What is the difference between the showroom and the workroom?

When Arizonan Carl Hayden first joined the U.S. House of Representatives, a fellow Congressperson advised Hayden, “If you want to get ahead here, you have to be a work horse and not a show horse.” When Hayden became a U.S. Senator, he dispensed the same advice to incoming colleagues.

But it doesn’t just apply to U.S. Senators.

I thought of this “workhorse/showhorse” distinction last night. It was Valentine’s Day, and I was driving in the dark to pick up some pizza that we had ordered to mark the day. No, that wasn’t’ my Valentine’s Day present; my wife had already received chocolate-covered strawberries.

No, not THOSE chocolate covered strawberries. She got some REAL ones earlier in the day.

So anyway, I was driving back home in the dark after picking up the pizza and noticed something odd. Somewhere out there in the darkness, there were all these glittering tiny lights. I thought to myself, I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the tiny lights glitter.

It turns out that there was a guy, standing next to his van, holding glow-in-the-dark hearts that he was selling.

I didn’t stop, and I didn’t buy. (And I didn’t take a picture, because I knew it wouldn’t turn out well.) But as I was driving home I thought about the guy. And two things came to mind.

First, I doubt that the guy was out selling his products by his van earlier in the day. Why not? Because they wouldn’t look that good early in the day. They would look much better in the dark, in a parking space away from any store or street light. Buyers would then be attracted to his product, like moths to a flame. (Actually, moths probably aren’t attracted to flame. But I digress.)

Second, I realized what would have happened if I had succumbed to the urge to buy one of these glow-in-the-dark hearts from the guy, and if I had taken it home and brought it in the house.

  • Where it wouldn’t look so good, because we have lights all over the house that would diminish the effect of the present.
  • And if I tried to get my wife to go outside to see how the lights looked in the darkness, she would have refused to go out and would have returned to eating pizza.

The challenge that faces any provider is to provide a service that not only looks good when you buy it in the showroom, but also looks good when you put it to work in the workroom. Now there are certainly some providers who are more than happy to take the money and run, but most providers seek to provide long-term customer satisfaction, which is key to getting repeat business and references.

After all, if you go to a car showroom in California and buy a used car, you have the option to buy a contract that allows you to return the car within two days. So if that used car looks great in the showroom but is unsatisfactory when you drive it off the lot, the used car dealer loses that sale, and perhaps loses any future business from you and your friends. Many businesses, such as Amazon, offer similar policies that allow returns under certain circumstances.

Perhaps I’m making assumptions, but I’m guessing that the guy in the van in the dark didn’t have a return policy. It’s not economically feasible in his business.

And now I’m hungry for chocolate covered strawberries. But I’ll probably just get M&Ms and Welch’s fruit snacks.

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