We all know that basic PR starts at the ground level.
I had picked up a couple packs of pipe cleaners in Michaels and joined a long line of customers at the one open register.
Finally a heavy set lady — a big-boned, bouncer built woman with a bulldog face — opened a second register and sat down. She was the kind of person you see behind desks in the Department of Transportation and prisons. A mere glance and you know you don’t want to mess around with her. Her name was Ida.
A woman appeared at the counter and Ida rang her up.
As I said, it was a long line. I didn’t see anyone else making a move so I slowly made my way over to her counter.
As if she didn’t see me, Ida turned to a family in the line: “You can come over here.”
I stood there, puzzled. She looked up. “They’re next,” she said. The young husband and wife looked at me. “Go ahead, you were here,” the man said. They had two kids and a pile of goods to pay for.
I said that was okay. I was not about to take on Ida.
They paid for their stuff and headed out. I could have said, “Ida, technically I was here first and you should have taken me,” but life is short and I only had two packs of pipe cleaners.
Ida leaned forward and looked up at me with that strong, square face and small eyes. “Sorry about that. I made a mistake.”
“No problem,” I said, relieved that this would have a peaceful conclusion.
She rang up my pipe cleaners, pulled out a paper and scanned it. “I just gave you a coupon for 40% off,” she whispered.
“Thank you,” I said, genuinely surprised.
“And here’s another for 20% off next time you come in.”
“You’re too good to me.”
She gave me a hint of a smile. “You have a nice day.”
What started out badly took a turn when Ida realized her mistake. She not only apologized but tossed in a couple sweeteners. She was the essence of quick-thinking PR. I’m sure she doesn’t know anything about “PR” but she is honest, real, and understands people.
I hope her manager understands the value of front line people like Ida.