I like the Christian bookstore. I could spend hours in there looking at all the books I want to read that I will later go home and order off of Amazon. I also like browsing the many witty sayings on the T-shirts that must have taken some creative genius hours (if not weeks) to come up with. All this and more are available to you and me, the Christian consumer, just down the street. But without a doubt, my favorite thing about my visits to Books-a-Jesus is the nice lady behind the counter!
While she is not alone (there seems to be a small army of these semi-retired church ladies who have overtaken the P/T Christian bookstore job market), the one who sticks out in my memory from earlier this week is Phyllis. One thing that thrills my soul about Phyllis is that she calls me Pastor Mayfield. (Of course, this is only after she reads it off of my debit card and sees on the computer that I'm the Pastor of The Brook.) That's OK, though. That's just Phyllis being Phyllis.
There are a couple of things that I believe Phyllis has been told (trained...brainwashed...) to say to us as customers that leave me scratching my head, though. [OK, seriously - I rarely ever scratch my head. There are some things they do that irritate & confuse me & once-in-awhile make me want to laugh out loud.] These are what I like to call "On-the-Spot Tactics". Let me give you an example. About a month ago I went into said bookstore and when I finally got to the register and Phyllis (yes, it was her) started to check me out (don't go there) she pauses and asks me, "Would you like to donate $5 to give a Bible to one of our soldiers?" UUhhhhhhhhhh, what? I stood there for a moment and hesitantly replied, "Well, I'm not sure how anyone could say 'No' to that request. Yet, I find myself having to say, 'No'." This could have been one of the Top 5 Most Awkward Moments in my life. Or at least the month of August.
How do you get people to donate $$? You trap them!
Then yesterday, Morgan and I were in the same bookstore. My wife - not knowing of my experience and knowledge of bookstore employee practice & protocol - failed to get into Phyllis's line. Oh well. So rather than interact with Phyllis, I got to be an observer. Here's what I observed. The nice man at the counter who was attempting to purchase the book he'd come in for (and not leave with 10 other items) was blindsided. Without notice...Phyllis moved in for the kill. "Sir? Do you like Praise & Worship music?" So let's get this straight: man comes into CHRISTIAN bookstore, he's surrounded by CHRISTIAN strangers (one of whom is supposed to be simply ringing up his order) and you ask him, "Do you like Praise & Worship music?" Seriously? Is he going to say, "No. I think it sucks!" This isn't like asking a hillbilly if they're into hip hop. She might as well have asked him, "Would you like to spend more money today sir, or do you hate Jesus?" The purpose of Phyllis's question was to see if the man wanted to pre-order the new Chris Tomlin album. This is the retailer's way of taking your money before they're even ready to give you anything. They're good at this. But why not simply ask, "Would you like to pre-order the new Chris Tomlin album?" One of two reasons: intentional tactical guilt maneuvering...or just plain ignorance.
Do people THINK about what they're saying? Do we think through the options of response (or lack of) that we often leave people with? If you're trying to sell someone a bag of goods then come out with it. Don't dress it up like it's a birthday present and then let me open it only to find the bill waiting on me. Occasionally ask yourself, "How would I respond to this question or situation?" It might go miles toward helping someone actually consider buying what you're selling.
As I said before, I like the Christian bookstore. I can find out what NOT to say, what NOT to wear, what NOT to put on the bumper of my car, and to read the Intro of the book I've already ordered online. But mainly, it's because I really like Phyllis.