The “Joie de vivre” of connecting with local employees.

It’s 9:59 pm on a Sunday. I’m cruising around the suburbs of Detroit. looking for a place to eat when I come upon the open sign at Five Guys. In I go when I realized they closed at 10. I apologized and began walking out when the staff begged me to stay. I said no 5 times until the manager said “Look sir, by this point you’d offend us if you left. Sit down and we’ll get you that to go order.”

I agreed, introduced myself to the manager, thanking him for making me a late night dinner. He thanked me for the patronage, and as I waited, we opened up a dialogue about ourselves. When I told him I just moved home from NYC, he presented me with a huge smile and asked jokingly, “NOBODY moves from New York to Detroit..”

I told him “I did.” and explained that it was because I missed people like himself and his staff – they weren’t cordial because somebody forced them to, it was second nature to refuse to allow me to walk out hungry. Because that my friends, is what we do. Tonight I ended up staying 15 extra minutes explaining how and why  I was coming back home, telling stories about Manhattan. Their eyes all lit up like I was Chuck Yeager talking about breaking the sound barrier, I was offered me free peanuts while I explained what it was like walking through Times Square, the original Macy’s and taking the subway everywhere. Anyway I made 5 friends tonight, checking into Foursquare and tweeting my advocacy in the process.

Amazingly as I was handed my hamburger, I thought back to one of the most interesting books I’ve read – Peak by Chip Conley.  In Conley’s book, he applies the principals of Maslow to his business. A hotelier, he uses the hierarchy of needs as his base to run tests to better improve the relationship he had with his customers.

The most interesting one to me had to do with his maid service making the beds one day and not the other. The day maid services were delinquent, Chip noticed his customers were visibly agitated throughout the day. His epiphany? That sometimes the lowest rung on the totem of employment is your most important.

And that’s the lesson I realized again tonight –  the most significant connections we sometimes make between brands and consumers aren’t at the corporate level, they’re right in our back yards.


  1. Scott Monty · April 4, 2011

    You got Five Guys to stay open longer for you? You’re my hero. I can tell there are going to be a few visits there in our future. 🙂

    Another book to check out that validates what they did for you is Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy. It’s about valuing every customer as if he or she were your only customer.

    Great stuff.

    • Kalie · May 5, 2011

      Tnahks for sharing. What a pleasure to read!

  2. Eric Swayne · April 5, 2011

    Gary also said something that’s really stuck with me – that we’re back in “small town rules.” The relationships that a small-town sole proprietor or mom-and-pop shop owner cultivated were his/her lifeblood, because they knew that they couldn’t hide from their customers. Through these new technologies, customers are expecting the EXACT same things of their brands, because they know they can’t hide.

  3. Roger Ratekin · April 29, 2011

    Welcome to Detroit area and Ford. I am sure you will enjoy the area.

  4. Jason Petefish · May 8, 2011

    Okay, now I have to read the book by Chip c. I have stories too from NYC days.

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