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Furniture Retail Tip #53 From Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90... Warm Greetings & The Story of the Nifty Bras

Furniture World News Desk on 11/7/2012

Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e at 90)

Some time ago, two of our sweetest grandchildren, Jamie and Becca, left the States to study Spanish at a college in the charming town of Sevilla. Before their individual takeoffs I took each one aside for a Grandpa one-on-one conference and suggested to them my simple technique for making friends with foreigners.

Specifically, I told them about my three favorite expressions in Spanish to honestly express honesty and warmth.

  1. Please -"Por favor"
  2. Thank you - "Muchas gracias"
  3. And most important, A sincere pleasure on having met you - "Con mucho gusto de conocerle."

OK, right now I’m imagining a chorus of Furniture World readers moaning, “ So what -- Grandpa Mike-ee! Every three-year-old child knows it’s polite to say please and thank you.

That’s true, but how many times do we forget? And how many of our salespeople take that extra step to make sure their foreign-born customers feel welcome? It doesn’t matter if those customers are Chinese, French, Turkish, Russian or Hmong. Making them feel extra welcome is just plain nice and, its just plain good business. All that is necessary is that they take the time to memorize a few simple words to use with their most frequent foreign-born customers and friends to be! Add a sincere smile, and it's magic!

Which brings me to an American episode with Spanish tinting.

Recently, my Bubbila needed to find a quality bra for the magnificent wedding gown that our "kids" (her daughters and daughter-in-law), had bought for her to wear at the wedding of her coming-of-age granddaughter. Wow-e-e!

And who was selected to find one that Grandma Bubbila, who was feeling sub-par, would find comfortable? None other than Grandpa Mike-e-e!

Please bear with me while I digress further… Our relationship started 74 years ago when little me was spotted from the fourth floor window of a Bronx, New York apartment by Anita  who tracked me down and became my married Bubbila for the past 68 years... all in spite of her mother's warning that "Mike-e-e" at age sixteen, “thought girls were soft boys.”

What the neighborhood mothers didn't know was that the 116 pound Mike knew that Anita's papa owned a candy store where "frozen Milky Ways" and chocolate malt shakes were sold by Anita after school. I've always been attracted to frozen Milky Ways!

So-o, getting back to my story about bras, we took various kinds of bras home for Grandma to try on and decided that we would buy more plain ones, and return the ruffled kinds.

Back at the store, I approached the checkout post to charge my additional purchase, and was about fifth in line but when the ladies in front of me who were purchasing kid’s clothes, spotted me with my bra collection they pushed me to the front of the checkout counter. All the customers were speaking softly in Spanish, as was the nineteen-year-old checkout clerk.

At the checkout I discovered that I hadn't taken along my special credit card. The clerk smiled a don't worry, picked up a computer speaker, asked for my driver's license, approved a trio of 15% off sales slips and believe-it-or-not the lady ahead of me handed me one marked 30%.

The young checkout clerk smiled, OK'd the transaction and handed me the small package. He said "Thank you". I answered "Thank you”, then  I headed for the exit door when whoops! I remembered something.

I whipped around, went back to the checkout desk and said in a loud voice accompanied with a handshake an smile: "CON MUCHO GUSTO DE CONOCERLE!"

The surprised young clerk's eyes brightened with a beautiful smile and he answered: "DE NADA."

Everyone on the checkout line waived and smiled goodbye.

I'm a cute older gentleman, so I normally get a lot of attention from the ladies, but adding a sincere smile and showing that I care by using just a bit of their native language really works wonders on men and women alike. So, even if you don't have staff members who are fluent in other languages (a good idea as well), I think you will get to first base with customers more often if your sales staff takes an extra moment to help them feel at home in your store.

Thanks, again, for listening. 

Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90

P.S. Tomorrow smile and say "Hello!" Show the world "the" fruit salad.

Got a question? Got a comment? Great!! E-mail: grandpamike-e-e!@furninfo.com

PS. See the new YouTube music video staring me, Grandpa Mike-e-e! with my granddaughter Becca in a supporting role at http://bitly.com/qALkrX

About Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e!)

Retailer, author, columnist, lecturer, composer and lyricist.

Came to US with immigrant parents in 1924 at the age of three.

Graduated high school at 16.

Managed a small bedding retail and manufacturing company at 18 in 1939.

Hired as Assistant to the VP of Purchasing (Sweets Corp. of America... approximately 500 employees) in 1940 at 19.

Drafted into US Army Signal Corp - Communications Personnel Div., Fort Monmouth.Tested and selected for Army Specialized Training Program, Rutgers University. Qualified for O.C.S. - Officer Candidate School and graduated as Second Lieutenant, Inventory/ Personnel Division in 1944 at 23.

Married his sweetheart, Anita, and he gives thanks to the Almighty that they are still sweethearts... after 73 years.

Rejoined Sweets Corp as Director of Personnel in 1945 at 24.

Joined his suddenly widowed sister as President of a small retail/ manufacturing company in 1946. Stayed on for 46 years managing the custom designing of over 20,000 childrens rooms and master bedroom beds.

Attended Hofstra University (evening program), and graduated in 1968 at age 47. Two of his kids followed right along at two other college campuses.

Applied for 30 day temporary columnist opening offered by the Reed Business Newspapers in NC and stayed on for 27 years. His retail columns were distributed everywhere from Brooklyn to Bangladesh, to Belgium to Beijing.

Traveled the US and visited with 3rd/ 4th generation retail owners.

He was admitted to the Writers Hall of Fame for, "Conspicuous Excellence In reports and appraisals of the furniture industry."

Retired from retail management at age 70.

BOOKS: (1) At age 72: published first book "Where's The Green Pea?" vegetable character stories including his original music and CD.

Designed programs for primary and pre-K schools and presented them with his Anita. (2) At age 76: Gee! I Wish I Had A Bedroom All My Own," lectured in middle schools (teenage), with tech info for parents, teachers and students in Home

Science. (3) At age 80: Tzedakah - Caring And Sharing classic book with original music CD and illustrations for high school chorales and drama groups.

At 89 -- published Retail Life: How To Get In, Stay Alive a-n-d Love It! in online and printed version for business schools, industry, and entrepreneurs. Includes how-to educational section for "Wise Women Who Love A Challenge" and "Oldtimer Retailers Who've Missed Some Basic Goodies In Business Promotion. Also provides business professors and career students seeking everyday practical trade experiences and business thinking.

Invited to address Levitz Furniture retail salespersons, Furniture Designer Associate members,

IHFRA sales associations, High Point University students and F.I.T. retailer evening sessions. Also accepted as an ASID associate member.

At 90 plus... is a musical playwright, composer and lyricist with original music and thinking for very young and very old America.

Grandpa Mike-e-e

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