How Weird Is Too Weird?
by Angie Ash, Executive Vice President
So, have you been shopping in a brick and mortar yet? Gone out to dinner? Had your hair done?
Although some states have not fully opened, many have to at least some extent. And the everyday experiences we’ve done without thinking about twice in the past have gone a little…well, weird.
For me, shopping recently in a brick and mortar store has been the most “normal” of the bunch. I had to buy some new running shoes shortly after Ohio opened and, like most runners, can’t just order them online. (Runners have a whole separate set of things they check off in their mind before buying). The local specialty running store had nice signage, clear social distancing guidelines, masks enforced, sanitizer at the ready. I couldn’t touch any shoes, though. I had no issues overall, made the purchase, and left happy. A little weird, but not too bad.
Just last week, my husband and I decided to try eating in a local restaurant. Cue the weird. Nobody was wearing a mask once we got inside except for the waitresses. The menus were the same as last time, i.e. no throwaways. To their credit, we did see someone wiping them down. The food took quite a bit longer to get to us, which was understandable with a smaller staff, and the booth dividers were clear plastic shower curtains. We gave it an A for effort and imagination on those, but the experience was definitely high on the weird scale.
This past weekend, I finally got into my salon for a trim and much-needed color. I had to text my stylist from my car and had to wait until I got the all-clear to come in. There were no refreshments, no blowdrying was allowed, and I had to sit outside or in my car while my color processed. I could only bring my phone and keys to the salon. No purse, no book, no laptop. This experience was very high on the weird scale. However, I was so grateful and happy to feel like “me” again that I honestly didn’t care that much.
In summary, I felt “safe” throughout the shoe sale. I was disappointed with the dining experience but understood the longer wait time part of it. The hair appointment had no resemblance to anything remotely luxurious. Before COVID-19, I would have never gone back to a salon that would take my money but leave me unstyled. This time, it “was what it was” and I was just fine with it because the pro of feeling like “me” again outweighed the con of the experience not being what it used to be.
The selling, buying, and service experience, without question, is vastly different. The repercussions of the virus are still yet to be seen. Stores and restaurants are being run on skeleton crews, not just because supplies are harder to acquire, but because many don’t want to go back to work and are making more money unemployed. Consumers are nervous, with many back to spending, but spending less and with more thought and caution. The regulations necessary to run businesses have drastically changed how many people can come into a store, how many appointments a stylist can make, and the like. The trickle-down effect goes on and on.
And then there’s the point of this article. How weird is too weird may very well be the question everyone will need to answer for themselves. As people navigate the new “normal” that is anything but, what will people decide is okay and tolerable now that they never would have put up with before? What new buying habits will develop? What type of new thinking and implementation will need to be done to stay afloat? And what can we all do to innovate in the midst of all of this chaos to address those who now feel like elephants in a zebra skin? We have a lot of lost business to make up for, but a lot of opportunities for positive change as well.