Chili And The Art Of Effective Communication

It isn’t easy to find a good bowl of chili. Most of the canned stuff really sucks. Trader Joe’s had some really good canned chili, but they’ve stopped selling it. A market near us, Klein’s Shoprite, has really, really good chili. It’s part of their soup bar. I’m pretty sure they make it from scratch.

I’ve had it several times, and decided to do something I’ve never done in any supermarket. I decided to tell the people at the customer service desk just how good their store’s chili is. I was going to pay a compliment. This is where it gets a little weird.

I should have known better, right? “No good deed” and all that, but I went for it anyway. “I know you guys probably aren’t used to being complimented, but I wanted to tell you how good your chili is,” I said. The young man behind the counter just stared at me. He either couldn’t comprehend what I was saying, or he might have been in shock at being complimented. Most likely, though, he was reeling in fear at the thought of having to engage with a customer in a spoken conversation employing compound sentences. I’ve experienced this before. They can text, but they can’t talk. I think it might be problem approaching crisis proportions here in the States and maybe internationally, as well.

Since he couldn’t comprehend my first words, I repeated everything I had said in as simple a fashion as possible. “I really like the chili this store sells. It is very good chili, and I wanted to let the store know,” I said. He just stared. “You might want to pass this along to someone? That a customer was complimenting the store’s chili?” Finally, he seemed to understand. “Oh yeah,….sure. I’ll let them know,” he said, still somewhat dazed bu seemingly coming around as I headed for the door, eager to extricate myself from another failed attempt at communicating with a young person.

I shouldn’t have done it, but I did. Complimenting, I mean. I won’t do it again. Except via email to the store’s headquarters, which they’re set up for. So much of the current retail experience seems set up to do all they can to protect their employees from being forced to think, whether it’s simple math or communicating with the spoken word. But I will keep buying their chili.

3 thoughts on “Chili And The Art Of Effective Communication”

  1. I learned recently that corporate America ( far more sophisticated than our local ShopRite) has bureaucratized the compliment process.
    Wanted to give kudos to a Disney employee ( excuse me, “cast member”). She told me, “it doesn’t count unless you do it on the app.” I did it, on the app. Took 90 seconds or more. PITA
    On the good side, guess it’s part of her “permanent record “ now.

  2. You’re lucky you didn’t have one of them make change for you. Although modern cash registers actually compute the change back for cashiers in a transaction, the registers often don’t do it if you ask for change. To see an employee struggle with simple arithmetic is heart-wrenching. Most often, they’ll either refuse to do it (because they can’t) or they’ll overpay you, in which case you give them the overpayment back, which confuses the cashier even more. I just go in and out as quickly as possible now, to avoid these scenes.

    1. There are computers for all intents and purposes. I try to work hard at communications as we all do. It just takes time. And it’s worth it. Some parents don’t work on the issues you see in kids. They need to prioritize developing communications skills. Many do.

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