Sunday, February 20, 2011

Treat Life as if You Were a Customer

Sometimes it pays to approach life from a customer point of view.

Suppose you have a favorite coffee shop around the corner.  They have a special on regular coffee for a dollar, and every afternoon, you stop by there and grab a cup.  It is good coffee, served hot, and the service is friendly, and unlike the designer shop across the street, it is fairly cheap.  You'd be a happy customer, right?

Well, sometimes it pays to approach life from that point of view.  Just look at life as a transaction, and think about whether you are happy with the bargain, and don't get distracted by ancillary and irrelevant data - such as whether someone else got a better deal than you.

For example, suppose one day you go to the coffee shop and the barista starts bending your ear about what a rotten place it is to work - how the management is inept, his boss is an "asshole" and the coffee is actually wildly overpriced.  He tells you that they only pay 15 cents a cup for the coffee, and you are getting "ripped off".  And of course, the coffee company is making wild profits, which is unfair to the employees and the customers.  And they are exploiting the coffee growers and deforesting the rain forest to boot!

Suddenly, your favorite dollar-cup-of-Joe isn't as satisfying anymore.  It is the same coffee you had the day before - and you enjoyed that.  But now, in the back of your mind, you are all riled up about the injustice of it all - and how the coffee shop could be better managed.

Pretty soon, the coffee tastes pretty sour.  And yet, nothing has really changed except your mental attitude.  You've been Baited, for sure.

And yet, life is a lot like this coffee shop experience.  As I noted in my They're Baiting You! entry, you can start a job and think it is pretty interesting work and a nice place to be, and that you are being paid well, but before long, some sad-sack will come into your office and tell you what a shitty place it is and get you thinking the same way.

Or take our little retirement island.  Miles of endless beautiful beaches, four golf courses, bike paths through forests of live oaks - you name it.  You'd think people would be happy to live here, right?


And you'd be wrong.  Many of the residents are very unhappy and grouchy people - and what they are upset about is often irrelevant data.  While it is a beautiful place to live, they are convinced that it is being horribly mis-managed, mostly because of stories they pass among one another - mostly half-truths and exaggerations- about how the management is inept, corrupt, or just plain stupid.  If only someone asked Them what to do, well, they've have everything tip-top in no time!

And I thought I about it at the time.  If I was a "customer" coming to visit our little island, I would probably think it was pretty neat.  I would not be aware of all these oh-so-important "issues" that the locals obsess about.  As I noted before, if you want to ruin a good vacation, either pick up the local newspaper and read about the insane local politics, or look at real estate.

Or take the small town where we recently sold our summer home.  An alumni of the local college donated millions so that the dilapidated hotel and bar could be overhauled, updated, and made ADA compliant - all at no charge to the residents.  You'd think they'd be happy, right?


Wrong again.  While none of the changes really affected their lives one iota, the locals got angry and started a "concerned citizens group" and just started a lot of negative vibes about how everything is is inept, corrupt, or just plain stupid.  If only someone asked Them what to do, well, they've have everything tip-top in no time!

In other words, same-old, same-old.

And as a "customer" to both places, not knowing these riveting and all-so-important back-stories, I naively enjoyed myself, thinking, that "Gee, what a nice place to visit, and how nicely appointed it is!"

If only I had been "smart enough" to see through the smoke-screen and understand all the vile corruption behind it all!

Or, maybe - just maybe - it is a better idea just to play dumb and take the customer approach to things.  Is this a good bargain for you?  Does the value and quality meet your expectations?  If so, whether Suzie-Q at the knitting shop is unhappy really is irrelevant isn't it?

If you are a happy customer at the coffee shop, it really doesn't matter about the "back-story" and what goes on in the back room.  So long as the coffee is reasonably priced, hot, served quickly with a smile, and not too expensive, you've made a good bargain.  Worrying about how it "could have been better" only serves to detract from the Now.  Because, let's face it, anything could be made better, and if you go down that road, you can pick apart paradise in short order.

So, who are these people who constantly gripe and try to run things down and think "If only I was in charge, I'd run things better!"


Depression is a horrible thing, to be sure.  And it is sad that so many people in this country - living a lifestyle that is in the top 10% for the planet, are still so horribly unhappy most of the time.

But the best thing for you to do is just walk away from them.  Yes, it would be humanitarian to try to "help" a depressed person, but like the scenario where a friend is driving their car off a cliff, you want to make sure you are not in the back seat when they drive off!

In other words, as in the Unwritten Social Contract, you have to help yourself before you can help others, and listening to the dronings-on of depressed people isn't going to help them - it is only going to depress you.  It is just going to make you an emotional punching-bag, and wear you down until you, too, are depressed - and convinced that everything - simply everything - in life is corrupt, venal, and vile.

So the next time you are in the coffee-shop and the barrister starts to go off on what an asshole their boss is, just tune it out - and don't leave them a tip.  Enjoy your coffee and forget about other people's whining complaints and irrelevant "backstories".

Because 9 times out of 10, their long-winded diatribes are based on utter nonsense, exaggeration, and just plain bullshit.  Life is not an optimized event - and criticizing others for not being 100% efficient is sort of weak thinking, considering we ourselves are far from perfect.

Enjoy life as a customer.  If you find you are getting a good bargain, be content.  Don't worry that your neighbor is getting a better deal, or that you are being "overcharged".  Keep an eye on your own plate and your own life, and evaluate it on its merits alone.

Because, chances are, if you are reading this, you are one of the lucky minority of people in the world who doesn't have to worry about putting food on the table or worry about want.  Appreciate that and be a happy customer!