Manage your Melons.

One of the early bosses in my career was the produce manager at the grocery store that took a chance on my bag packing abilities. His name was Insalid but I always pronounced it ‘In Salad’ as that made much more sense to my teenage mind of connecting his name to his occupation…but I digress.

A recent immigrant and new to Canadian culture, I was always impressed with how Insalid operated. He worked hard, modeled the behaviour and expected you to do the same.  Whether or not we understood every word exchanged between us, the nuance of the words was very clear.  Work hard.  Make the produce department shine and serve the customer.

It was his melon management that really caught my attention however.

We sold bins and bins of watermelon. A private truck would be sent to California from our family run Vancouver area store and 4 days later it would return packed full of the striped fruit.

I don't know if you do this, but many people picking out a watermelon tap it or flick their fingers to try and hear a perfect hollow-ish sound that indicates the premium level of ripeness and juiciness.

As a promoted produce clerk from bag boy status, I would be asked continually by customers to help pick the right melon. I would try but usually end up saying “I'm not sure…hope this works out.”  It was an honest answer.

Then I saw Insalid in action. Customer 1 leaves beaming. Customer 2 is smiling. Customer 3 seems elated with the melon Insalid has delivered.

I needed to find out the secret of the melons.

What's the secret technique I asked?

He gave me that look that only learned managers can give.

He stated (paraphrased) “I tap once and say no. I tap another one and say no. Then I always pick the third one!  We have to sell them all you know….and they are all good.”

By managing expectations and building excitement he made happy customers where my ‘honesty’ only built a lack of confidence in the customers mind.

We have to be honest, but customers are also looking to us to be strong in our commitment to our products.  We must believe in what we sell.

Are you managing your melons?


– Randy Friesen

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