I came to realize recently that people in general tend to overreact for the smallest things. Granted, I’ve been somewhat de-sensitized to emergencies, given my line of work. But it seems to me that one should be able to deal with some minor “non life-threatening” situations without losing their faculties…
I was faced with a good example this morning. I was walking the aisles of a local grocery store picking up some items by myself. My wife was at home working and my son was spending some time with his aunt, so I was able to saunter about and look for meal ideas while picking up some needed items. As I was wandering the dairy aisle looking for some parmesan (it was meatball sub night at home), everything suddenly went dark as the grocery store lost all power.
People started with the typical reactions; I heard heavy sighs and “aawwws” all throughout the store. I had a cart full of food, including fresh and frozen items. Therefore, I had no intention of stopping. I continued to look around and grab things I needed.
It only took a minute for staff to lock all the doors and start ushering all the customers out. It wasn’t until several of the customers started complaining and refusing to leave that I approached the staff and asked to speak with the manager. She approached and I had a five minute conversation with her that changed the tempo of the moment:
ME: Ma’am, have you contacted SaskPower? This may be temporary. Rather than boot out all these paying customers, maybe you can check if there’s an estimated time of repair…
MANAGER: No, I haven’t contact SaskPower. Our store’s policy is to escort all patrons out of the store during a power outage to prevent loss and theft.
ME: I understand that, but I have a cart full of frozen items. If I leave, this is staying here and will likely defrost. If you check to see if this will only last a few moments, you can rally everyone to the seating area until power restores. That way, you don’t piss everyone off AND you won’t lose all these sales.
MANAGER: (Walks away grumbling, clearly unhappy at being told what to do, comes back to me within two minutes) So, apparently the power is out across most of the city and they have no idea when it’ll come back on.
ME: And none of your tills are currently working?
MANAGER: Actually, the self-serve check outs have battery back-ups and could still take customers… (a look of the light bulb suddenly coming on)
ME: Maybe make an announcement and guide customers to the self-checkout while you still can.
MANAGER: (over intercom) Ladies and gentlemen, with the power having gone out, we need to escort everyone out of the store. Please make your way to the self-checkout where we should be able to complete a number of transactions before the battery back-ups die out…
I made it to the self-checkout and completed my purchase, along with EVERYONE ELSE IN THE STORE! Customers who were not done their shopping were a bit unhappy, but at least everyone left, having paid for their items. The weird thing is that the music over the PA system was still working…
Don’t get me wrong; my point wasn’t to try and tell this manager how to do her job. But it seemed as though the loss of power suddenly caused a light sense of anxiety and panic, and caused the store staff to go into a flurry, when there was a much simpler solution available right in front of them.
I wouldn’t say that a power outage would cause a fight or flight response, necessarily. But we, as people, need to learn to deal with situations as they evolve with cool heads and approach them rationally. We can’t allow ourselves to panic simply because we’ve grown too dependent on our technology and comforts.