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Providing both product and good feelings

The true sign that fall has arrived is not leaves changing colour or children returning to school. The true sign that summer is over is the end of the garage sale season. What was so prominent since the first warm Saturday of May has become scarcer with every passing week.

There is something special about garage sales. They are more than tables piled high with the unused, the unwanted and the out of fashion. There is the excitement of discovering the unexpected. We see the truth of the adage: “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” The ornament with immediate appeal. The perfect toy for a grandchild. Just enough sidewalk blocks to complete a project. All are great finds for someone.

What a great feeling! Shoppers find things they can use . . . at bargain prices to boot. A morning spent tracing a well charted route from driveway to driveway is followed by opportunities to share the experience with friends and family. The returning shopper recalls how skillfully she bargained to get such a great deal; how surprising it was to find this lamp, playpen or book; how wise she was to arrive early before all the good stuff was gone.

Author Michael LeBeouf observes, “customers will exchange their hard-earned money for only two things: good feelings [and] solutions to problems.” Garage sales meet both needs – emotional and material.

Many who hold garage sales aren’t just selling stuff; they are putting part of their lives on display, their history. Shoppers who take the time to listen, hear tales demonstrating that garage sales are more than getting ready to move, cleaning out a spare room, or emptying the basement.

There are stories attached to each of these bargains. “I never could find the time to build a layout for these electric trains.” “These were a gift from my first marriage – it lasted 13 months.” “One summer the mosquitos were so bad we had to wear these beekeeper hats in the hot tub.”

This emotional element is often missing from traditional retail interactions. The service provider focuses only on selling a product that solves the customer’s problem.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Those who serve customers in traditional settings can introduce emotion into the process. Some already do.

A server in a restaurant lets you know which is his favourite dessert, and why. The bookseller recommends a book that she or a friend enjoyed. A teacher describes the excitement that she felt when a recommended approach helped another child learn.

If we only see customers as buyers of goods or services, we only meet half their needs. We need to connect emotionally. We must invest something of ourselves into the process.


Nelson Scott offers several Customer Service Presentations, including Customer Service MAGIC: Changing Complainers into Loyal Customers; What Your Mother Taught You About Customer Service and other Training Resources developed by Service Quality Institute and the Vital Learning Corporation.


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A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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