Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shelley 1.0 Meet Shelley 2.0

Let me tell you a little story about Shelley version 1.0 and the newly upgraded Shelley 2.0.

Shelley 1.0 Takes a Trip to Borders
The year that I was living in Austin I took almost weekly trips to Borders for new reads. I have a compulsive habit of reading about fifteen books at once and never finishing anything unless it's truly riveting. This means I have a pretty hefty personal library and a well worn Borders rewards card. Anyway, back in the days when I was making my weekly jaunt I would go spend an hour or two perusing the shelves, sitting with a coffee and getting a few pages deep in several books before making my final selections. This was sacred, solitary time for me. Very rarely did I allow anyone to accompany me on these trips. They were "Shelley time." Frequenting as often as I did I got the rotation of the staff down, mastered the Borders computer search engine and realized Borders does a LOT of book drives. Damn, it was like every single week from my estimation.

Here's the thing about these book drives that Shelley 1.0 couldn't handle: the awkward social exchange of having the Borders employee pitch me on whoever the current drive was benefitting, what the logistics were (e.g., "Would you like to purchase a book from our selection up here to be donated to charity XYZ?"), the look on their face as they asked (e.g., some felt nervous asking, others were totally zoned out from having asked people all day long, some weren't selling it at all, barely mumbling through it, etc., etc.)... the whole thing just made me incredibly uncomfortable. Why? Well, I have an incredibly low threshold for embarrassment/uncomfortable situations/potential conflict... you name it, it makes me uneasy. When I try to explain this to people, this is how I put it: "When I was a kid I had to get up and walk out of the room when Zack and Kelly would kiss on Saved By The Bell because it made me so uncomfortable." I haven't come very far. Everything makes me uncomforable - romantic comedies, awkward hugs, spotty eye contact, watching a first date from across the bar/restaurant, sensing a conflict coming on, someone tripping on the sidewalk... I basically live in a constant state of either being embarrassed myself, embarrassed for someone else or preparing for it to happen at any given moment.

All that being said, when I got to the checkout counter I just wanted to run away. Literally, I think a few times I debated just leaving without buying anything because the anticipated exchange was more than I wanted to deal with (I understand how nuerotic this all makes me sound). But like so many of my other posts, what I'm realizing is that I just didn't want to be bothered and interact with other people and for whatever reason, I couldn't get over my weird hang up of an awkward situation. I would feel pressured to just buy the damn book for whatever the charity was, even if I really didn't have any business spending $10 extra bucks or I would go in to bitch mode. I would avoid eye contact, act too busy and decline the offer before they could even get their spiel out.

This second reaction is the one I hate even more. You know how hard it is for a regular person to pitch someone else on a random product to a random charity they probably don't truly care about? Well, from a girl who worked selling bath products for ten years at Bath & Body Works and trying to "add on" to every sale, let me tell you, it's rough. It's even more rough when someone acts like Shelley 1.0 and doesn't make eye contact with you and dismisses you before you can even say what you've been rehearsing.

Cut to...
Shelley 2.0 Takes a Trip to the Grocery Store
On an early a.m. trip to the grocery store today to pick up some ingredients for dinner I encountered the Borders book drive scenario but this time, it was Giant Eagle grocery store and Hunger for Harvest was the charity du jour. Here's where the truly amazing part happened, as I stood in line putting my items on the conveyor belt and listening to the check out clerk talk to the guy in front of me I heard her give him the spiel: "Would you like to donate to Harvest for Hunger today?" This old dude did not even look nor respond to the check out lady. I assume she must get this a lot because she rolled with it, didn't pester him, finished up the transaction and moved on. Now it was my turn... what would I do?

My usual M.O. is to get weird and uncomfortable. Not this time folks! I made eye contact the whole time, I made small talk (!?) and I smiled :) Guess what else? As we were engrossed in conversation she began wrapping up my transacation and I started to feel a little panicked, wasn't she going to ask me if I wanted to donate to Harvest for Hunger? I was ready, I can do this, come on ask me! I lingered for a minute before pulling my debit card out and lo' and behold she went in to the spiel. Though this time she delievered it with a lot more sales umph and energy given the friendly conversation we had going. I maintained eye contact the whole time, nodded and enthusiastically said "You bet, I'd be happy to." It was that easy, I gave $5 and I got a cookbook of recipes from Giant Eagle employees across the country who had compiled their favorite recipes as a thank you to customers that donated. Not only did I change my 'tude, I did some good and I got one of my favorite things in return: a cookbook. What a win, win, win!

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