Positive attitude

To what extent does having a positive disposition change your Fate?

I SAW a local store owner, whom I shall call ‘‘Sam’’, in the street recently. His shop seems empty a lot of the time. I politely asked how he was going and was met with an angry tirade about how no one comes in any more because X down the road had stolen all his customers away by offering uncompetitive prices.

‘‘Customers! You customers expect this and that. Everyone wants a discount. I haven’t had a holiday in ages. My supplier has upped his costs; I have rent to pay; I have kids to feed,’’ he raved as I stood there blinking.

I remember the last time I went into his shop. The chewing gum I bought was stale. I brought it back to the counter. He looked at the use-by date and said: ‘‘There’s nothing wrong with it’’, and handed it back.

A few months earlier he’d declined my boyfriend’s request to exchange an unopened DVD for a rewritable one. ‘‘We don’t do that,’’ he said.

I waited. I knew there’d be more things and people to blame for his predicament. And there were: the economy; the government; taxes; his landlord; even his wife, who was supposed to be helping but hadn’t come in recently — she was at fault, too. The reason for this story is my open question to the Sams of the world: What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Some people are just perpetual victims or, rather, they see themselves as always being the victim, not the creator, of their destiny. There’s not a shop owner I know who isn’t suffering, with the bumpy economy and the threat of another global downturn: dress shops, a milk bar, a newsagency — all run by acquaintances with kids to feed, all paying rent.

It’s true. The competitor close to Sam’s is doing OK. The prices are not cheaper, but there’s a general feeling of goodwill and generosity. The owner is a migrant. He loves Australia and is joyful to be here, even after two decades, and always comments on how wonderful the weather is. He remembers people’s names. He commented the other day that I looked tired. I was grateful someone had noticed. Then he gave me a bunch of flowers from his bucket.

There are victims everywhere. People with endless excuses. It never occurred to Sam that customers might just be tired of his angry face. Unlucky stuff happens, but there’s always a way of redressing it if you don’t see yourself as hard done by, or powerless.
My mum says luck is about disposition. Lucky people are the ones who make positive things happen — even in the face of adversity.

Share your thoughts on people who are always full of excuses and complaints.

Press “comments” above

Full story The Australian


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19 Responses to Positive attitude

  1. Ruth Ostrow 16 October 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Thanks Liz, a meaningful response indeed.

  2. Ruth Ostrow 16 October 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    Welcome Andrea, so happy to have you along for the discussions! Thanks for sharing about your agoraphobia as a different perspective on things.

  3. Liz 16 October 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    I used to deal with an employee of a client who, whenever I mentioned taking a holiday (which happens only every couple of years), would whine, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky!’ To which I would respond, ‘And the harder I work, the luckier I get.’
    Yes, I’m ‘lucky’ that I chose to work in a profession (accounting) that is in ever higher demand – but if I didn’t offer the service my clients expect, they wouldn’t stay with me.
    Success also has a lot to do with creating your own opportunities. This woman could have had the same holidays as I did, but had instead bought herself a brand-new Mini convertible, which cost huge amounts to maintain as it was fully imported. (In fact, she does have regular holidays, all paid for by her daughter.)
    I don’t have the ‘luck’ to have a daughter (or family of any kind) to support me, but I do what I can with the opportunities given to me. Even working for myself was an ‘opportunity’ which arose out of having chronic illnesses which prevented me from working regular hours.
    I was inspired by a comment once made by the young Samantha Riley: I look for a positive in every negative. (or words to that effect). And look how her refusal to accept a negative on face value enabled her to achieve!

  4. Glenwyn Dolan 16 October 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Loved your article! We have a little cafe in our beautiful beachside suburb. Heaps of potential but the owner complains about the local store, customers, economy etc. etc. He is always full of doom and gloom and the fact that he sits at the front of his bakery/cafe smoking and reading the paper just might have something to do with the lack of customers. Our gorgeous local, Greek owners, deli foodstore is the total opposite – happy friendly staff, good memory for names and spotlessly clean! Love life . Tassie

  5. Andrea 16 October 2011 at 12:40 am #

    All I can say is “Go Simon!” No not really. I can say heaps more! I have a crippling anxiety disorder, which prevents me from going outside very often.

    So when I DO go outside, into this huge wide world. If I don’t get smiled at, or have people generally be friendly to me, in stores, or at restaurants or stalls. I run away. I literally. Turn around and walk out and go home and don’t leave the house for another few weeks.

    Now while there aren’t masses of agoraphobics in the world. I know people who will do the exact same if someone in a professional setting, isn’t exactly that. Professional.

    My sister owns a salon and she says the same thing to all her staff ” The customers don’t give a *curse* about you or your life. Talk about them.” And it is SO true. I couldn’t give a damn when I’ve ventured out into public, whether the woman at the checkout has a broken face. I just want her to smile at me ask how I am and do her job.

    I’m far more likely to throw my money at people who are lovely that way.

  6. Paul Heinrich 15 October 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Interesting that people blame “the modern age” for rudeness or complaining that inconsiderate people are not responding to emails etc. M experience as a man in his 50′s is that nothing has changed. either people are ego centric or their not and this is not limited to age, gender or era. as an optimistic person I see good in most people and surround myself with people with all sorts of qualities, some will never initiate contact with me but I can still make contact with them and enjoy what we share in common I don’t have to wait for an equal share of them doing the right thing. Friendship is not a ledger.

  7. Greypower 15 October 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    Dear Jen and Kate, ‘no one realises how tough we are doing at the moment’ – give me a break, perhaps you don’t realise that others are doing it tough too. It’s your job to smile and put on a ‘charming facade’ – then perhaps you mightn’t have to do it ‘so tough’ – that’s whole point of Ruth’s article!

    Sorry, I’m referring to the last part of the column in today’s W/E Aust – Jen and Cate – read it, then you might get it!

  8. harry martin 15 October 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    This reminds me of a small, Indian restaurant at the lookout in the Blue Mountains that I came across many years ago. The restaurant was closed and on the door it had a very angry notice.
    `Due to your total lack of patronage we have been forced to close.’
    You felt the writer meant to add, `You pack of rotten bastards.’ Very Basil Fawlty and yes, there are plenty still around.

  9. Paul Heinrich 15 October 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Love your article. We have a specialty food shop in our local area (Blackwood SA) that is not cheap and potentially could have been a financial flop. But far from it the wonderful pleasant young people who run the store are a real part of the community, they know their customers have an open wonderful and personable approach to business. I don’t shop there every week but I am still remembered and I am happy to bring them flowers or bake them a loaf of bread because they are like friends connected to their customers (but not having to be obligated or vis versa). Community is an important part of who we are and shops that don’t embed themselves in their community as a contributor to its emotional well being will not always survive and certainly not survive in my heart. Love your column regards Paul

  10. Ruth Ostrow 14 October 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    My point EXACTLY. Thanks Simon.

  11. Ruth Ostrow 14 October 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    Yes in tomorrow’s column I write about how my preferred shop owner knows every one’s names and remembers details about them, and does nice things for us. It makes a huge difference to be treated nicely after a tough day.

  12. Ruth Ostrow 14 October 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    This is what I did mean Gordon. Victims are everywhere. They drive me crazy. We are all tired, many of us had difficult childhoods or battle depression. I understand that it is hard to always be positive, but blaming others for misfortune is to create misfortune.

  13. Ruth Ostrow 14 October 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    Yes, my mum is wise, and she taught me this. Happiness is a self fulfilling prophesy. If you practice it you will attract more of it.

  14. SadnSorry 14 October 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    Hi Ruth my sister is like this. Never her fault. But it’s she who suffers in the end from being blind to her own behaviour. Those of us who experience hardship but try to be grateful with life, and to see what we are doing wrong, tend to go a lot further than people who have childish attitudes that they deserve everything in life. Your mum sounds very wise.

  15. Gordon 14 October 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    I think the point of this isn’t about retail its a story about wingers. I can tell you that there are wingers in every job, and every industry. its never their fault, everything is someone else’s fault. They take no responsibility. And because they act like this, they actually do end up being at the receiving end of other people’s displeasure. But they bring it on themselves.

  16. Meredith 14 October 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    Another good one Ruth. Hear about the cafe in Melbourne that got brought down because they charged a customer’s friend for some hot water while he or she sat at the table talking. I don’t know the full or accurate story, but there was a customer revolt after the local papers got hold of the story. How much does meanness cost? More than the price they made on the hot water.

  17. Manfred 14 October 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    I have my favourite shops. I agree 100 per cent. There is more to do with how I am treated than prices. I prefer to spend extra if I feel I am being serviced and looked after. And I find that really good business people know when to knock a bit off just to show you you’re special.

  18. Jen&Cate 14 October 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    We are a couple of women who run a small shop in Adelaide. I know it isn’t the point of your column but Ruth no one realises how tough we are doing it at the moment. And sometimes it’s hard to smile and be cheerful. There are days we know we should just pack it in, and then customers come in and we have to keep a charming facade. I agree that a positive disposition is so important, but take pity on those of us who just can’t do it day after day.

  19. Simon 14 October 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    Hi Ruth I am a retailer, own a shop in an old fashion strip shopping centre, and you couldn’t be more right. Part of the value of any business is good will. What’s the use of taking one’s anxieties out on customers who have their own stresses? Yes times are tough, but it gets a hell of a lot tougher if your regulars abandon you!

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