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On the Level with Neville

On the Level with Neville

“COVID”-ing It All Out

Well, so much for asking how everyone is doing! Isn’t the world in a state? It feels as though we’re all playing the same game, but everyone has diff erent rules—which, in itself, is both confusing and annoying. I wouldn’t dare get into the whole “Wear a mask!” cesspool, either. That’s something like politics and religion: best kept to myself. (We have to wear them here, so we are getting used to it.)

In our industry, we deal with emotions— often raw emotions—and now, more than ever, I find myself playing the part of “Man Landers” for all sorts of people. I listen to brides who have canceled their weddings, which is bad but not the end of the world. I cried with the lady who had me get flowers to her mother in hospice whom she would never see again, and I consoled the young man from the other side of the country who called to send flowers to his mother because his dad died, and he couldn’t come home. I drew the line when a “devastated” lady arrived at my counter, upset because her granddaughter’s ninth-grade prom was canceled. I gently (well, you know I wasn’t that gentle!) reminded her that people died three blocks from here.

Look, we’re all going through this, so let’s work together to make the best of it. I asked my 97-year-old mother for advice. This remarkable woman grew up during the Great Depression, fought in WW2, immigrated to Canada, lived through the deaths of both parents and her husband, survived the horrible fashion of the ’80s—and goodness knows what other world crises there’ve been. She calmly said, “It’s simple, really: Look for the good in the world because it’s there, and be kind and patient with others and yourself.”

I think of the people who grow our beautiful off erings—the farms, shippers, packers and wholesalers; they are hurting badly, too. We can’t always get the first (or second) choice, so take what is available,
and be thankful! A lady was getting a bit “picky” with her requests recently, and I told her to remember when she was a kid and asked her mother what was for supper, and her mother replied, “Whatever I make for you!” She got it.

We also took down most of the specific colors and arrangements from our online store so we can have freedom to use the best available product. Most people are good with this, and they totally understand when I explain we will get the freshest and best quality first, and if we must make another choice, oh well. Frankly, those who don’t accept this don’t deserve flowers anyway!

We’re all working with fewer staff , less time, fewer resources and more stress than ever, so kindness within our fl oral family is paramount. I get messages from around the world, and we chatter, commiserate, laugh and cry together, which is important and necessary.

Be honest with your customers, and let them know the scoop. Just because they see a picture on social media of a bouquet in Tokyo or Los Angeles doesn’t mean those flowers are available in Bathurst, New Brunswick or Waukesha, Wis. I find that having conversations with my suppliers (big shout-out to Duane and his team at Staalduinen Floral in Ontario!) allows me to be better prepared for what’s to come. For instance, apparently Gypsophila is limited right now. (This’ll kill some of the grandmas who feel roses just aren’t roses without a stem or two of baby’s-breath!)

Take a moment every day to do something nice for someone and/or yourself—be it giving a flower to the neighbor lady, paying for the next person’s coffee in the drive-through, or calling another florist or supplier to see how they’re doing. It’s important to share our strengths and support, especially now, and it’s such an easy thing to do.

There are things we can control and others we cannot. What’s that “Serenity Prayer”? Well, you know it, and many are hoping also that someone should take the wheel! Sadly, when things are out of people’s control, they look for what they can control, and that’s often when they get as prickly at us as a wool sweater in July. It’s only natural, I guess, so remember not to take it personally, smile under your mask and let them know their evil will have no effect on you. I’ve been in this industry for many (many!) years, so I know when to walk away from a customer.

A lady called the other day who was feeling a particular way, wanting flowers delivered on Sunday. We aren’t open on Sunday, I explained. Well, she told me that she knew that, but because COVID has been hurting business, she felt I should open anyway and not only make this delivery but also give her a discount because I needed the business. When I declined her most gracious and kind suggestion (yup, I said those words!), she said that I clearly didn’t want her business. She must have been the smartest girl in her class!

We’ve been getting it from all directions, what with COVID-19, droughts, mass murders, political unrest all over, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods and fi res—and then, of course, we had to hear that “murder hornets” are actually a thing! Frig, Margaret Atwood couldn’t have written a crazier story than this if she tried!

Stay safe. Stay well. And be kind to each other.

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