It was the first winter holiday my daughters and I had spent in Manhattan. We’d moved there over the summer and had spent many happy hours testing New York’s reputation as the “city that never sleeps.”
We ordered a single muffin to our Upper West Side apartment in the middle of a downpour, talked a jewelry store owner into delivering a watch to a friend at 10:34 p.m. — the time of his birth — and insisted that an office supply store stay open after hours when a writing deadline and a printer ink shortage dangerously coincided with the shop’s scheduled closing time.
We’d come from a small town in Canada, and our expectations about New York had been so quickly, wildly surpassed that we started to believe that a popular tagline was actually a promise: we could get whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted in New York.
From Bahama Mama to Drama Queen
So, when a friend offered to take us to the Bahamas a week before Christmas, we weren’t worried about finishing our holiday shopping after we returned. In fact, we were so unconcerned that we added two days to our stay at the Atlantis resort, arriving home shortly before 6 p.m. on December 24.
We figured we’d get a quick bite to eat and grab a cross-town cab, then spend the rest of the night buying over-priced and decadently wrapped presents from FAO Schwartz, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.
We figured wrong.
Halfway through our meal, we noticed that a lot of the stores on Columbus Avenue were turning dark. At first we blamed it on the blinding rain — surely the lights were just hidden by the storm — but we quickly realized that our always-busy neighborhood was turning idle. A few quick phone calls confirmed that there was no reason to travel to the East Side — the major department stores would be closed before we could reach them.
I was indignant. The Kmart in my hometown was still open — and would remain so until midnight. Should we catch a plane and shop there instead? How dare NYC disappoint us like this? And why did our “come to the Bahamas” friend — a long-time New Yorker — not warn us of this possible plight? Had the bartender put too much rum in his Yellow Bird cocktails or was he simply indifferent to my post-paradise needs?
But I am not easily defeated, and I was not ready to give up on Christmas — or my feelings about New York. My daughters and I ran umbrella-free down Broadway until we found a Barnes & Noble with its lights on. I handed each of them a twenty-dollar bill and we split up, promising to buy our purchases on separate floors and meet at the entrance in 20 minutes.
3 Wet Heads and 1 Redhead
Twenty-two minutes later, giggling and dripping wet, we proclaimed ourselves finished shopping. Our big presents were already wrapped and at home, which is where we decided we most wanted to be. Except my elder daughter had one last gift planned for her sister. And she whispered in my ear, “We still need to find a print shop.”
I looked blank and my daughter looked hurt.
Didn’t I remember that she wanted to give her sister a Lucille Ball poster for Christmas? Hadn’t I remembered that she couldn’t find the poster she wanted so was going to create one using an image from a book, the book she’d been shielding from the rain (and her sister’s prying eyes) the past few hours?
I hadn’t precisely forgotten but had sort of hoped she had. How would we find a print shop open, much less an owner willing to violate copyright laws when Barnes & Noble (the only place open for blocks) was now announcing an early closing so employees could go home to their families before the storm worsened?
We didn’t find an open printing shop. But we did find a print shop owner willing to open his doors to us, listen to my elder daughter’s plaintive story and produce a poster while I kept her sister entertained and unsuspecting in another part of the store.
The printer, whose name I never knew but whose face I will never forget, made us believe in the promise of New York and the magic of Christmas.
Your Brand, Your Promise
Your brand is not a marketing gimmick or artfully designed logo. “It’s what people say about you when you leave the room,” says Carlos Martinez Onaindia, co-author of Designing B2B Brands: Lessons from Deloitte and 195,000 Brand Managers. “It’s about perception; it’s about reputation,” he said in a May interview with Inc. magazine.
I think it’s more than that. Your brand is a promise. And your brand reputation depends on how well you keep that pledge.
Don’t put your promises to sleep: it will kill your brand.
New York didn’t promise me open stores on Christmas Eve. It’s really just what I wanted to believe. But the print shop owner who gave my daughters a happy holiday and a cherished memory?
Thanks to him, I believe in Santa Claus.
It’s better to give than to receive, but I do want something from you: your comments! Please share your thoughts below. Wishing you and your loved ones a fabulous holiday season!