Sunday, 26 December 2010

I Don't Know the Answer

Well as the year draws to a close I thought I would throw one last blog on the fire (see what I did there - clever wasn't it? Well, I say clever, essentially it was just a bit of wit, and I don't suspect I'll be nominated for any awards for it. Still, it brought a smile to my face, so that's nice).

I want to talk about something interesting that happened to me in Tesco the other night. To be fair, most things that happen in Tesco are not interesting. Last week I found myself asking what would happen if Tesco asked a random group of 100 people if they found the whole experience of going there to be anything less than hellish.  I suspect the results would bother them.

The thing is,  I’ve discovered the joy of Lidl shopping, and it really can be a joy. The quality there is superb, the prices are fantastic and what’s more, it can be an adventure comparing European brand foods with the more recognised UK stuff and realising that, more often than not, it tastes exactly the same and in many cases – a lot better.

However, they don’t stock everything and I needed to pick up some chestnut puree so that Shelly could make her chestnut stuffing. It was her mother’s recipe and she really does do it proud, so darling, if you’re reading this – here’s to another great stuffing!

So back to Tesco, where it’s late at night, snowing and altogether unpleasant (OK, about as unpleasant as usual, but if unpleasant had a dial, it would been cranked up to 11). After roaming the aisles of where logic dictated I would find the chestnuts, I was still sporting an empty basket. At that point I decided to ask for help, and I use the word ‘help’ in its broadest sense here.

“Excuse me”, say I, “can you tell me where I might find the chestnut puree and also the whole chestnuts – you usually sell them in vacuum packs?”

“Well you’ll find loose chestnuts in the whole foods section but I haven’t really seen any other chestnuts come in so I expect that we’re not doing them.”


So you’re one of the biggest supermarket chains in the country, and my local has expanded to such a ridiculous size that you can now by light aircraft in Aisle 37, next to the beans, but you’ve not seen chestnuts A WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS!!!???!!!

Obviously my real response was a little more reserved but it did get me thinking about something. Why didn’t she just tell me that she didn’t know?

Seriously, the lady is working in a shop that sells literally thousands of products. If she had the mental capacity to remember all of them, along with their location, then one would argue that she is woefully over qualified to be stacking shelves in the middle of the night in Tesco wouldn’t they?

I am perfectly happy for people to not know the answer, just as long as they take a moment to tell me where I might be able to get the help that I need. What would happen if someone asked me if I could do a particular accent and I just shrugged my shoulders and said "probably"? They'd book a session with me, and then waste time and money finding out that I am not the man for the job. The correct response (and the one I use) is to offer to audition, that way I am only cutting in to my own time, which is fine.

We’re told of all of the truly powerful words in sales like YES and THANKS, but I’d like to add another phrase to that list – the phrase I DON’T KNOW. Go the extra mile and find out what help you genuinely can offer. It can be as simple as asking a colleague if they know the answer, and then everybody wins.

I'm looking forward to 2011. The voicemonkey site is up and running and I have clients asking me to voice animations, commercials, documentaries, phone systems and heaps more. 

To all my fellow artistes in the funny world that we call voice, I wish you all the best of the festive season and may we all enjoy a most prosperous new year.

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