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Hurricane Isabel and a Local Hero
by Darlene Pineda


I ventured to the supermarket in a valiant effort to buy batteries and water, along with several hundred other people. Usually items like that are easy to find, but with Isabelle hovering off the coastline, people are getting worried. After all, 100 mph winds are strong winds, no matter how hurricane-proof your house might be!

Every single supermarket, gas station, and dollar store is out of batteries. When people who are driving spot a water truck, they follow it and start calling their friends with the info. I couldn't even find a regular can opener to use when the power goes out and the fancy electric one on my counter becomes useless.

As I walk through my house, trying to put away things that are valuable, I'm forced to really examine my life - as defined by my things - and decide just what is important? Insurance papers, birth certificates, mortgage documents, my veterinary papers for my pets. Medicines, toothbrush, photo albums that can't be replaced, (I always planned to put them on disc, why didn't I when I had the time?). Oh, food and water! And of course, my cats and my puppy. But now I don't have room for the photo albums … And then I find myself thinking, "How many pairs of shoes can I wrap in plastic?" "Can I shrink-wrap my bookcases, just in case?"

And in the midst of this, during my semi-futile trip to the grocery store, (Where I scored 7 gallons of water but no batteries), I had a shining customer service moment. When a tired and beleaguered employee, who had been unpacking and shelving gallons of water for the past 5 hours, who was thinking about his own house and his own family and what he needed to do to protect them - this employee, who still had a smile when asked for 1,536th time if there were any batteries left, and if any more water was coming, and who was calm and managed to re-direct people to every alternative, "Try buying Gatorade to supplement your water supply, and here are some radios that run on AA batteries, which are the only ones we have left." And when I asked about the ever elusive can-opener, he shook his head no, then calmly showed me how to use a pointy bottle opener to get the can open. "It takes a little longer," he said, "and it doesn't look pretty. But it'll be opened, and that's the important thing, after all."

This is an employee who, in the midst of chaos, CHOOSES to stay focused. He had decided to BE THERE, in the moment, and he certainly made my day. He was SINCERE, and FRIENDLY, and absolutely KNOWLEDGEABLE. He was a superstar and our hero!

So I decided that the shoes and the books and even the photo albums could take care of themselves. Because I had my loved ones and my water and my pointy bottle opener that a caring supermarket employee showed me how to use to open my cans of food. And those are the important things, after all.

So, what do YOUR customers say about YOU?


The Author


Darlene Pineda is a contributing editor of The CEO Refresher, Vice President Operations at High Performance Retail, co-editor of 1001 Ways to WOW Your Customers! customer service specialist and breakthrough trainer! Contact Darlene by e-mail: .

Many more articles in High Performance Retail in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2004 by Darlene Pineda. All rights reserved.

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