The Power of Visuals

We’ve all heard the expression that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, what about a gesture?  How many words is that worth?  It depends on how serious you are about the image that your company is trying to convey out in the world.

Last week, the power of the gesture struck me as I was leaving a Dunkin’ Donuts in Rhode Island.  As usual, the place was packed and I parked behind the building, since all the spaces on the street were taken.  After getting my extra large, iced French Vanilla, cream and three Equals, (I’m always fascinated at how specifically everyone orders their coffee – often much more complicated than my “usual”) I got back in the car and attempted to leave the parking lot.  Unfortunately, there was a white van blocking the driveway.  It wasn’t blocking it a little, it was directly across the entire driveway.  Luckily, there was someone behind the wheel waiting for his partner to bring back the coffee.  So I tooted my horn.  The van moved up about 6 inches.  Given that my car isn’t six inches wide, I tooted again.  Let me be clear here – I didn’t lean on my horn – just a quick toot.  Well, on the 2nd toot, he moved about another 4 feet.  I was able to just about squeeze through without scratching his fender and my passenger door.  As I was making a right, it was touch and go trying to navigate the turn with this van literally right on top of me.  So this time I hit the horn.

Now, if you were blocking a driveway and you knew you were blocking a driveway (there was a sign that clearly read “Don’t Block The Driveway” right across from the passenger window of the van), you’d assume that you’d get some flack from people trying to get out of the driveway, no?

He didn’t move another inch.  As I came around the van, I noticed that it had the name of a company in Fall River across the side in bright blue letters.  Name, logo, location and phone number. As  I drove past the van, I looked out my passenger window towards the van driver.  He looked right at me and put his arm up against the window with his middle finger pointing to the sky.  Aside from the obvious rudeness, what really struck me was the image of this hand right next to the company logo.  It would have made a great picture.

As I was driving down the street, I decided to circle back, so I made a u-turn, and jotted down the name and number of the company.  The juxtaposition of the company’s obvious effort at trying to portray a professional organization, next to their driver’s “brand statement” was too much to ignore.  I wondered if they would want to know how they were being portrayed on the street to potential customers by this driver – whose job it is to represent them.

So I called and asked for a manager who was in charge of their fleet to discuss a problem I encountered with one of their vans.  A manager came to the phone, and I related to her what happened, and followed it with my comment that I was guessing that this wasn’t the image they wanted to send to potential customers out on the road.  She was shocked and repeated to me, “Our driver gave you the finger?!”  “Yes,” I said, “it was rather striking next to your company logo.”  The manager asked for any other details (location, time, etc.) and assured me that the person would be dealt with and that this was NOT the impression they wanted to give.  She made the point to thank me for bringing this to their attention, and she sounded very sincere in those thanks.  I told her that I was the president of a marketing and sales firm, and that I know first hand now how hard it is to get a positive message out there.  It seemed a shame to have it squandered by an employee who simply forgot that he was not in his own car, representing himself.  He was being paid to represent a company.

While it may seem harsh that I called and reported him, as a business owner consider how you might feel if a gesture sent a message that you never ever intended.  How many words is that worth?

— Lisa Dennis

One Comment

  1. Edward J. Dever
    Posted December 24, 2006 at 12:34 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Lisa & Chuck,
    You can’t post this response due to the language, but I was reading your blog about your experience pulling out of the Dunkin’ Donuts and it reminded me of what happened to me this summer while walking on Quincy Shore Drive……A “gentleman” in a van almost ran me over while I was walking on the sidewalk and he was turning into a driveway. After he slammed on his brakes just avoiding running me over on the sidewalk, he yelled out, “You @%#$&$@ Retard!”
    Here’s the kicker: It was a VHS Transportation van carrying mentally challenged adults! I too called the company and complained. I asked them to follow up with me as to how they might handle this situation, I never heard back.
    I also emailed the head of Quincy Public School’s transportation for the after-school programs with the mentally challenged (my old high school gym teacher) and he never responded.
    Companies just don’t “get it.” Thomson & Thomson did “get it” at least when I worked there with you guys under Bob Becker. That’s when we used to train people with the “Achieving Service Excellence” seminars…me and Lisa Spiro. T&T was way out in front in investing in training (at least back then).
    Anyway, Merry Christimas. I just starting reading your blog and it is interesting.
    Eddie Dever (from the old EAS Team)

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