Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What’d I Say? What’d I Say?

I remember the first sales job I ever had back in the 1990s. I was so green. One day a customer inquired about a TV that was on backorder. I called the warehouse to check when it would arrive. The answer I got was a week or more. I turned towards the customer and repeated the answer verbatim. Delighted the customer proceeded to place the order. Two weeks later when the set had still not arrived, the customer was quite annoyed and proceeded to give me a piece of his mind. My manager also had some choice words for me.

I had committed the ultimate faux pas by relying on “exact” information and expecting the customer to listen to my entire statement. But, as my manager told me, “The moment you opened your mouth and told him a week, he stopped listening to anything you said after that. You could’ve said a week to a year, and as far as he was concerned it was a week.”

And that’s because people hear what they want to hear and ignore everything else. It’s called selective hearing and it can ruin your day, whether it’s the floor of a retail store or a political column. For well over two years now I have been steadfast in my assault on right-wing politics in this country, gone out of my way to lambast the Republicans for being the Party of No, and even decried my own party’s ineptness when it came to standing up for its principles and constructing a narrative to sell its agenda to the American people. And yet what is it that I now find myself needing to clarify and defend most? Not my disdain for the Right, but my criticism of the Left.

Yep, that be right. I have screamed bloody murder for the tactics of the Limbaughs, et al, ripped Bush and the entire GOP to shreds, but because I had the audacity to speak critically of my dear brethren and take them to task for what I clearly see as their inability to see the forest for the trees, all the good works before have somehow been cast aside and rendered irrelevant.

Hmmm. Me thinks there is something rotten afoot. Like that moment on the sales floor fifteen years ago, it seems my audience doth suffer from an acute case of selective hearing, and like Yogi Berra before me I am experiencing a case of déjà vu all over again.

Funny isn’t it. You never know how your words are going to be received. One moment you’re a hero sounding the call to arms, the next you’re Benedict Arnold. So I guess the moral of the story is the next time I find myself talking to a customer who wants to know when an item will be in stock, I could simply say, “I’ll call you when I hear something definitive.” Or I could just say, “Look, it’s on backorder. When it’s in, it’s in. Grow up for Pete’s sake!”

Ooh, I probably shouldn’t a said that. Oops, I did it again!

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