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Furniture Retail Tip #39 From Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90 - Do You Write Like The Chinese Do?

Furniture World News Desk on 4/2/2012

Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e at 90)

When I spoke to you last week about my early childhood experience with the Chinese language and Chinese friend Z.C. Loy, I forgot to also tell you about a telephone call I received (years later) from a representative of a Chinese newspaper in Taipai and Beijing. Her name was Mary, who lived in Philadelphia and asked for the right to reprint my columns from English to Chinese!   English to Chinese? Wow-e-e!!!

Well, I called Mary and asked her "Why me?" And she answered: "Because you write just like the Chinese do." "Like the Chinese do?" I exclaimed. "Yes," she answered. "The Chinese write as if they are talking to you... person to person, and that's how you write."

I was flabbergasted but pleased to the hilt. Even more pleased than if I were asked to work on the Yangtze River project that I dreamed about as a kid. It was great, even though there were some tiny hitches. There are no sounds in Chinese like “Grrr…” like in Greene, for a by-line.

But that didn't disturb my new Chinese friends. Instead of' “translating” the sound of "Greene" which they couldn't, they inserted two drawings of the symbol for trees, one alongside the other... and there I was. Gee! Talk about Chinese ingenuity.

And that's not all. I awoke one morning from a deep sleep and worried: Gee! Maybe someone is using my articles to pass secret international messages? Remember, all this happened a long time before everyone including secret agents could Tweet out a message over the internet for everyone to read!

Yipes! Who knows? Not me for sure.  So I promptly called a Chinese friend of mine, a textile designer, in North Carolina, who surely could read and write Chinese and could check out the translated text. And he did so promptly, and of course, there was no mystery about the whole silly thought. Not only that. He told me that it was absolutely amazing how the translator caught the whole flavor of my writing and thinking. Wow-e-e! Again!

Now to make this whole international hullabaloo worth writing about... A-n-d worth valuable time you are taking to read my story,  it occurs to me: What about this Chinese business of writing as if they are talking to someone?

What about the way we communicate with our customers?

Do we seem to be real, caring, confident, truthful, reliable & accessible? Do we really come across in my friend's conversational Chinese writing style… in our businesses?  In our selling? In our advertising? In our product values? In our human relationships? Or, do we come across in shlock style?

Are we doing it in large print saying HUGE, MONSTER SALE, NO MONEY DOWN, NO INTEREST, 20 YEARS TO PAY? Do we scream, making loud noises in our TV commercials? Do our salespeople memorize their lines in their selling approaches on the floor?

I have seen some furniture dealers out there on the floor, on TV, in newspaper and magazine ads that have been doing it Chinese style all their business lives, and have had some success.  If you’ve been reading my columns for a while, you know that I love to tell and listen to stories. It’s part of my DNA and I don’t think I am that different from most people in that regard.

So if you are having a screaming loud sale, I think that it might be a good idea to tell your customers why you are having it.  If you are opening a new store, closing one down, tell your customers a story about why you are doing what you are doing. Don’t take the easy way out and slap a label headline on top of an ad.  Consider writing more like you talk -- or should talk to your customers and friends.

Thanks, again, for listening.
Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90

Questions? Comments? e-mail Grandpa Mike-e-e! at grandpamike-e-e!@furninfo.com

About Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90) Columnist, Retailer, Author, Composer-Lyricist, Playwright.

  • Emigrated to U.S. with parents at age 3; Graduated high school at 16; Managed a retail/manufacturer at 18.
  • Joined Tootsie Rolls/Sweets Corp. of America at 19 as Assistant to V.P. Purchasing.
  • Joined US Army Signal Corp-Communications; Selected for (ASTP) Army Specialized Training Program, Rutgers U. Qualified for Officer Candidate School and graduated as Second Lieutenant, Personnel Division in 1944 at 23.
  • Married his sweetheart, Anita, and gives thanks to the Almighty that they are still sweethearts… after 74 years.
  • Rejoined Tootsie Rolls Corp as Director of Personnel at 24 (500 employees).
  • Joined widowed sister, as President of retail/manufacturing company in 1946. Stayed on for 46 years managing and custom designing over 20,000 children's rooms.
  • Graduated Hofstra U (evenings) in 1968 at age 47... before all his three kids, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren graduated with their degrees.
  • Answered 30 day, temporary columnist advertisement by Reed Business Newspapers (Furniture Today) and stayed on for 27 years. Columns were sold from Bangladesh to Belgium to Beijing to Brooklyn. Admitted to the Writers Hall of Fame for "Conspicuous Excellence In reports and appraisals of the Furniture Industry." Visited with 3rd/4th generation retail owners throughout the US. Retired from retail after 55 years of management.
  • At age 72: Published his first hardcover book: "Where's The Green Pea?" with vegetable characters in color, original music and lyrics on cassette. Designed programs for primary and pre-K schools and presented them with Grandma Anita, his partner.
  • At age 76: Published hardcover book/ with color: "Gee! I Wish I Had A Bedroom That Was All My Own" presented at middle schools with tech info for parents planning a student bedroom. Included outlines for teachers and students in Home Sciences.
  • At age 80: Published hardcover book with color of unique art: "Tzedakah Of Caring and Sharing". A classic original with music for high school chorales. Ossining HS drama staged it and lona College sponsored a presentation as "American Fruit Salad".
  • At age 88: Published on-line book "Retail Life: How To Get In, Stay Alive and L-o-v-e it" for college students, with versions for industry, business schools and entrepreneurs. Includes section for "Wise Women Who Love A Career Challenge", business professors and career students seeking everyday practical trade experience and business thinking .
  • Invited to address retail salespersons, customers, Furniture Designer Associates ; I.H.F.R.A. sales associations, High Point U. students and F.I.T. retailer sessions.
  • At Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90: Writes a weekly column for entrepreneurs, sales representatives and furniture management personnel in Furniture World - a trade publication for 140 years.
  • Grandpa can't play an instrument nor read music. But you can see and hear his You Tube music video starring him with his granddaughter Becca at: http://bitly.coni/qALkrX.
Grandpa Mike-e-e

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