June 28, 1996
Here, Every Day Is.
I never thought the retail business would be like this. Actually, other than having a couple of lemonade stands when I was a kid, I had no idea what retail would be like. All the retail people I remember from New York City had an attitude and I thought I'd assume one too. Fortunately, I haven't.
Now, by saying "showtime", I don't mean put-up, phony or anything of that order. (Certainly not the Bob Fosse character in the 80s musical and film, All That Jazz!, played by Roy Schieder. He truly was a phony who got caught up in too much shit and died.) Rather, I mean a cheerful attitude and a helpful manner for each customer who needs assistance with their problems. Regardless.
Regardless of what's going on in my life, how I feel, what pressing business situations are pending for the day, I must be what I'm expected to be by each visitor: their saviour to any and all gardening problems that plague them.
The same is true when I visit a home or business for a landscape evaluation; I'm in the spotlight again and expected to perform. Usually, I exceed all their expectations since I give an extremely thorough review of the property and it's plant material. It's often to their complete amazement, since what I find is quite
contrary to what the so-called landscapers told the owners when they installed it originally.
I don't like dealing with other peoples' mistakes; I prefer a "clean sheet of paper", a new home with no "baggage" or errors from other people. That's not usually the case; I almost always have to deal with the mistakes of the past, the prejudices of the present and fears of the future.
It's my job and I enjoy it immensely. After encountering so many varied situations which have stymied gardeners and having found workable solutions in almost every case, I don't have a problem listening to and solving peoples' problems. Experience, common sense and a little creativity go a long way.
Every morning on the way to work in my Jeep, I mentally rehearse the day's schedule of events, knowing full well that unexpected interruptions always occur and make a mess out of a perfect day. As I sit in the office working at the computer, I hear a knock, another customer comes in and the cycle begins anew. No pressure... Showtime.
In The Nursery.
I have several pieces of equipment from the John Deere Co. for use around the nursery and on landscape
jobs: a J-D 675B 4wd SkidLoader with lifting forks, front-end bucket and backhoe attachments, and a J-D 955 4wd tractor with front-end bucket and several other attachments. These two machines have saved many hours work and countless peoples' backs doing the hard, heavy lifting. I'd never be where I'm at without them.
When working outside with some of the landscape crews, or with one of the guys who comes in on Saturday and Sunday to help, or even by myself, customers walk right over behind working machinery and stand watching until I almost back over them. I politely remind them to stay clear when any type of machinery is involved. Still, they want my undivided attention and it seems the only way for them to get it, when I'm completely focused on a project, is to get right in my face. So, I have to shut things down and presto, it's Showtime again. Usually, the matter can be handled quickly, a sale is made and the customer goes home satisfied that s/he has gotten the best advice and plant material available anywhere. Just as I start to re-mount the equipment, more customers begin wandering my way for assistance.
I wish there was another way to handle this situation, without backing over someone; it's a real mess to clean up. J-u-u-u-u-st kidding....
At Home, Too.
Even at home, I'm not safe from people who want advice and help. My answering machine's tape reel is full (35 max) of calls from various people. Every night. I don't want to get a unlisted number, but it looks like that's becoming less of an option and more of a reality. Neighbors come by regularly to ask questions and get help on a project they've started but can't quite seem to finish. Or ask for recommendations for plant material. Or need some design help. After a 15-18 hour day at the Garden Center, the last thing I want to do is play in the dirt again. But I do help them get through the situation and they're appreciative. Then I go inside and collapse from the complete exhaustion that these long days bring on. No energy left even for a cold beer anymore. Sleep is my best friend.
I like to visit other garden centers and nurseries, "incognito" if I can. The problem is that I'm too well known in the area, and that silly Steve Martin eyebrows & glasses disguise just doesn't work anymore. People know me wherever I go. The other garden centers' personnel seem to follow me around after I arrive; they think I'm snooping on prices or looking for some confidential information that will hurt their business somehow. Not so. I just like to look for plant material that I might not have in my own repertoire. Very doubtful I'd find it amongst the places in York, though.
But there are a few cool places in Maryland that openly welcome me and aren't paranoid like the ones in Pennsylvania. Occasionally I do find some real gems among their plant material selection. They know my reputation through my newspaper ads and word-of-mouth from their customers. I feel at ease there and everyone is very friendly. I also like to watch their version of Showtime. It's very enlightening.
On The Web.
More and more, the customers coming through my Garden Center & Nursery have heard about our WebSite. They all ask for a tour on my computer: bingo, and it's Showtime again. I really am amazed at how many people are hooked-up to The InterNet these days in some way or another. Most are on-line at work, many are also connected at home. But it's usually the aol-prodigy-compuserve shit services and their weak text-only browsers and not a true ISP connection. Well, at least I can show them the right way.
I make a lot of trips into the office where my 586 Pentium PC lives to show people the WebSite; it's about a 15-20 minute tour of all the pages. Since I've added additional pages with color pictures, it can be a long tour if they wish to view all that's available on the site. With the new P-150 Mhz processor chip, 64 Meg RAM and a 28.8bps modem, it goes quickly. How did I ever get by with that not-so-old, but-very-painfully-slow 386?
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