Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Unappreciated Muffin

An interesting lesson from the Labov Sales Channel:

Marie Antoinette Moment

I was in Chicago recently and went into a coffee shop for breakfast. As I was entering, a homeless man asked me for money. As I stood in line to order, I felt bad that I was eating and a hungry man was sitting outside. So, I ordered a muffin for myself and one for the homeless man outside. As I left, I handed a bag to him and he said, “What’s this?” and I said, “It’s breakfast.” Without even opening the bag, he shouted, “You’re given’ me cake? You’re given’ me cake?”. I just shrugged and walked to my meeting, at a complete loss.

I am still thinking about what this means. I rarely have cash, so I couldn’t have given him money if I’d wanted to. Why was my offer of breakfast not appreciated? It was the exact same thing I was eating for breakfast. It was not cake. I was not oblivious to his plight and offered him something irrelevant. I was offering an obviously desperate man nourishment. Would his response have been different if I’d handed him drugs or alcohol? I don’t know, but my mind goes to the stereotype—whether right or wrong.

I wanted to help a man who is in need by giving him something beneficial. I was not going to offer him something that would not be beneficial. I could not give him money, because I didn’t have any. I saw a man—not an object—and wanted to help. Will I do this again? Probably not, which is sad because maybe someone else would appreciate it, but my small gesture was turned into someone yelling at me for my cluelessness.

My business lesson: make sure you know what someone wants before offering anything—it may not be what they need.

My life lesson: I’m still figuring that out.

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