The Toronto Star has an article by a crank like me.
What do they teach them at those high-priced management schools? I think I caught an unexpected glimpse of lessons learned and missed.I'm completely in sync with the screamer. The only difference is that I know I'm not in a library.
It was a Tuesday afternoon at an upscale coffee shop. A handful of lefties were discreeetly sipping lattes, some reading newspapers and others Noam Chomsky.
One conversation shattered these subtle sounds. Two representatives of the coffee shop chain were having a meeting with an assistant manager of one of the other locations. I know that, because like the rest of the customers, I could hear every word.
The meeting took a good 20 minutes. Moments later, the woman's cellphone rang. Her phone voice, like her personnel conference voice, carried from one end of the cafe to the other.
Finally, two tables away, a middle-aged customer had had enough. She had been trying hard to read her paper, but the large, red earplugs she wore weren't doing the trick. She got up and headed for her unsuspecting victim. "Yo, bitch! Can you keep your voice down?" she yelled, right in the Bizwom's face. "I'm trying to read!"
Instead of shutting off her phone and high-tailing it to avoid embarrassment, Bizwom acknowledged the complaint with a nod, lowered her tone and continued her conversation.
A few minutes later, she finished her call and went over to the customer.
"I'm very sorry, I didn't realize I was disturbing you. I apologize," she said. "I appreciate the feedback. I'll put it in my report." She seemed very sincere. Her apology was accepted. The tension seeped out of the rest of us and life at the coffee shop was back to normal.
It's possible that Bizwom responded calmly out of a natural sense of how to best handle difficult situations. But fielding customer complaints on a daily basis probably didn't hurt any inherent affinity for personal crisis management.
Most people, myself included, would have lashed out at the stupid old shrew or run away humiliated. Amazingly, this bizwom handled a public dressing down with confidence and grace. I was in awe. Maybe, I thought, business training manuals have much to teach us about interpersonal relations.
At the same time, the personnel meeting left a bad taste in my mouth. Twenty minutes of legitimized tattling, conducted in public. Was this professional? Bizwom had shown her expertise in customer service. But she skipped the chapter on respect for human resources.
I go to Starbucks every morning and I make sure I'm early enough to avoid the recruiters who bring their candidates there for interviews at the top of their lungs. But, even so I'm still not happy because, to be frank, I can't stand the music.
It's very good. But they play the same things over and over and over again. And, at "my" Starbucks, the music is particularly loud. Which is good when there are other people talking whom you don't want to hear. But when I'm alone it's so noisy I can't hear myself think.
And, I'm not alone. Toronto recently banned smoking from bars. And, here's what's next.