Customer Relations Lessons from the Bagel Men

For years, I’ve frequented a particular bagel café. It’s part of a national chain. The bagels are terrific, and so is the French roast coffee. This café is within a couple of miles of several other coffee shops and bagel bakers. All serve decent food and drink. Their prices are about the same, too.

But I especially enjoyed my shopping experience at this favorite café because of the manager. He was always there (or seemed to be), working as hard as his employees and, more importantly, he had a winning demeanor. He was friendly, pleasant and interested in helping customers.

He smiled. He said thank you. It was always nice dealing with him.

Yesterday I went in for my whole-wheat bagel and coffee fix. A new manager was there. Evidently, the former manager was promoted and moved elsewhere.

This guy was the opposite of customer friendly. He was gruff. Never smiled. Didn’t say thanks. Practically threw the bagel into a bag and tossed it to me over the Plexiglas barrier. The younger man working the cash register was just as sour.

My food tasted as good—don’t get me wrong—but the experience disheartened me. Personally, I like frequenting local shops and getting to know the owners and employees. I like being “a regular.” Until the café replaced the boss with Crabby Appleton, I didn’t realize how highly I valued the treatment I got.

Here’s my point: most printing companies are privately owned businesses. The boss is often on site. Your customers have lots of choices when it comes to printing. Unless you produce something that they can’t buy anywhere else, you have to find ways to wow them. It need not cost a ton or take months to implement.

Take a lesson from my bagel man and make their “shopping” experience as pleasant and as memorable as you can. Customers still visit print facilities for press checks or plant tours. Don’t blow it.

Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched her new business in 2013 as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. Now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content.

You may know Margie as the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference. Although she’s exited the event production business, she’s still publishing her Print Tips newsletter. She looks forward to helping companies create and style all of their content so their potential customers sit up and take notice. For details and to sign up for her Print Tips and new marketing blog, visit or e-mail Margie at
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  • http://HankBrandtjen Hank Brandtjen

    Great column!

    While we are in the equipment sales side of the picture’ I believe the story is the same. “Deep breaths,” I tell people, “take a deep breath.” Selling is very difficult these days. You have to work even harder. In route, the setbacks are even more disappointing. Stay positive and attentive. loyal customers will buy that bagel from you!

  • http://SueRugh Sue Rugh

    So True! Years ago I wanted to have a t-shirt made to look like it was made of money, so I could wear it to press checks at big printers because that was how I was treated – I was only money – not a person with feelings. I’m happy to say most of the printers I deal with on a day to day treat me like GOLD, and that is why they are GOLD to me.

  • http://MargieDana Margie Dana

    Thanks, Sue & Hank!

    It is such an easy, obvious and universal thing, isn’t it: be pleasant to your customers. Make them feel important. I don’t care if it’s an act — in fact, when we all have bad days and really don’t feel like talking to clients, that’s when we need to dig down deep, take that “deep breath,” and…smile!

  • http://Bob Bob

    I’m listening to a cd called The Principals of Ethical Influence by Robert Cialdini. His first “influencer” is that of reciprocity – we receive when we give. By giving you the feeling that your business and more importantly, that YOU were important, he received return business. And it’s so easy to do!! By the way Margie – loved the reference to Crabby Appelton. Bet most of the readers don’t have a point of reference for that one!

    Thanks for the article.

  • http://Margie Margie

    Thanks, Bob! Glad someone knows who Crabby Appleton is. :)

    It was definitely a happy experience, doing business with the former manager. The products are the same. The prices are the same. But I almost got the “bum’s rush” and the guy was as sour as an unripe Granny Smith.

    Too bad….