Not sure how I feel about this

The other day I went to Staples.  Twice.

I went in for one thing, got out to the car and remembered I needed something else. We’ve all done this.

So back into the store I go.  It wasn’t very busy, so I got what I needed very quickly and went back up to the register, seeing the same cashier I had just interacted with not 5 minutes before.  By her smile, I could tell she recognized that I had just been there.

She then said very pleasantly, “You were just in here, weren’t you?”  I replied in the affirmative.  And then she said, “I thought so, I recognized your shirt.”

tshirtNow, I was wearing one of my favorite Life Is Good shirts (pictured) and I can see that it would be memorable.  But I was a little disappointing that she didn’t remember me.

Here’s part of the reason I’m not sure how I feel…

I know that I have used clothes as a visual cue to engage people in conversation.  I know that I have taught and encouraged others to do the same.  My dilemma is that as a consumer, I want to be remembered for being ME, not for my clothing.

So I need your help.  I’m glad that she noticed something to use as a visual cue, but I can’t help remembering how I felt when she said she remembered my shirt instead of me.

What do you think?  Am I being too sensitive or was there a better way to handle this?  Please leave a comment below.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!


I DO know how I feel about customer service, leadership and teamwork.  Click here to learn more.

13 thoughts on “Not sure how I feel about this

  1. I think in terms of grace in situations such as this, Matt. I am grateful that she remembered anything about me, for we know not what else may be on this person’s mind and heart that day.

    As well, from a service perspective, the less desirable scenario would have been that she greeted you again in the exact same manner, robotically, not even recognizing that she had seen you, a real live human being, only a few minutes prior.

    Here’s an additional thought . . . our clothes are part of who we are. Most all of us choose the attire we don every day, and we do so with the intent to send a message. Even more so with you, and the brand you choose to be part of your positive message. If we choose to look at this touchpoint as such, then she did notice you, for she noticed the message you chose to send through your t-shirt!

    • Barry – as always great perspectives and I have to agree with you. I think what caught me completely off guard was the “feeling” I got after the interaction. I wasn’t expecting to be thrown off that she would mention my shirt and not me. But you are right that our clothes are an extension of us, and it’s nice that she didn’t treat me like someone she had never seen before.

  2. She did remember you, you were the nice dude with the cool shirt. I guess that’s as far as relationships can develop when standing at the check-out 😉

    • Very true, Daniel. Especially now that in many retail transactions we are swiping our own credit cards, the associate doesn’t have the chance to see our name and use that in conversation. That’s another tactic to building rapport, but that’s now lost to efficiency.

  3. I interpret the clerk’s comment regarding your shirt as a compliment, and an attempt by her to deliver excellent customer service. We often coach front line staff to pay compliments to guests, particularly children, about an item of clothing or accessory they are wearing. Was the clerk’s exchange perfect? NO. Perfect would have been: “Nice to see you again so soon Mr. Heller! Love your shirt!!!” It was however a start in the right direction and demonstrates a desire on the part of the clerk to make a connection with her customers. We can coach up our staff on the skills, but the desire and willingness to a “people person” comes largely from within.

    • Couldn’t agree more with your assessment of where the desire to provide great service comes from – and that was evident here. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Since we can’t change what happened, I think we have to learn from what happened since how she handled it could obviously be offensive. Although visual cues are extrememly helpful, perhaps we learn from the cashier and change the angle of approach. She could’ve said, “I thought so, love the shirt!” Then she would’ve never indicated she soley remembers you by the shirt. Furthermore, cashier-stranger conversation is so quick, that she could’ve remembered YOU, but she worded her thoughts in such a manner that you were never aware. I agree, the shirt comment was better than no recall whatsoever. Either way, the shirt is spectacular and it’s totally memorable!

    • Thanks, Ashley! Great alternative suggestion on an alternate way to handle this. I think I would have walked away with a totally different feeling from this interaction. Thanks again!

  5. If during your second trip into the store, you saw the same cashier within a few minutes–I’d venture to say the store wasn’t very busy, which would also suggest that there weren’t likely many supervisors around (if any?) or immediately in her vicinity. Which means she likely was attempting honest-to-goodness excellent customer service on her own will.

    • You are right on the money, Reidun, about the condition of the store. In fact, the manager was running the floor scrubber machine in another area of the store at the time (and it’s not the first time I’ve seen that happen). That may be another post for another time! :o)

  6. I think she did remember you. Even though your shirt was the thing that sparked her memory, the positive message on it gave her an impression of who you are. It inspired her to engage you in conversation. I am always amazed when I start a conversation with someone behind a counter and they look at me like I am an alien. It is refreshing when the opposite is true. For example, the man behind the register at Publix last night asked me if I had a good weekend. I said that I had and told him that it was because I had stayed home all day Saturday. He agreed that this was a great thing and he went further to say that we all need time to ourselves. I was delighted that he engaged with me, even though he knew nothing about me. This is rare, I find. I think that there is value in conversations where neither party has anything to gain, but still finds a way to share something. That’s what the lady at Staples did with you, and that is what customer service is all about.

    Great shirt, by the way!

    • Thanks for insight, Michelle! That is a great point about organic conversations with no “agenda”. I usually get a little leery of an employee who is TOO engaging because it feels like they are trying to sell me something – like there is no other reason to talk to me than to raise the transaction amount.

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