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November 06, 2015

Don't Let Your Prejudices Rule Your Perception of Your Customers


We all have blind spots.

In November, while preparing for my son's first birthday party, a good samaritan helped me spot mine. And I never even got a chance to meet him (or her). 

The rain was coming down with vigor. The forecast promised enough of the wet gift from the heavens that it forced us to relocate the party for our youngling to the inside. First birthday parties are more for the parents than they are for the infants, anyway. The infants are mostly oblivious about what is going on. Assuming they aren't tired and are otherwise good-natured, though they appreciate the extra attention, the presents are a short-term distraction.

Because of the relocation left us without the use of picnic tables and a grill, we needed to get a few extra pleasantries from the ubiquitous Walmart.

Now, I have never had a problem shopping at Walmart. They sell stuff that I need, so when I need stuff, I know where to go. I never bought into the "Walmart is evil" crowd, though I've used this space to discuss Walmart before (both critical and defensive). 

Even so, I am not immune from being subtly influenced by the collective denigration of the "Walmart shoppers" that is in vogue within our culture today, especially but not limited to advertising. You know what I'm talking about, right? It's plastered at the end of news articles like a carnival barker, "Come on in and see the FREAK show of Walmart shoppers!" It doesn't even matter what follows or even whether I click on the link — they are the backwards, knuckle-dragging Republican neanderthal wing-nuts, and I am different from them. NASCAR Blindness may as well be Walmart blindness.

Alan Wolk, who coined the phrase "NASCAR Blindness," put it this way:

"This disease is the strongly held belief that if no one in your little bubble of upscale, artsy Bobo friends is into something, then clearly no one else is, either."

So when I dropped my wallet in the store after picking up some of those needed supplies, with my son just turning one, Christmas and my daughter's birthday right around the corner, and with my wife expecting early in 2016, my heart dropped. I cannot afford to be wasting time or losing money by being too mind-numbingly stupid to not keep track of my belongings.

My first hope was that I dropped it at the gas station instead of Walmart, so I checked there. No luck. So as a last resort I drove back to Walmart and headed to the customer service desk. Things were looking bleak. 

But when my turn arose, the person at the desk was just informed of a lost item. Instead of being hopeful, though, I assumed that someone would have taken my cards and/or my cash, and that the rest of my afternoon would be spent recovering from this disaster.

It was not to be. Not only was my wallet returned, but every single spec of dust that I left it with was returned with it, and I had to face the prejudice of my heart that led me to so quickly dismiss all Walmart shoppers (of which I am one) because I gave influence to the subtle and flagrant attitudes of the world against people who shop there.

I was wrong, and though they did not know it just a few minutes ago, I owe Walmart shoppers (and/or employees) an apology.

Thank you for having integrity. I know it won't always be so and isn't 100% of the time, but you did not earn my scorn, and I had no business giving it to you.

Are you pre-judging your audience? - Cam Beck


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