Reasons We’ll Never Understand (Issue 586)

In which we are reminded to be a little careful before "doing someone a favor."

My wife and I traveled to the High Plains a couple of weeks ago to attend a family reunion and wedding. All good, our family enjoys a good party.

One of us, looking to my right, loves a good steak, WELL done. When we arrived at the chosen airport, my other half went off to collect maps and ideas while I went off to collect checked luggage. When we regrouped at the rental car counter, she arrived hands full of paper and a big smile on her face. “We are in a steak town,” she said. “I’d like to have a steak for lunch.”

Turning to the wide-smiling, enthusiastic rental car representative, she asked, “Where is a good place to get a steak in this town?”

The rental car representative suggested a name. Apparently, this name matched up with the one that my wife had received from the guy at the information booth and so, despite my grumbling about “any place but steak,” off we went to the recommended provider.

My wife ordered steak accompanied by salad and French fries.

I, with a small appetite after flying, spotted minestrone soup on the menu and asked, “How big is the soup?”

Our very wonderful server said, “about 11 ounces.” So, I guessed that was about a cup.

“Sure, that sounds great!” I ordered the minestrone.

The steak arrived at the table trimmed and well done to perfection. The minestrone arrived a moment later, a heaping mound of beans and vegetables in a tasty broth. A “grande.” As an un-treated graduate of the Clean Plate Club, I finished all of it. Had to do it.

When our server came to remove our dishes, I said, “That seemed like a bit more than 11 ounces.”

She responded, “Yes, when I saw that the soup would be all you would have, I didn’t want you to be hungry, so I used THIS bowl (holding up my soup bowl) rather than the smaller one (holding up the smaller one) that we would normally use. It was good, wasn’t it?” She smiled broadly.

Well, yes, but my first thought, before I smiled and agreed, “It was wonderful,” was an irritated: “Yes, but I didn’t want a LARGE soup, I wanted a SMALL soup.”

So, yes, it was kind of her feel concerned. Yes, she was kind to serve me a larger portion. And, yes, I could have sent it back when she first served it to me. BUT… I felt irritated that she had ASSUMED that more would be better and didn’t serve what I’d expected and didn’t ask about it. She didn’t understand the (to the untrained observer) complicated reasons that I preferred a smaller portion to a large one.

So, yes, as salespeople, it’s great to “throw in a little something extra” as a favor to a client from time to time and not everybody is as grumpy as Nick-at-lunch that day.

But… When people are buying, we frequently don’t understand all of the “back story” behind their purchase decisions. We should be careful before assuming that “more” or “different” than what they requested is better. It may not be… for reasons we’ll never understand.

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