Just When Is Closing Time Anyway?

Coffee shop working

I spent the holidays in Dallas visiting family and friends. My brother, Doug, and I enjoy spending our time talking about business, which I’m sure drives our wives nuts.

New Year’s Day, Doug and I set out to find a coffee shop, because apparently you can’t talk about business in America without consuming a hot, caffeinated beverage. Doug prefers a small java joint in Plano. It’s literally across the street from a Starbucks, but he claimed it was friendlier and had great coffee. He was right on both counts.

As we approached the door, we saw a paper sign plastered to the glass that announced their holiday hours. Sadly, the sign informed us that New Years Day they would be closing at 2pm. It was now 2:40pm.

Before the full reality of the situation sunk in to my caffeine-deprived brain, we noticed a few people inside the shop, sitting at tables, sipping coffee and chatting away. Doug and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders simultaneously, and walked on in.

Yes, we were some of those STUPID CUSTOMERS who don’t read — or pay attention to — signs of any kind.

We tried to look relaxed as we approached the counter, but I was seriously expecting somebody to yell at us. And for once, I wouldn’t have blamed them or written a nasty newsletter article about it.

Instead, a happy voice came from behind the counter, “Hi, what can we get for you guys today?”

My guilt for being “that” customer (you know, the one who doesn’t think signs apply to him) immediately took over and I blurted out, “But you’re CLOSED, right?”

Here was the reply: “Well, we were going to close at 2pm, but people kept coming in, so we stayed open.”

I might have to end this article right here because I’m still a bit speechless over this completely selfless act. It was such a raw and rare example of true customer service, it’s almost hard to describe how I feel about it.

I know we’ve all got other stuff to do in our lives besides work 24 hours a day, but would you be willing to stay open as long as customers kept coming in?

I’ll be honest, I’ve been guilty of closing the doors and turning off the lights the moment the clock reaches our official closing time, hoping nobody would show up before I could sneak to my car and drive away to my non-work life.

Worse yet, I’ve been guilty of listening to a voicemail near the end of the day and deciding that customer could wait for my response until tomorrow morning when I know there’s a chance they’re still in the office.

Fortunately, there’s a cure for this behavior. You simply have to SHIFT your thinking from what serves you best to what serves your customer best.

I said it’s simple, I didn’t say it’s easy. As humans, we’re programmed to be selfish, so we have to train ourselves to shift.

We’re making a special effort to make even more of that shift this year. I hope you’ll join us.

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