Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Last week, I encountered two Linchpins. One at a Starbucks and the other at Computer Depot in Kingston.

What on earth is a "Linchpin," you ask? It is a term used by Seth Godin to describe a person who goes above and beyond just performing a job or task to create "art" by interacting or performing in a new and creative way that adds something human and irreplaceable to the work the person does.

Image Credit: NY Daily News

So, how is it that a barista at Starbucks was able to create "art"for me? It turns out that a man that I've seen working at another Starbucks has moved to a new downtown location and I recognized him. He's a fair bit older than most of the baristas that I've come across, not the usual university student type, and it's clear that he's happy to be there rather than grouchy about serving coffee when he could/should be in a more "senior level" position somewhere.

His name is Bruce and sitting there watching him out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that he knew the names of most of his customers and greeted them by name and actually remembered what all of their "regular" drinks were. Now, I used to work in the coffee business and I know that it takes a high level of caring about your job to create an atmosphere of welcoming guests into your shop rather than just processing through your 3,000th espresso shot of the week. It was great to watch him at work and he was friendly to me as well. 

Now what happened is that he actually made a mistake at the cash and nearly charged me almost triple for my cup of tea. The "art" part here is that he took the opportunity to make a personal connection over the mistake and made a quick decision to make the drink "on the house" because of the error. An act of generosity. Will I be going back to that shop? Absolutely! 

Contrast this to my experience last weekend where I went to claim my free birthday drink at another Starbucks. I asked twice whether they offered a free birthday drink with a registered card and was told that I could have anything on the drink menu. I was also ordering a few other things for Hubby who was in the car. When it came time to ring everything up, the girl turned to ask her manager whether it really was in fact their policy to offer a free birthday drink and the manager said only with a coupon that I should have gotten in the mail (but didn't receive, unfortunately).

It wasn't a big deal to pay for my drink, but I left feeling embarrassed in front of the other customers behind me and will probably avoid that location from now on. Should they have honored what the girl had said was their policy in the first place?

I think Starbucks is the new local for most of our communities. This book talks about their corporate philosophy and explains a lot of what you see in the stores: The Starbucks Experience

Onward to the computer situation...I've mentioned a few times that we're getting set up with a new TV here at The Do-tique. It has been a major ordeal and hassle to figure out exactly what cables I need to get my TV to show content from my MacBook. Five electronics stores later and I finally came across Trevor at Computer Depot here in Kingston. Can you create art in selling some basic cables to a confused non-tekkie? Absolutely! 

Trevor was calm. He seemed to have time to go through my questions and take a look at my laptop and try to figure out the most affordable solution for me with the best picture results. He didn't throw a lot of letters and number at me. He didn't bad-mouth the other guys. He took the time to grab a TV monitor in the store and actually test out the cables for me with my own laptop and didn't rush the sale or try to up-sell me. It was clear, it was easy, it was low-pressure. Somehow, he made a connection, which is key as a sales person. Chances are pretty good that I'm going to be going back there again or at least telling other people that it's a good place to get help.

At the other stores, I got a lot of fast talking. I got a lot of numbers and letters and products thrown at me with little or no explanation of how the whole system worked or what all the bits and pieces were for. I had sales guys arguing with each other in front of me about what the best solution would be. I had guys walk away to go ask someone else in the store without saying something like, "hang on a second while I go ask..." leaving me just standing there wondering what was going on. 

Both Bruce at Starbucks and Trevor at Computer Depot were able to create order out of chaos for me - first out of the chaos that was an incorrect price for my tea and second out of the chaos that is A/V equipment for me. 

Bruce is over at the new Starbucks on Princess at Sydenham.

Trevor is at Computer Depot on Gardiner's Road.

699 Gardiners Rd. 
Kingston, ON 
Canada K7M 3Y4 

DIY Rating: 2

When you can get people like Chris and Trevor on your side, 
why make your own coffee or figure out 
that computer problem on your own?

What can you do today that creates 
a similar experience for someone else?

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