What's In A Name? Everything
Here's a fun experiment that, like cat litter boxes, dogs just love.
Position your dog on the floor. (but not in the corner - NOBODY puts Doggie in the corner!) Now stand several feet away and see if you can get your poochy to come to you, by calling out a name other than his/hers/its own. For example, if you have a "Pooky," try "Herb." If "Bubba" is how your dog rolls, shout out "Stephanie."
Better yet, try a totally benign, emotionless term as a replacement for your dog's name - like, say, "clock."
Now call it out, really sell it, just like you were using the dog's actual name, instead of an appliance.
"Here Clock! Come on, Clock! Here Clockie! Cloooooooockieeeeeee!"
If your best friend came to you right away, then it's strong evidence that the long hours of forehead-skrunching think time you devoted to coming up with "P. Fatty," were entirely wasted.
But if the alarm clock from your bedroom night stand came romping in, cord wagging, before "Fi-fi" budged, then maybe you should consider teaching your clock some tricks, and turning your pooch into a watch dog.
Either way, it demonstrates an important point - Shakespeare was a dork.
He was the one, you remember (even if you weren't there) who wrote, "A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet." In other words, names are meaningless - it's the thing they represent, that's important.
Yeah - and a clock won't respond to verbal commands. Come on, Bill!
The bottom line is that our name, matters. It matters when someone uses it, and even more when someone does not, as is the case in a very high percentage of your shopping experiences, according to the latest Des Moines Customer Survey numbers, which I'll share in a moment.
First though, it's no wonder that we have an emotional connection to our name.
It's one of the first things we hear when we take the plunge out of the womb. We're taught to respond to it at an early age by our parents, as a word that is uniquely "us," and it's often the first word we learn to write. Those who study anthroponomastics - the science of personal names - suggest that by the time we hit the age of 40, we've either heard, said or written our own name, over 50,000 times.
The simplest way to feel the impact of our name, though, is to imagine not having one.
What if you were ( ), just a blank void? Who would you be? Would you be? If a guy without a name, falls in the woods, does he make a sound?
Let's start at your beginning. What if your parents hadn't named you? There's that old comedian's joke about the kid growing up, who started to think his name was Heystupid. What if you had been given no name, no handle, no word that you answered to.
Is that even legal?
Cristen Conger is a columnist for HowStuffWorks.com. In an article titled "Is it illegal not to have a name?" Cristen writes:
"In the United States, no matter where a woman gives birth, she is legally obligated at some point to report it to the appropriate government entity, usually a department of health and human services or vital records. That entails filling out a first and last name for the child. How long the mother has to fill out that birth certificate varies by state."
So okay, let's say that your Mom and Dad pick your name - Eggbert - but after years of harassment and expensive psychotherapy, you decide to get rid of it, and go nameless.
Is that legal?
Here's Conger with the answer:
"In the United States, going without a name is not inherently illegal. Police won't arrest you for not having a name. But you can't legally identify yourself without one, which would make things difficult for you. For instance, you need a legal name on a birth certificate or social security card to obtain a driver's license or passport, open a bank account and get a job."
Prince tried this.
In 1993, the flamboyant pop singer stopped using his stage name (legal name: Prince Rogers Nelson) and replaced it with a symbol - for reasons that only make sense to dogs who'll come when you call them by a wrong name.
Try writing that on a $150,000 check for purple dry cleaning.
I understand he's going by "Clock" now.
So yes, you can pretty much call yourself anything you want, or nothing at all - but if you go with ( ), don't plan on driving a car or getting a job or being a part of the normal world.
I smell a reality show.
What smells for local shoppers is almost never hearing their name in retail settings.
The latest numbers from The Des Moines Customer Service Survey, bear this out.
As to question number 5, "Generally speaking, when employees interact with you at businesses in the Des Moines area, do they tell you their name, and/or ask for yours?" nearly 79% of the over 500 respondents, said no and no - employees do not give their name, and don't ask for theirs.
Are you surprised by those numbers? (Take The Des Moines Customer Service Survey by clicking here.)
Here's someone who tries to surprise those she serves - from a tweet sent to me on Twitter:
"I'm a cashier @ conv store & ppl like it when I say their name. One says a 'hello' & name, along w smile makes his day :)"
Another tweet on the importance of saying a customer's name, sent to me from Terrie Rolwes, founder of The WOW Customer Experience Gr0up in St. Louis:
"This is a MUST! it is in the first impression!!"
Another thoughtful tweet, from Curt Sills of Des Moines:
"Learning customers name [is] something I work at every day...customers love to hear their name, makes them feel important."
And last - this quote, from anonymous - obviously we don't know the author's name, so we gave them one.
"Words have meaning. Names have power."
For the few businesses whose employees use yours, show them just how powerful their actions are. Keep going back.
And spread their good name.
Jonnie Wright (who was named after "Johnny Quest") is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of "The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show," Saturday mornings 8-9am on 1350 KRNT. You can email Jonnie at firstname.lastname@example.org.