The Main Thing

I see you dressed in white

My family and I recently attended a For King And Country concert with some long time family friends of ours. Tom, my husband’s college roommate, works with a nonprofit organization which was one of the three businesses promoting the concert, so we attended as his guests. While waiting for the doors to open, Tom gets a call that changed our evening and inspired this post.

Every wrong made right

The 3 volunteers that were rounded up to work the merchandise booth (merch) decided they only wanted to work an hour, so Tom went into crisis mode. As he explained the problem, I went into help mode. Sure, I would love to enjoy the concert, but a friend needed help, and Tom had taken us as guests to see For King and Country when his nonprofit helped bring them in two years ago. So I spoke up at almost the same time as my husband. We could definitely help him work the merch booth for the band during the concert. I mean, I worked my way through college selling tickets for all events held at the university’s basketball arena, so I could handle crowds and money. Tom and my husband were both former (in Tom’s case) or retired (my husband, ) Asset Protection Coordinators for Walmart. We three new how to serve customers. Or so I thought.

I see a rose in bloom

While the band wasn’t traveling with merch booth workers, they did have two guys in charge, Will and Hunter. These two have merch booths down to a science. It was well organized, simple to learn, and we were trained in 10 minutes. Yep, 10. We could run the credit card orders via the iPads with Square, and if an iPad battery was low, switch it for a charged one (they had plenty available to us). If we had a question we couldn’t handle, they would be nearby. Will went over the details while Hunter demonstrated or pointed things out. They were a well oiled machine and we were in great hands. The one thing that really struck me was the main thing the band wanted for their customers. If we didn’t remember anything else, Will stressed that we were to have fun and to, above all else, ensure the customers had an experience. We were to chitchat, be friendly, and make the customers enjoy their time at the booth. We weren’t to rush them or stress them. If they needed longer to decide which shirt out of the 15 offered they really wanted to buy, then chat with them, smile, and let them have that time without making them feel like an inconvenience. They should leave the booth happy and satisfied.

At the sight of you

So customers came and went, in rushes and in pairs. We rotated into the concert and our reserved seats during the lulls, always leaving one of us in the booth, and then during the big onslaughts of customers, it was all hands on deck. I chatted with customers, pretended I knew what the band planned to do right after the concert, that I knew about the latest release (I knew what Will told is in 2 of the 10 minutes of training), and I agreed that 2 of the shirt designs were made out of the softest material ever. I made sure customers who wanted to touch, check out, then reject multiple shirts did not feel like they were a burden. They weren’t. They just wanted to be sure that the $25 they were about to spend on a shirt would be well spent. I made sure they effort they were taking was well received. I smiled, assured them all was well, and did my best to help them find the right product that suited their needs. Tom and Cayl, my husband, were doing the same. We stocked merch, slung rejected shirts over our shoulders (one shoulder), worked up a sweat (August in Missouri is not a cool time of year, typically), and made it through the night without a single made customer. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Packing up the booth and sneaking a pic!

Oh, so priceless

As I thought about the business model that For King and Country use, I thought about the implications it has for education. See, the purchasing of merchandise is like the mastering of content by students. It is the main thing that is going to happen, or that we want to happen, but is it the main thing? Or should our focus be, like that of the merch booth of For King and Country, that of making sure they have an enjoyable experience, while learning the content? I can tell you that more customers bought than walked away empty handed. Pike Place Fish Market has the same philosophy, so it isn’t new or unique. Rare, or uncommon, maybe, but not unique. So consider how much content your students might be inspired to master and soak up like a sponge if they are engaged in and enjoying the experience. Making our customers, the students, feel valued and important, even if they need more time, struggle with indecision, or seem reluctant to spend any money should be our main thing. Students will want to come back to your merch booth again and again, and you will often discover that they are happy to make those big purchases. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

Headings are partial lyrics from Priceless by For King And Country.

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