager appeared.
(It’s been a few months, so the following conversation isn’t precise, but here’s the gist:)
“Can I help?” she said, standing just behind her cashier.
“Oh, just looking at your cookies,” I replied. “I hear you’re out of the chocolate chip ones, which are my favourite.”
“They’re pretty popular,” she said.
She waited a beat, then added, “I can give you our recipe, so you can make them whenever you want.”
“Ummm … ” I said, just as a little bell went off in my mind. “… No, thanks, that’s okay.” I quickly selected a couple of cookies, paid for them and promptly left.
Oh, she was just trying to be nice, you’re probably thinking. You were probably overreacting.
But here’s what I was thought at that precise moment:
(1) This was my fourth visit to the bakery. Ever.
(2) I’d only ever seen this woman twice. Any interaction she’s had with me (including this one) has been civil and perfunctory, but not exactly cordial.
(3) I’d been buying this bakery’s baked goods because I didn’t have time to make my own.
(4) If I had time to make cookies, know what’s a great resource for finding free cookie recipes? Google.
If I’d been visiting this place regularly and had established a friendly rapport with the staff (which I’ve done elsewhere), I’d see what she did as being a nice gesture. And it’s completely possible that what she did was, in her mind, some kind of good business/customer service move.
But I know which neighbourhood this is. And I think a handful of people will understand the distinct feeling I’m describing.
Since that visit, I still walk to the grocery store, go to the bank, occasionally stop by the butcher and the Dollarama.
Just not The Bakery.
It’s entirely possible that I mis-read what happened. And if I did read the situation correctly, I could’ve kept going there and not cared.
But I’d prefer giving my business and hard-earned money to someone who actually wants it.