“Hey Bill….” – calling them by name

Some of my customers think I’m good at remembering names, because I call them by theirs.  They could not be further from the truth.  I remember some customers’ names because I dearly want to, because some people make a tremendous impression on me, because I keep a little spiral notebook where I write down people’s names, a little description of them (“Suzie, 45ish, 5’8″, athletic, shoulder length brown hair”) and any particular topic we talked about (“studying acupuncture”).  I also review this notebook periodically.

Names mean a lot. It's worth the effort to learn your regulars - and worth the downside, not remembering.

Names mean a lot. It’s worth the effort to learn your regulars – and worth the downside, not remembering.

Some people make a particular impression on me because of how fully they show up – they are really there, are ready and willing to genuinely connect with the grocery store cashier.  This also requires me to show up – and I do so more when I’m up than when I’m down.  Some people I also know from the dance community, from Jubilee (the funky non-church I attend), from my two years working at Greenlife, or from some other connection in this small town.

I dearly want to remember their names.  I can see that people love it when you remember their name.  No single act goes further to transform this interaction to a meaningful 1-1 connection. And that’s what I most want – to, in some interactions and relationships, go beyond a purely functional transaction.

Most cashiers do not attempt to learn people’s names – for good reason.  It’s not just that it’s hard mental work – there’s a lot of potential downsides.  I fail to remember their names – even after they saw me write them down.  I forget names – people who I got with no trouble last time, this time I can’t for the life of me pull their name up.  Sometimes it seems that for every name I learn, another one falls out.  Worse still, some people come through who remember a significant conversation we had last time – and all I know is that they look somehow familiar.

I need to cut myself some slack. I have taken on a very public job.  The repetitive nature of the work can be mind-numbing.  I am aiming high.  On a good day, I truly love my customers.  On a depressed day, I want to love my customers – and some interactions still touch my heart.

Is it unrealistic to love your grocery store customers?  Why else would you be there?

Is it unrealistic to love your grocery store customers? Why else would you be there?

Many of my customers really like me – and some get irritated or avoid my line because I am slow.  We have, overall, world-class customers – really interesting, warm, patient, sweet people.  And I show up best when I start by liking myself.

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2 thoughts on ““Hey Bill….” – calling them by name

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