I’m on vacation on Long Island, staying at a Marriott.
I went down to the lobby this morning to order breakfast, greeting the lady at the counter with a smile and saying, “I’d like to order the two-egg omelet. I understand it comes with potatoes or tomatoes. I wonder if I can just get a little bit of both? You know, like half and half?”
She answered, “No.” Just the word “no,” without any other explanation.
“Well,” I continued, “what if I ordered it with potatoes, then added tomatoes and you charged me extra?”
“No,” her eyes fixed upon the ordering console.
At this point, maintaining my smile and a nice tone, I replied, “Actually the answer should be ‘Yes.'”
“I can’t do that,” she interrupted.
I said, “I’m trying to help you. When we’re working with customers, the answer should be, ‘Yes, AND there will be an extra charge for that.'”
She thought for a moment and then said that she would give me a little bit of tomatoes and a little bit of potatoes. She walked a few paces away and told the chef and came back, all of 10 seconds. Ten minutes later, I received a two-egg omelet with potatoes and tomatoes, no upcharge.
I’m not telling this story to boast about my persuasion skills but because I think I helped this woman understand how to better help people. And I didn’t impart this lesson from some position of “privilege,” I learned it, myself, during my own years of retail, unloading trucks and jockeying warehouse pallets so I could later stock the shelves and help some older guy find the Pepsodent in aisle 3. Or, if the shelf was depleted, bring some up from the basement warehouse, eliciting his grateful, Pepsodent smile.
Business and life, itself, are about service, about how to get to “Yes.” Unless I’m being asked to violate my conscience or something is objectively undoable, I need a reason not to say “Yes.”
Bonus lesson: We must listen to others and remember that everything in life is negotiable.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
When you encounter the stone walls of the confirmed unwilling, that’s when you, while maintaining your smile, walk away. (“Where there’s a will, gentlemen, there’s a way.”) There are greener pastures to be had, filled with thoughtful souls and the musical sound of “Yes,” just over the rise.
Anthony Rotolo grew up watching American Egg Board commercials for “The Incredible, Edible Egg” and “This is Your Brain on Drugs” PSAs. He takes his eggs almost any way they’re offered.