Wednesday, June 11, 2003

You know when you get so uptight about something that you lose your perspective on the bigger picture? This happened yesterday when I went to pick up the sign for Clara's Window. It was supposed to be ready, and I've been counting on it all week. It's rather... um... hard to run a shop when you have no sign. Nobody knows you're there.

Well, it turns out there was a mistake and the sign won't be ready until next Tuesday. Because of a forced trip to New Jersey next weekend, I won't be able to put up my store sign until Friday June 27th. The summer tourist season here goes from June to August, so I'm effectively missing one-third of my potential audience because some inattentive person screwed up on my sign. Thanks a lot.

Instead of being a mature professional and demanding, say, a partial refund or weekend delivery of the sign, I found myself becoming hysterical and weepy. Obviously this isn't the best way to behave. So I left and bought soap at the Pier 1 across the street. Retail therapy strikes again.

Then there's the issue of schooners and their wacko schedules. They seem to enjoy stopping in town at 8pm, long after I've closed. They bring their passengers ashore at 8am the next morning, whisking everyone back on the boat and out of town by 10am, which is when I open.

Because my entire town has a population of 910 people, these extra visitors make a significant dent in things. I've contacted all the schooner captains, which will help. But meanwhile I'm facing the question of whether or not I change my hours on the off-chance that a schooner will come to town (their schedules are notoriously vague) and that the passengers will actually want anything in my shop. The balance between smart business and pitiful desperation is tricky.

I talked with the owner of my coffee shop about this today. He has managed to create a cafe to beat all cafes, with the best brewed coffees and espresso drinks in all of Maine (not that this is a remarkable boast, mind you, but still). "You just have to trust your gut," he said. "If we did everything that other people wanted us to do, we wouldn't be where we are today. Do what your instinct tells you. Once you let go of trying to please everybody, it gets a lot easier."

I suppose that's a lesson for life, period, whether you're a retailer or teacher or computer programmer or anything else. And it's what I shall be working on myself over the next few months.

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