Due to Publix Grocery Store just opening in my town, the store was packed this past Saturday. As I entered I immediately purchased a hot cup of coffee to be by my side to further enjoy my experience. There were carts all around the right side of the store including tastes of Key Lime Pie in tiny plastic cups with miniature spoons, carrots with ranch dip, chocolate covered raisins, roasted red pepper hummus on chips, chocolate chip cookies, steamed shrimp, and a plate with cooked orzo pasta, chicken and tomatoes with a side of spinach doused in a raspberry viniagrette dressing. Needless to say, was impressed. I like to taste food when I go to Costco and have come to expect it there. Now I know that Publix also has a mini kitchen, I will look forward to visiting it and getting meal ideas. I even picked up their brand of orzo pasta, a bag of spinach and the raspberry vinagrette dressing to make my own version of their Chicken and Orzo pasta. One could say that I was inspired to use simple ingredients to make my own meal because of what was demonstrated at Publix.
This idea of food sampling and demonstration in the Publix mini kitchen got me thinking about not only how much my shopping experience was enhanced, but also about how the store made an effort to reach out to me. After having a lesson in humility in the parking lot which I wrote about in my previous post, I came in the store needing a refreshing experience. There were possibilities everywhere of food samples which really hit the spot.
I was also a bit shocked to see the floor space of the new Publix jam packed. I became aware immediately that my shopping cart would have to wait while others navigated to each of the food stations then I’d get to wiggle my way through the maze of carts and people. Within the sea of rolling carts and customers I noticed a huge presence of staff with professional shirts on with Publix embroidered on them and name tags that had a special touch. I inquired about where to find chocolate covered blueberries in a bag and one of these workers immediately told me that he’d find out, go to find them then look for me to let me know. Now, truthfully, he must not have been able to find me because he never came back. I had wandered over to the bakery to taste the Ganache cake, so it was no problem that he could not locate me. I didn’t really need the chocolate covered blueberries but nevertheless, I was impressed that he was willing to stop everything and help me.
As I drove my cart to another section, I saw lobster bisque being dipped by a customer into a bowl and noticed a nook in the corner of the store behind the Deli where people could have lunch and not have other customers run into them with their carts. I asked an employee with her hair net on for sanitary reasons who was giving out cheese samples if Publix has a schedule of which soups will be served each day kind of like McAllister’s Deli has a schedule. She did not know, but went away for a minute, then returned with the answer which was no.
Finally, I guess I was just staring into the prepared meals counter when the employee behind the counter inquired about helping me. The food planners enticed me with the colorful and diverse amount of food that had been prepared and presented extremely effectively like chicken dishes, steak, vegetables and pastas. The man behind this counter with his hairnet on volunteered this comment: “It will stay like this will all of these choices for a while until we see what will SELL in this area.” Wow, they respond to their customer’s likings and won’t carry items that the public will not buy. Pretty smart for them and good for me to know that they will cater to the community.
I continued to roam around looking at their clean, bright and well designed store and found the rest of the items that I needed. As I approached the checkout, I realized that a Publix employee was standing not just behind the cash register but also in the check out lane to GET MY GROCERIES OUT OF MY CART. I didn’t have to bend down and get them then put them on the black conveyor belt. I just stayed behind the front end of the cart. I asked this employee if getting out my groceries from my cart was a normal experience or just part of the grand opening and she made a statement that has resonated with me. She responded with, “It’s just part of our service!” As I paid, I asked the cashier if I needed to ask for help to take my groceries out to my vehicle. There was a lot going on with people leaving and some commotion, but then I looked to my right and saw a young guy holding on to my cart ready to take it outside. The cashier told me, “You won’t ever have to ask for help with your cart at Publix. It’s just part of our service!” Again, WOW.
I can tell you that my lovely experience as a shopper in Publix has gotten me excited about driving just a little farther away to get my groceries when I need them because of their focus on me, the customer. They were looking to make a connection with me by their food tasting carts, the food preparation going on in the kitchen and the focus on customer service with my groceries as I had questions and at the checkout. I appreciate that my needs were anticipated and that everyone, except the one guy who never came back, responded with a quick and professional response. I really do not hold a grudge against the guy who looked for the chocolate blueberries, but as a teacher, I was reminded that we should never tell our students that we’ll do something, then never follow through.
As a teacher, I like to give my students a similar smorgasbord of digital possibilities like the food cart experience I had at Publix. It opens them up to experiencing new ways of responding to text. The critical piece of teaching is anticipating the needs of students and teaching in their Zone of Proximal Development, as Vygotsky would say. (I realized his wisdom in college and always come back to it.) Publix knows that customers can cook but having the demonstration station allowed me to see the ingredients sitting out, a “more knowledgeable other” preparing the food, the recipe cards readily available and the items I needed sitting right next to the Demonstration Station in a cooler. I enjoy demonstrating how to think like a reader and share how a reading strategy impacts me as a reader with my students while I am reading aloud to them. I ask them to Turn and Talk to discuss questions that I pose so that they are a part of this collective thinking about a book. Next, I give them assignments that are within reach for them to accomplish by scaffolding the lesson to include a demonstration of how to use a digital tool. As they are working, I walk around as a guide on the side to facilitate their understanding of using the app on the iPads or using a tool on the computers. I try to be customer service focused with my students and respond to their needs. I can say with assurance that the power of demonstration goes a long way to helping kids feel empowered to use the digital tool.
During this time of year, students can look back over the year and choose to use an app that they liked from the past that I had shown them. As students read or view digital media, they can use their finesse with technology to create projects like Discovery Education Boards using Board Builder or Haiku Deck presentations among many others. I like that they can choose to use apps that best fit their purpose to do a project. Having choices, like the food carts at Publix, and knowing that I am there to help them along with their peers, gives students the confidence that when they come to my class, they will have a positive experience. This is just part of my service to them!
I would love to hear ways that other teachers use to help students anticipate a positive experience as they enter each day. What do your students look forward to that is part of your service to them?