People who work in interface make some of the dumbest mistakes possible. This goes for anyone from customer service to high-profile public relations. Here’s an example. t’s a cautionary tale for anyone in any kind of public interface.
A couple of years ago, when I had just recieved my first upward-movement in the company I still work for, I had the honour of working with one of the company’s most experienced managers. The number of stories he had accumulated over the years was intense, his knowledge was phenomenal. In the midst of the christmas season, he told me about a time many years ago back when personal computers still required leases because they were that expensive.
Apparently, he had a customer ask if we sold tape backups for computer (we did), and this manager said so. Well, customer says another chain has the tape backup units we sold for half price, but were sold out. Naturally, this manager says, when I have none of them, they’re half price as well.
The point of this being that, if you’re out of stock it doesn’t matter what price the item sells for – you haven’t got it!
How times have changed. Armed with this wonderful, hilarious story, I returned to work – and within two days, had a customer ask me the exact same question:
Customer: “Store X has these for half price but is out.”
Me: “Well, when I’m sold out they’re half price as well.”
Customer: “Really!? Can I pre-order one, then? Because I’ll wait for it to ship!”
My only response was backpeddling, proving I had made a grave error. In the twenty years since that original story, public attitude and knowledge has changed. And as witty as the response was, it had ceased to be appropriate, in part because people are better educated, and in part because our cultural norm no longer accepts straight-faced sarcasm in the same way. I had responded in a way that’s foreign to the person I was speaking to. I had failed to recognize my audience.
This is a major stumbling point for anyone communicating with anyone else. Sometimes jokes work. Sometimes they fail. When they fail, it’s usually because there’s no common frame of reference for the two parties to be working on – and when this happens, the bigger the audience, the bigger the fool you look like.
I’m sure other people out there have been on both sides of this sometimes-sad, often-funny coin.I’m sure the world would love to hear some other examples, so we can all avoid this kind of thing in the future.