Storytime. “I need to buy a bridal charm for my daughter.” The fifty-something chap at the counter was clear about what he needed. “She’s getting married in a month and I need to find a perfect bridal charm.” “Okay,” I said, thinking for a moment. The request was challenging because the customer was blind. Sensing my hesitation, he offered, “Don’t worry, I’ll know it when I feel it, if you’ll let me feel the charms you have that is.” “Give me a couple of minutes,“ I said.
I had a table at the back of the shop where I was pricing new stock. I moved that aside laid out all the bridal charms we had and sat Terry down to do through them. We had introduced ourselves by then.
As he was gently feeling each charm, Terry explained. “My wife died unexpectedly a few months ago and she had her heart set on finding a perfect bridal charm.” After maybe half an hour at the table, Terry had made a decision. He held up a beautifully decorated heart shaped charm. “Perfect,” I said.
A product to us is heartfelt memory to others.
Storytime. Susie put four scrapbooks, a couple of glue sticks, some glitter and a couple of packs of colour markers in front of me at the counter saying “that will keep the terrors busy this weekend.” Susie was a young mum with 4 kids between 6 and 12 years old. She called the kids “the terrors” when she was shopping without them. “What’s the plan?”, I asked. “Iso scrapbooks.” Susie seemed pleased with her answer, but she could tell from the look on my face that I didn’t get it. “Twenty, thirty, forty years from now I want them to have a memory of what these few months this year have been like, so this weekend we’re making scrapbooks.” “What about you and Rob?”, I wondered, before grabbing two more scrapbooks and added them to the pile – “hey, these 2 are on me as long as you bring them all back and show me.”
Scrapbooks leave the shop blank and empty. Soon, they become keepsakes, treasure troves of memories.
Storytime. Vicky was standing near the counter holding a birthday card but looking around. It’s easy to pick a customer who wants something but can’t find it. I looked across at her. “Here’s what it is,” she said. “His nibs has a birthday and he said he wants something for his man cave but I don’t want the usual stubby holders or beer. I want to give him something unexpected.”
Vicky was a regular and we knew ‘his nibs’, Mack. We knew Mack loved his country music. “I bet he’s a Shania Twain fan,” I said. “He loves Shania,” Vicky was excited.
I found a Shania Twain Pop! Vinyl figurine and handed it to Vicky. “This is perfect. Shania Twain in the man cave. I knew you’d have something”. The smile on Vicky’s face said it all.
It made our day. The gifts that mean the most can be the ones that most surprise.
Storytime. We got a lesson in being a prankster a few months ago by Shirley, a 92-year-old who visited every Thursday before the lockdown, when the nursing home bus came into town. Shirley loved giving birthday cards. This day, she put a 18th birthday card at the counter. “I need your help with a prank,” Shirley smiled cheekily. “My great great grandson Tom is a prankster. He’s turning 18 and I always give $100 for their 18th.” I was intrigued. “Okay.” Shirley took out a pen and wrote on the card and put a $100 note carefully in the middle. “Now,” Shirley said, “I hope I can borrow some double-sided tape from you.” I gave Shirley the tape and watched as she proceed to stick the card together, from the inside, carefully using the double-sided tape. Then, she stuck double sided tape on the border of the back of the card before carefully putting it in the envelope, ensuring it was well stuck. Shirley beamed at what she had done.
Who knew that sometimes a birthday card was a perfect prop for an awesome prank on a great great grandson! Customers teach us the most wonderful things.
Storytime. “Have you got a large financial year diary left by any chance?” The question itself would be unsurprising except that it was already late April and we were two months from the start of the new financial year. He saw the consternation in my face. “It doesn’t have to be large, but I’d prefer it if possible.”
After looking in the bottom shelves that we keep meaning to tidy up I found a large financial year diary and handed it to the sixty-something customer. He flicked through it, drew it to his chest and smiled in relief.
After he paid and started to leave, he came back to the counter, holding up the diary. “It’s going to be the guest book for my dad’s memorial.” “I’m so sorry,” I said. “It’s okay. He was 91 and ready. He was an accountant, a good accountant, and we, the family, wanted to acknowledge that at the memorial, so I figured this diary would be a nice touch, and a keepsake for us.”
As he left, I stood there once again surprised at how little we know about how people use what we sell.
Storytime. “She’s so sad,” twenty-something Mick said, “I want to give her something, but I don’t know what.” Mick is a local tradie and regular in the shop. His mum’s mum had passed away a few weeks earlier. “I want to give her something, so she knows I care but not over the top like.” “How about a candle?,” I said. “A candle?” Mick seemed unsure. “Yeah. We have these Aussie made candles. They last for ages. The scent is fresh and calm, like the bush. Maybe your mum could light it each night in memory.”
Mick bought the candle. A couple of weeks later he told us how much it meant to his mum to light the candle each night. “Thanks,” he said with a smile.
Some days, it’s not what we sell but the stories we hear that bring us the most joy.
Storytime. Joe is 89 years old. He lives in a nursing home. When he moved there, he was limited as to what he could bring. The old shoebox with the collection of cards he’d received was the first thing he chose.
In that box are cards from his time as a local community Aussie rules coach. Parents and players had written cards over the years and Joe had kept them. “Each card is a memory”, he says with a smile, looking through his collection.
The oldest card Joe has is from 40 years ago from a player grateful for Joe’s help. Here it is so many years on, making Joe’s day.
Greeting cards hold the most wonderful memories.
Storytime. A guy in his mid 70s put eight different purple pens and markers on the counter. “Someone likes purple,” I said with a smile in my usual, somewhat cliché, small talk at the counter way. His lip quivered, a tear formed. I felt a chill. He faintly smiled. “They’re for my wife,” he spoke slowly and softly, “she has dementia. Purple was, is, her favourite colour. I want to give her things she might remember.”
I opened a pack of purple tissue paper and wrapped the pens into a small posy and tied that with a purple ribbon. “She will love that,” he said, with a broad smile.
The stories we hear are personal and heart-warming. They make retail more meaningful.
Storytime. 12 years ago, when I sold Toby his first Spirax Music Book, I told him to come and play for me one day. He was in high school then and told me he had plans to be a songwriter. As I was closing up a couple of nights ago, this guy came in with a guitar over his shoulder. “Hey, I’m Toby. Remember me? I promised you a song.” Next thing you know, the Spirax Music Book was on the counter and open and he was playing his guitar and singing. It was a ballad about growing up in our small town.
Some days we experience pure joy in discovering the creativity of others using what we sell.