Remorse, Realizations and Reality

coffee shop

My post of March 10 created feedback and debate, not only here on my website but on social platforms. Similar to most creators of a regular blog, I was thrilled this happened. Not only that, I learned a lot from the ensuing discussion that will directly impact the content I create going forward. I’m going to share this with you … starting with an apology.

To the staff and patrons of the Halifax Starbucks at Kaye and Isleville, I am extremely sorry for how I portrayed you and your cafe in the March 10 post. It was irresponsible of me. It was unkind and devoid of generosity. I could have shared the lesson from my experience in many different ways and I regret my choice.

As comments and feedback to the post arrived, I began to feel uncomfortable but I remained confident that my post was valid. Over the almost 10 years of collecting and sharing customer service stories, it had not occurred to me that my presentation of the information was uncaring and even mean-spirited. Now I know better, and as Maya Angelou said so eloquently: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

The words that changed everything for me came from Mark. He responded to the post several times and in his comments on March 15, he shared: “You could easily have posted the exact same story without intentionally damaging the reputation of a local business” and then added “…this is not communicating in a constructive manner. This only shames.”

He’s absolutely right.

In writing the post the way that I did, I acted in a similar way to what I witnessed in the cafe that morning. I communicated with annoyance and frustration without any consideration for the staff. I focused only on my experience of the event, and what I saw and heard from the man with the request about the ice and snow. Staff met his request, very quickly, with annoyance and frustration. As comments on my post indicate, there had been a lot of comments, conversation and discussion for several days about the winter situation that was beyond the staff’s control.

What mortifies me the most is Mark’s use of the word “shame”. This is so distant from who I am and how I walk through my life, yet he’s correct. When any of us comment on how individuals have behaved, without speaking with them, learning the back story, taking the time to understand the full picture, we do create shame. And that is … wrong. The world and our lives are messy enough without our undermining each other through our content and on social.

For me, going forward, I will never again call out specific staff in my content. I am grateful to Mark for this insight and this lesson.

My reflections on this incident don’t change the truth of the customer service element. All of this reminded me of one of my first employers in Toronto when I was still in university. She remains a very close friend but, in those years, I was a 20-year-old naive child and she was a business owner in her mid-thirties. It was important to her that the fingerprints that collected on our office’s glass front door be removed, constantly. I had the audacity to say to her, “It’s not my job”. She looked at me sternly and replied: “You may think it’s not your job but in doing it, you get to keep your job.” A harsh statement for sure but I’ve never forgotten it.

There is no value, no positive outcome, to ever uttering the words “It’s not my job” or “I don’t get paid to do that”. It’s true that the ice and snow were not the responsibility of the cafe’s staff, nor could they viably remove it. They did not have the right equipment or the time, and the work involved could easily have caused injury.

What were the options? How about: “Thanks for coming in to talk to us about it. You are not alone in commenting on it. We are in touch with both the landlord and the city and hope that it is cleared very soon.” Or, “Sorry – we know the ice and snow are a terrible inconvenience. We don’t have tools necessary to remove it ourselves but we are continually in touch with both the landlord and the city. It should be cleared very soon.”




8 thoughts on “Remorse, Realizations and Reality”

  1. Thanks for being so big to put your ego aside and I really appreciate your analysis. That said, don’t be too hard on yourself. I have the utmost regard and respect for you and what you do and what you teach. If the event caused that reaction within you, it’s important for us to understand this. And this is not the first time you have called out organizations that act in their own self interest. While I can’t recall the exact details, remember that experience when you wrote about how you were treated by the Chopra Institute?

    Full of admiration and gratitude for what you do.


    • Thanks so much, Steve. I very much appreciate your response. I think if I’d named the company but not the specific location the post would have been more fair. Where I went off brand – and off my moral compass – was being so specific. I got caught up in helping the reader visualize the ice and snow situation, and ignored the human element of the staff. The “lesson” is valid without the personal details. By the way … enjoying your book!

  2. Mary Jane,

    Although I come from a different culture I have to say that your previous post was just an observation of what happened. Some people are sensitive to feedback, especially if it is in their interest to draw attention away from what happened. It is their choice to get offended. I think society would benefit more from one direct feedback than from three which were softened or not given at all avoiding offending someone. Feedback is the only opportunity to learn and we should give it when appropriate, whether people like it or not. I think the feedback you received from your manager in your 20s made you a better person, pass it on.


    • Thanks, Oleg. A delightful response. I spend a lot of time asking and seeking out feedback – as do most of my colleagues – because it is so valuable to our success and growth. I appreciate your insight. And you are right, my employers remark certainly contributed to who I am today and always – always – supported me in making things happen.

  3. I hold you in greater regard now than before. Your integrity and honesty are just what I look for in a friend, a leader, a manager, a teacher.
    Taking risks in conversations is how we start talking about what’s important. #crucialconversations
    Keep talking Mary Jane ☎️. And keep writing!

    • Thank you, Sara. What lovely words to share. I particularly like the notion of “taking risks in conversations”. That is a wonderful phrase and something we should all be doing.

  4. Thank you, Mary Jane, for an excellent example of how to take constructive criticism and make positive change. I hope – for the sake of this business and its employees, that its managers have the same ability and willingness to seek improvement. That said, please don’t fall too hard on that sword. While your comments may have been less than kind – and perhaps not in keeping with your personal brand – they don’t appear to have been unfair. I was one of those who shared – and endorsed – your post. Sadly this isn’t uncommon and it is entirely unnecessary. As can often be seen in your blog, the steps to good service can be relatively simple and we, fortunately, have many examples of great service in our communities to emulate. It often seems, however, that a lack of proper training, coaching and leadership have left too many workplaces entirely devoid of a customer service focus. I appreciate your willingness to adjust your tone but please don’t back away from the message – this conversation needs to be held.

    • Thank you so much, Steve, for your eloquent words. I promise not to back away. I do believe I landed on the edge of “too personal” in this post, so the general lesson got a bit lost. The lessons are certainly out there – on both sides – great service and “What are you thinking?” and I will continue to tell these stories.


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