I recently shared a broad terms the start of AC Trash Hauling & More. I briefly talked about working in my Dad’s grocery store, more accurately described as a corner market. I thought it would be beneficial to share some business lessons learned at my father’s side.
Let’s back the bus up a few years before he owned the store. Dad was in route sales for a regional bakery, Cushman’s Bakery. He had several routes where he delivered bread and other baked goods to individuals at their door. I was real young then but could occasionally ride the route with him. The routine was the same every day. Go to the hub with a handful of other drivers and fill your truck with the daily needs. Dad would always send to me down to see Frank or Al for something. The truth behind the visit was so he could load his truck up while I was bothering those guys.
Once loaded the drivers would head off to Farley’s Diner for a morning coffee and donut. Time was spent sharing stories and building relationships. Years after Dad left the route sales, he remained friendly with the other drivers, especially Frank and Al. Relationships were, and still are valuable not only in business, but life.
On the route, Dad knew every customer by name, something about their family, and their typical purchases.
I remember that Dad often had some samples for the customer, a package of cookies to share as an example. Once they tasted the cookies he went into sales mode trying to get them to buy. He often times told them the price, $0.98 a box, on sale today 2 boxes for $1,96. Saying it with conviction many people bought 2 boxes without hesitation. He always found time to chat for a few minutes before heading off to the next stop.
Eventually Dad bought a neighborhood grocery/convenience store, Hackey’s Variety Store. That was back in the day when the corner stores were plentiful. I recall that there were two other stores within eye sight and walking distance from his. Dad’s store was the biggest and busiest.
Using his customer service skills, Dad was soon known as Hackey. People just assumed that was his name, as he became synonymous with the store.
One of the greatest customer service hallmarks was reserving newspapers for regular customers. This was back in the day when major newspapers would produce a morning and evening edition. Furthermore,major cities had several newspapers. Dad had a list of each customer and the paper(s) they bought. A shelf near the cash register had each customer’s paper neatly folded with their printed on it. The papers were laid out daily in the exact same order.. It was not uncommon for Dad to see a customer get out of their car and he would hustle over to the shelf and have their paper waiting for them, often times with the pack of cigarettes that they smoked. It was a nice touch, an act of relationship building. This act was instilled in my siblings and I while we were working.
The shelves were always neatly stocked, making sure that labels were facing out, existing stock in front, with new stock behind. The floors were swept, trash out of sight. Presentation was important.
Dad knew all of his customers by name. That included the local kids, especially the high school kids. It was common for some of the kids to help carry in the morning papers, or even help stock the supply of milk into the coolers. They j appreciated the friendship of my Dad. He treated them with respect.
I also recall that he would stock some items on the shelf because a regular customer liked a specific brand or product. That individual customer was important to my Dad. Just another example of Customer Service.
I look back fondly on my time spent at Hackey’s. I spent many Sunday mornings in my pre-teen and early teens working there. I still remember a few of the customer’s names and prices for the common items; milk was $0.55 for a half gallon and $0.28 for a quart, cigarettes were $0.28/pack and slowly rose to $0.35. Oh how people complained at that high price. The daily newspaper was 10 cents.
Another important and immutable rule for anyone working the cash register was that you always counted the change back. If the total was $1.33 and you were given $5.00, you handed them the change pennies first saying $1.33, hand them 2 cents, $1.35, hand them a nickel, $1.40, a dime, $1.50, 2 quarters..$1.75..$2.00 and $3.00 makes $5.00…THANK YOU. That practice has long disappeared. Today you get a handful of change and bills and maybe a thank you.
So, how does all of this relate to today and AC Trash Hauling?
We do very similar things for our customers. If the newspaper is on the porch when we arrive, we pick it up and hand it to the customer. If the trash cans are at the curb and empty, we bring them to the garage. The customer needs help moving a heavy object, we move it for them. we make sure that the garage, floor,or driveway is left cleaner than when we arrived. None of these things are included in our job, but they are important to the customer.
We have a few other simple rules: NO SMOKING on the customer’s property. No foul language, that includes when you hit your thumb with a hammer. Introduce the team to the customer. Always be polite and respectful.
These are just a few of the things I learned at my Dad’s side at Hackey’s Variety Store.
A sad note, Hackey’s is no longer open. It fell victim to changing times and habits and the big box chains. Gone too is the route sales from the bakery days. However there is a little resurgence with fresh produce and even milk deliveries once again. Gone too, is Dad. He passed away at the early age of 48, about 1 week before I turned 15. He didn’t get to witness his lessons in action at AC Trash Hauling.
This link, https://goo.gl/maps/ny5RsehoPZMZTVzt6 will take you a current picture of Hackey”s Variety Store. It has seen better days. Alas, the memories remain.