She looks nice. Smart, reasonable, experienced. What is not clear by just looking at her is the immense power she holds.
Last week on the day before my birthday, I called a car-care shop to schedule a full detailing of my car. Normally, this is something I’d do myself and manage to do with some level of success. But the pros do a far better job. For a price. When I heard what this shop was going to charge, I winced. But because they could do the all-day detailing on my actual birthday, I took it as a sign from the benevolent universe that I should just get it done by them the next day, AKA my 50th birthday. I relayed my line of thinking, minus the wincing, scheduled the service, and later that evening had my spouse follow me over to drop off my car.
On the afternoon of my birthday, my spouse drove me back over to pick up my car. Now, despite my car being 22 years old, I was expecting it to look like it had gotten a full detailing, as this is what they expected to be paid for.
There were some issues: not with the cleanliness of the car but with 1. a door lock that had frozen, rendering the door un-closable; 2. the door to the cassette player appeared to have snapped off (come to discover that it had merely been jammed in a way that made it appear broken), and 3. absolutely no statement of “Happy Birthday . . . You’re 50? . . . Sure look great for 50 . . . ” or some such something.
Do these three men whom I interacted with, ranging in age from mid-20s to early 50s, have any appreciation for what it means for a woman to not only turn 50 but also make mention it? I wasn’t expecting any sort of special extra service to my car nor did I anticipate receiving some sort of “birthday discount.” Though I will admit, I thought one of them would have said something.
Now, one of the perks of “being this age” is an awareness that people don’t spend as much time thinking about you as you think they do. Make it 50, and the bruises of one’s ego have developed into pliable scar tissue.
So, why would I think that these car-detailers would say something? Because it’s good for business. Or rather, failure to take note of the milestone birthday (of a customer with enough life experience to share her thoughts on social media) could result in a lot of bad press.
Recently, I read a business “review” made by a 50-ish woman in my town’s “moms” FB group wherein she expressed her frustrations–in a very detailed post–about a local business. The depth of commitment to convince others that “this business is awful” was parried by equally strong, though far fewer assertions of “I think this business is wonderful.”) While the various comments didn’t seem to convince the thread of commenters to change their stated positions, those of us who read it the entire post and comment from the sidelines could easily be persuaded to never go to this shop.
Because when you get to “an age,” you have some credibility.
Were I to have detailed my experience with this shop, using just the facts (frozen lock/broken cassette door), and then advise others to find a different shop if/when they’d like a car detailing, I bet some would take that advice.
Were I to have shared the three employees’ complete and total disregard for the “momentous occasion of my birth”* when I told them that was the reason I was having my car detailed was to mark said momentous occasion, and that I’d be picking it up on my birthday, some people may think, “Get over yourself, Lady.” But some may think, “Local businesses, if they want to stay in business, really need to go the extra mile and provide their customers with a service that is valued by the customer because the service felt personalized.”
I get a postcard from my dentist. The dog gets a birthday greeting from her vet. The bar to personalize the customer experience was raised years ago.
I’m not going to name the shop that treated me in a sterile/impersonal way, but I would say to those who own local businesses that being attuned to the secondary aspects of the lives of your customers is a sure way to get repeat business and encourage 50-year-old women to use their powers for good because you made them feel good by simply saying, “Happy birthday.”
*This is asserted tongue-in-cheek.