Marketing Minute – Don’t be a Karen, Talk Instead


Marketing Minute – Don’t be a Karen, Talk Instead

Jeff Pinyot


Had Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle fallen asleep in the year 2002 and woke up in 2023, he might have thought he had been transplanted to a different planet. Today’s language is unrecognizable. Words have completely different meanings today than they did yesterday. Case in point. “Talking.” How many of you know what “Talking” means today? It used to mean picking up a phone and having a conversation over Alexander Graham Bell’s invention. Now, it actually means “Dating,” but not really. 


We used to call playing tennis, going for a walk, or even dinner or a movie with someone of interest “Dating.” “Talking” isn’t dating, it’s apparently more like “Pre-Dating.” It just looks like dating to me. You do the same things when you “Talk” as when you go on a “Date.” It can be very confusing, but don’t admit that it is, or you will get weird looks. If you are confused, let’s “Talk” (in the true sense of the word) and I’ll try to explain it.


While the meaning and usage of words may have changed, the benefits and dangers of them will never. Kind words are soothing and beneficial while harsh words can pierce a heart and destroy a relationship. As always, just because you are reading what I am writing, doesn’t mean I’m good at or a professional at something. It simply means that enough of you read these and Parking Today continues to publish them. I’m writing to myself, as well, on this one. I don’t have the kind words or the humility down very well, yet. Choosing the correct words is like fine art on a canvas. 


I once wrote about a dinner my wife and I had with another couple where we intentionally deflected every question back to them and gave them an entire dinner to only talk about themselves. After the meal, they said to us that it was the most enjoyable meal that they could imagine. For us it was fun because it was a living experiment and in our control. When controlling the conversation isn’t something you are currently doing, it can be a miserable experience. 


We once went on a cruise with another couple that we didn’t know much about. It was a client, not a friend. We made the huge mistake of sitting at a four top for all of our meals, instead of a large table where we could meet more people. This couple dominated the conversation at every meal; it was a bloody nightmare. My wife and I had to make an agreement that neither of us would jump overboard, leaving the other alone with them. Being eaten by a shark had more appeal than the next meal that loomed ahead. 


Falling for the trickery of a good photographer, I once made a reservation at a Disney Hilton for our family of six to stay in one single room. What a mistake that was. The room was tiny. The photographer made a liar out of the hotel. This was on me, of course, so while I was frustrated, I knew it was entirely my fault. I approached the front desk and started with these words, “I really messed up this time.” It wasn’t 10 minutes before the hotel moved us to two adjoining rooms on the Executive Level (with free food and beverages in the lounge 24/7). At what cost? Not a dime more for both rooms. They said it was “Their pleasure.” I’m Hilton Diamond now; my parents didn’t raise a fool. Hilton rocks! Had I approached the front desk like a Karen, I’d have ended up with a mutiny on my hands for what would have been the longest week of my life. 


At dinner one night with my wife, rather than complaining about an extraordinarily average meal at an extraordinarily expensive restaurant that we chose for a special occasion, when the manager approached our table like she did all the others to introduce herself and ask how the meal was going, we simply said it was “Fine.” Now in my family, “Fine” doesn’t mean “Fine,” it actually means, “Not fine, Fair, or even Poor.” The manager was used to hearing the word, “Wonderful, or Excellent” after her question. 


After a brief exchange, she wanted the meal to be on her instead of us. We would not accept her offer. Finally, she convinced us to let her take one entrée off of the bill. So, it was a real surprise when after we paid for the balance of the meal, she presented us with a certificate for two free three-course meals upon our return. If you are doing the math in your head, we won bigger than we would have if we agreed to her comping our meal that night. I asked her why she did that and she responded that 99.9 percent of people would have complained and accepted her offer and it was rare for someone to turn down a free meal. Like the Hilton, she said it was “Her pleasure.” 


Are you seeing a pattern here? Your words are a tool. Blunt words mixed with unkindness and harshness won’t punch through a wet paper bag. Kind and well-thought words can move a mountain. 


I’ll leave you with one final story that still makes me laugh today. In my single days, I frequented a golf course for lunch that was both near my office and my condo. One of the women who worked there insisted that I come and meet her daughter. I agreed to meet her daughter at the golf course for lunch one day and on that day, I was running late. (This was before cell phones). 


I was booking it down the road trying to pick up time and I pulled out in front of another driver. Bad move on my part. I really ticked off this older gentleman and he began to follow me closely and take every turn I made all the way to the parking lot of this golf course, where he pulled his car right in front of mine to block me in. 


Knowing that I was going to get an ear full, and knowing exactly what it was about, my first words were this. “Sir, I am so very sorry about cutting you off back there, I know I did it, but I had a good reason to. See, I am late for a date (was it a date actually or were we just “Talking”?) and I didn’t want to make a bad first impression.” 


He responded, swallowing all of the anger, disgust, and premediated opinions of me that he had played out in his mind on the OJ Simpson car chase, with, “Young man, go have a good time, I hope she’s wonderful.” She wasn’t. But I earned a master’s degree that day.


So, yes, today, word meanings have changed, but the value of and choice of our words have not. You and only you are in control of the outcome of your words. Use your precious gift to be a blessing to others. You might just receive a bigger blessing back in return.


You are beautiful, be beautiful!

Article contributed by:
Jeff Pinyot, ECO Parking Technologies
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