This week, the Omaha World Herald posted an item to Facebook about a local restaurant’s health inspection failure. While I hate to see any small business humiliated, having been to that restaurant, I did have a strong case of well-what-did-you-expect-enfreude.
The place is one of a handful of dives that is locally beloved. Places that serve ketchupy marinara, haven’t had a good scrub-down since the smoking ban and inexplicably manage to draw huge crowds. My husband’s family — whom I fondly refer to as Omaha Mayflower since their forefathers settled here directly from the old country — tends to love these places. My guess is their happy memories of first dates and family celebrations block out the rat traps they have to step over in order to enter the building.
A few posts below the dirty diner story on my newsfeed was the famous Maya Angelou quote, “When people show you who they are, believe them,” and it occurred to me that the same is true for businesses. Take off the nostalgia-colored glasses and sometimes what’s left isn’t so much charm as…rodent-droppings.
Which, you know, if that’s the story a business wants to tell about themselves, who am I to stop them? I can think of several places around town that don’t seem to be suffering from my lack of patronage. But surely they realize the impression their (not-always-empty) glue traps, sticky tables and musty smells are giving customers, right? Just like Donald Trump must have known he would be alienating a lot of potential voters and supporters with his recent comments. Or like Whole Foods should have realized that getting caught overcharging and scapegoating their employees was not cool, man. Not cool at all.
Determining how you want your brand to be perceived and taking steps to present it that way seems so basic, but it’s something that even successful organizations can miss – whether they are locally owned restaurants, mop-topped political wannabes or upscale retailers. I guess they just hope that we won’t believe them when they show us who they really are.