It was the summer of '72, I was at my aunt's house in Remington, Virginia. It was early on a beautiful summer night, all the doors were open with a cool breeze, crickets - you get the picture.
All of a sudden a car screeched up to the house and my cousin's boyfriend came running through the back door soaking wet and smelling awful. My alarmed aunt asked, "What in the world happened to you?"
"Janis threw up on the roller coaster," was his reply. Everyone quickly left the kitchen while he tried to clean himself up.
You're welcome for the visual. Visuals stick like, well... you get the point.
And my point is that salespeople puke on us every day.
So do partners, newscasters, teachers, business owners, employees, students; everyone. Heck, I've been known to do it.
In short, it's the "my life sucks game."
Here's how it happens...
One person goes down the path of regurgitating how awful their day was and the other person has to stand there while it flows all over them, sticking to them, drenching them as they try to remain polite.
Here's the trouble, there's nothing the vomitee (is that a word?) can do to change it for the other person.
They've been there?
It sucks to be you?
And it sticks with the person covered in it much more than the puker. Nothing good comes from it. Especially when you are shopping for a product and run into someone doing this.
I've also seen this phenomenon at conventions. The natural inclination to be accepted is to say how stuff sucks - even among friends.
I was amazed when a friend returned from a three-week European vacation to some of the most interesting places in the world: Dubai, Italy, and France.
When I asked how the vacation was she said, "It was awful.." The corners of her mouth turned down, her eyebrows drew together, her voice became shrill as she belched how the baggage was lost, the WAITING, the [fill in vomit-induced speech].
I found myself looking for the door and I asked, "Did anything go right?" She looked like I slapped her and then responded that, yes, there were several lovely areas and as she told me, she smiled.
Most often it happens in retail when an employee vomits fact after useless fact, drenching the potential buyer in what is not helpful.
Unless you are willing to find out what specific features the individual customer is looking for, you will present the same way to everyone. That's how you end up losing sales because the customer doesn't care about all the possible things a product has, just what it will do for them.
That's why you need retail sales training so you will make every interaction, every attempt at creating excellent customer service, a personal one.
And if you are one of those people who choose to share a cascade of misery with others - that too will lose you business.
Your mind has two choices, either concentrate and share the bad or the good.
But make no mistake. It's a choice.
So today, this minute, think about the time you allowed yourself to be puked on by someone - or you did it to someone. Visualize it; was it just a bit or a full-on soaking? Think of how you could stop doing both.
While Janis couldn't help doing it on the rollercoaster, it's a choice you can make that will increase your happiness and the customer service of your business.
Bob Phibbs is the Retail Doctor® an industry authority on customer service and sales, professional speaker, and author of The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business (Wiley.) Phibbs has helped hundreds of businesses in every major industry, including hospitality, manufacturing, service, restaurant, and retail.