Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Not all “good” ideas are really *good* ideas

A few days ago I ran over to the nearby grocery store and started to park in a convenient spot near the entrance. I’ve parked there many times, but can no longer do so!

I was surprised to see the spot marked as “Reserved” but not, as one might expect, for the disabled. Rather the spot -- actually two spots -- were marked for “Associate of the Year” and “Associate of the Month.”

Granting prime parking spots as a way to reward employees -- or, to use the lingo of the day, “associate” -- is nothing new. Many places I’ve worked did so. But all of these places were offices, not retail stores.

Frankly, I think the idea as implemented by the grocery store does more harm than good. While a couple of employees are happy, many more customers will not be.

This is a perfect example of a “good” idea not really being a good idea. While it makes great sense for an office to offer such a perk because it doesn’t inconvenience their customers, it’s a mistake for a retail business to do so.

I’ve worked in retail. The rule of thumb when it comes to employee parking is to park as far away from the entrances as possible. In other words, park where customers don’t want to. It’s an idea that may annoy a few employees but makes perfect business sense.

The goal is to leave the more convenient spaces for customers. After all, you don’t want to discourage shoppers from visiting your store because all of the convenient parking spaces are taken up by employees!

Sure, the grocery store is only giving up two spots, but they are two very prime spots. Not far away are available spots that would work  as rewards but without greatly inconveniencing customers.

Besides, what does a grocery employee need to do to win one of these spots, especially for an entire year? Is he or she voted on by their peers? Do the customers have any say? In fact, if there is no customer input, then is such a recognition even valid?

Ultimately, I don’t really care. I just want to be able to park close to the door, run in, get my groceries, and go. This employee recognition effort is bad for business.

To discover more examples of “good” ideas that weren’t, all you need to do is watch an episode of “America’s Funniest Videos.” Or read the local paper where you’ll find stories such as the woman who was locked out of her house and so set it on fire and called the fire department. She figured they’d come and let her in. You can guess the rest of the story.

I once worked for a now defunct for-profit university where someone had the “great” idea to recruit students from local homeless shelters. Those putting this idea out there were motivated by wanting to help those who needed help. The problem was that the particular way they chose to try to help was ethically dubious, practically infeasible, and legally questionable.

And then there’s poor Peter who, during the transfiguration of Jesus and the appearance of Moses and Elijah says, “Hey! This is great! Let’s build some memorial shelters for everyone.” I’m sure in hindsight even Peter recognized that his suggestion was not really such a good idea after all.

The point? It’s important to think through every “good” idea and consider the not-so-good aspects. To recognize that a good idea in one context isn’t so hot in another context. A lot of bad choices would be avoided if forethought was given to the potential consequences.

Jesus offered two cautions when it comes to “good” ideas and their ultimate merit: First, consider the costs ahead of time (Luke 14:28-32) and; Second, don’t build on sand (Matthew 7:24-27).

By the way, the two spots opposite the ones for rewarding employees are reserved for expectant mothers. That’s actually a good idea that works.

What do you think about the reserved spots? Have you ever had a “great” idea, acted on it, and had it turn out not so great? What was it and what happened? When is it worth taking a risk on a “good” idea even if the potential outcomes may not turn out well? Please share your thoughts in the comments!


  1. Give the employees gift cards, movie tickets, etc., but not the reserved parking spots. Lousy idea. Here's a good one, Stephen, maybe not in the same league, but... Last year I desperately thought I needed, and I wanted, a laptop so ordered one. It is still sitting in the dining room unused. Why? Don't even ask. I just emailed our computer doctor and asked if he could sell it. Plus I want him to come and fix some stuff on this computer. Was my laptop worth my actions? No, it wasn't. Spent money on something I am not using when there are so many other ways to spend $$$. However, I would still like "something." Maybe a smaller laptop. Or will an IPad serve the purpose? Quandaries all over the place.

    1. Maybe you could work out a trade: the laptop for a tablet? Good ideas on the gift cards, etc.


Like? Dislike? Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Please share your thoughts on my post below. I want to know what you think. But be civil.