My office is in a rather nice downtown historic building called the Terminal Tower. The Tower is just one piece of a large, interconnected urban complex. At the center of this complex is a grand public space, six stories tall, flooded with natural light. This space is occupied by pedestrians, retailers and restaurants. Also within this space are a number of freestanding booths, often leased by smaller retailers who don't need (or can't afford) a full-sized store. One of these caught my eye recently.
"Beauty Sensations" opened with little fanfare. The booth was constructed of wood and metal, about four feet wide by eight feet long, just like the other seven that lived in the grand public space. They seemed to sell beauty products and perfume, and were well-located to do so at the terminus of the escalator from the underground parking garage. The sales staff consisted of a pretty Hispanic girl, and sometimes also a young black man. In the background, off to the side, there often stood a young white man. He was skinny, had an incomplete beard and talked on his cell phone frequently.
I observed them at lunch. The sales staff were trained with very specific instructions. The Hispanic girl would watch people walking past, and when she spotted someone who looked like "a customer", she would walk up to them very quickly and offer, apparently, to spray perfume on them. Most declined, but some let her spray. No one bought anything. The skinny white guy with the cell phone watched from a few feet away, and from time to time coached the staff on their tactics.
Observing them, I wondered what set of circumstances brought this little enterprise to life. Who said to him or her self, ?Let's do this--this is a good way to make money.? What were the mental connections? What were the hopes? What was the cost?
Three weeks after I began my observations, the booth was abandoned. The pretty Hispanic girl, the young black man and the skinny white guy could no longer occupy their days with this particular activity. I wonder where they are. (M)
Rose (from the bedroom, with Max): “Jas, are you making a coffee?”
Jason (from the kitchen): “Yes.”
Rose: “You might want to wipe down the espresso maker because Max peed all over it last night when I was giving him a bath.”
Jason (thinking): I thought something tasted different.