A Smile Goes a Long Way

Today at the tea shop, we had a lot of entertaining customers. My coworker (S) and I would share a look of appreciation (and slightly raised eyebrows) as each one left. It’s crazy how many different kinds of people like tea. And not just tea, loose leaf tea. Before starting at the shop, I’d tried to do the loose leaf thing, but it was too annoying; I wanted something on the go, not something I had to dump dirtily out of my cup. Now, though, I am a convert, praising the qualities of loose leaf tea over the “floor sweepings” people call teabags (don’t worry, that’s not my term – I got it from a customer). I’d imagined most of our customers would be of the female persuasion with short white hair and possibly lipstick and manicured nails. Maybe the occasional green-tea-drinking natural thrown in. But the world of loose leaf tea is far more diverse than that.

Our first customer came in before we’d officially opened. He knew exactly what he wanted, Russian Caravan, and after quickly paying for it, he proceeded to leave. A mesh tea ball caught his eye as he walked out, and he promptly returned to buy it. That’s the way our day went: customer after customer proclaiming their personalities in a matter of minutes, movements of their bodies telling us if they were excited, sad, tired. So many couples today, and it was so easy to read their dynamics. They had me and S shaking our heads and saying, “Wow, he was way more talkative than she was. She seemed pretty cold.” And it goes on and on like this, with us psychoanalyzing and enjoying all the new kinds of people we meet.

A young family came in later in the day. They’ve been pretty regular customers since the fall, with two little children. The youngest had broken their teapot, and they’d come in specifically to get more vanilla black tea and a mug with a strainer. They found those quickly – and then proceeded to stay for about twenty minutes, just talking with us, smelling teas, letting their children smell teas, and all of us laughing. The dad even remembered S had gone home to California for Christmas, and he asked her about it. It’s crazy how much people remember.

That’s the way it is in such a little shop, where we have to get to know the customers in order to sell them the teas they’ll really like. At the end of the day, we had a woman bring her husband in, and when they came in the door, I heard her say, “Look! I told you they’d be here!” She introduced us to her husband, and then said how great we were and she was going to bring all her friends. Thankfully, I did remember her from two weeks ago, but I had no idea we’d made such an impression. She bought three ounces of Russian Caravan (the best seller of the day, apparently), and said she’d be back in a few weeks.

Just a little reminder that a smile and a little interest go a long way.

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