GETTING MORE TALE #543: Loose Lips Sink Ships
One night, we had a staff meeting for managers. The lesson that evening was that “loose lips sink ships”. This phrase dates back to World War II. The idea was to avoid speaking openly about anything to do with the war. You never know how any of that information might get back to the enemy. The same held true for the cutthroat world of CD retail.
The reason he had to reinforce that “loose lips sink ships” rule is that one franchisee had made a huge mistake, boasting openly about a great location he had just found for a future store. Wouldn’t you know it, our biggest rival swooped in and took the spot. He heard about it because Gabby McGabberson was telling everybody. The ship had sunk!
This served as a reminder to watch what we say. You never know who might be listening. I got caught a few times myself. One afternoon I was talking about an ex-employee who got himself fired. Sometimes I felt like he was making me prematurely grey, and I was venting some steam in store. Little did I know that the guy’s brother was in the store, and reported my words back to him! Whoopsie. At least I didn’t say anything that was not true. He got a new job working at HMV and I think that’s where he was happier to be. Then there’s good ol’ Spoogecakes. I can only guess but the loose lips theory is all I can come up with to explain why ex-coworker Spoogey (remember that explosion of drama?) had such a hate-on for me. It started in mid-2006, about six months after I quit the store. A third party informed me that she had this weird crush/obsession. I was oblivious to that and it was a little off-putting to find out. I think once word got back about how I reacted, the hate set in. I’ll never know for sure, but the point is: anything said can be repeated.
We were trained to answer customer inquiries about how the store was doing in vague terms only. The boss caught me once when we first opened the branch I managed. “How are you guys doing today?” asked a customer. “Pretty busy!” I answered, seemingly innocently. Afterwards the boss instructed me, “Never tell people we’re busy. Never tell them if we’re slow either. Only answer ‘business is good’. How do you know that guy won’t try to break in and rob us now that he knows we’re busy?”
Sensible advice. Never show your cards. I took that advice and only answered vaguely from that point on. That’s what I instructed my staff to say too. Loose lips sink ships: “Business is good.” If the customer pressed for more details (and you might not believe it, but some did!) I would just play stupid and say that I didn’t know the numbers. I even caught a guy trying to sneak a glimpse at my sales log book, all casual-like. Can you believe that?
Business folks would be well advised to take my old boss’ advice. Loose lips sink ships!