Your Employees Can Make Magic


July 2017—

…if you give them the right tools

Like many of you, I was elated to find my copy of RetailerNOW in the mailbox recently. I flipped through the pages as I walked to my front door and went blank when I realized I was this close to missing my deadline for this article. Have you ever had a great idea for something that will change your life? Something you know you’ll remember forever, and then you forget what it was? That happened to me. I’d blame it on my advancing years, but I’m not THAT old…yet.

Mind you that the compensation for writing this column comes from within, but I think about what I want to share with you regularly. It’s fun to write and it’s fun to see my thoughts in print. I like it when people I know say they saw my article and they liked it. It makes me feel like I matter a little. Oh yeah… I remember what I was going to write about!

I was at Disneyland with my wife and two daughters passing the time waiting in a line longer than a Sunday morning sermon when we finally saw the entrance to the Lightning McQueen experience that would be our mode through Radiator Springs. Those of you with kids know what I’m talking about. The line was moving slowly for an hour and then it stopped.

We stood there and we waited….and waited. And. Waited.

Twenty minutes went by and we were going nowhere while watching other park-goers walk right by us and get on the ride. We were wedged in like Patton in Italy with nowhere to go. My bladder-challenged daughter’s face went from happy to angry to distressed. She set her body clock to be ready for the potty in 20 minutes. It had now been 30 minutes with no sign of the line advancing. Like Patton, I was ready to clear the bridge by any means necessary. My kid needed to pee! I was at the happiest place on earth and none too thrilled about being there.

A tear emerged and I can’t recall if it was from me or my daughter. We walked up to the Mouseketeer holding up our line and told her she was close to witnessing the mother of all meltdowns if this line didn’t get the green light. The attendant glanced over my shoulder, no doubt to see if the source of the meltdown would be from me or from someone scarier.

The attendant reminded me that FastPass riders have priority and I was welcome to get a FastPass on our next visit to the Magic Kingdom. Who knew? In other words, suck it up, pal.

She must have noticed where my retreat wound up and saw me shaking my head at my daughters’ sad faces. The emotions that probably stirred in her must have resonated, harkening back to when daddy failed her for the first or last time and the scar that was still there some 20 years later. As if by divine intervention, the line moved and as we approached the FastPass entrance, the girl, who not long before required more patience of me, asked us to wait just long enough for her to press a few pieces of paper in my hand and bid me a magical visit.

The current of the line pushed us along so quickly that by the time I looked down to see what she gave me, I was getting on the ride.

Like Charlie Bucket finding the Golden Ticket, my eyes went wide. Line Jumpers! The attendant gave me a stack of Line Jumpers! Dated for that day only, but enough to go on whatever we wanted however many times we wanted for the rest of the day. For those of you not in the know, Line Jumpers are usually reserved for celebrities or whatever other power couple wants to bring their kids and au pairs for a family day at Disney. This was huge and we loved it.

People watched us skipping through the park without a care in the world. We owned the place and all was forgotten. Thirty minutes of mild annoyance seemed like years ago. How did that happen? Why did that happen?

I have always been mindful to look at the behavior that produces a result to occur, not the result itself. The furniture retail pundits are always talking about how customer experience is so important, and they’re exactly right. How else do we compete with those dreaded ecommerce sites? The online guys are looking to demolish retail or use it to serve themselves so they can score the transaction. Those of us who preach the power of brick-and-mortar as the dominant channel in the transfer of goods from one party to another are laughed at. When ecommerce was a fringe idea, we retailers knew it was going to be a game changer. We saw it coming and very few did anything about it. Year by year, the flying saucer just got closer, and we all looked at it and pointed at the pretty lights.

Disneyland and Disney World are the masters. I don’t know many—if any—furniture retailers who think they can pull off an inkling of the service Disney does. I can prove it. Go to Yelp and look at the furniture store reviews in your area. I don’t even look anymore because so many reviews are so bad these days. I get it, people like to complain and they will always emphasize the unbelievably great or the horrifically tragic. The trend of “we’re all special individuals” is growing and no one likes to be treated like we’re just a number, and so we write reviews about our experiences. You should see the shelves of participation trophies kids are earning these days because showing up and participating deserve an award. My kids have tons of trophies and really haven’t won much. You know who wins? The trophy guy. What a genius!

Back to my non-rhetorical question: Why did we feel like we were walking on sunshine and all was right with Walt and company? Because that girl dressed in mechanic coveralls decided to make us feel special. She took our frown and turned it upside down. What a concept.

But here’s the point: SHE WAS EMPOWERED TO DO IT. Disney realizes that people make the difference between a great experience and a crummy one and they hire their people into a culture of ensuring happiness. This girl used the power of sympathy and empathy along with an aligned personal and cultural value to make things great for us. We went on that same ride again before we left and saw her walking to another station and I stopped to thank her. She looked at my kids smile and she started to smile and thanked me. “Everyone gets to be happy at Disney,” she said.

Walt, if you’re reading this, Erin from Garden Grove, Calif. is doing an awesome job! Retailers of the Home Furnishings Association, what are you doing to empower your employees to do an awesome job themselves?

About the Author

Jonathan Schulman
Jonathan Schulman is a member of the IHFRA executive committee. His coverage area includes Southern California and Hawaii. He has won several awards including Sales Professional of the Year in 2013 and can be reached at