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The Rude Species – Is Your Service “Just A Penny, Not A Shiny Penny”?


Reflect on art and your service!


I dropped off a comforter to be dry cleaned and popped in the day before Thanksgiving to pick it up. The owner looked up, didn’t say anything, so I said “Mary Furrie”. She just looked at me somewhat stunned. I didn’t mean to be rude but I was. She had just had a super bad experience with an extremely rude customer and I came across as rude too. Not good. I just got used to saying as little as possible.

With better responses to short questions, is Alexa and technology teaching both our clients and our teams to be rude? Is your service just a penny, not really a shiny penny? The Fergusons created a bear made completely of pennies at the 2017 Burning Man and has recreated the exhibit in San Jose transforming dull pennies into art. A recent 60 minutes talked about how a segment of “friendly” wolves might have been the origin of our current dog population that loves people. Can you challenge your team to understand that customers may unknowingly be rude and that your team might come across that way too.

Then, how your team can create a shiny penny service experience and become the friendly human species?

Let’s talk about

  •  “Ursula Mater” by the Fergusons -transforming pennies to art
  • Friendly wolves might have been the first dogs
  • Alexa & Technology Creating Rude Habits
  • Can you create a shiny penny customer experience and a friendly human species

Ursula Mater by the Fergusons -transforming pennies to art

I like to get leaders to pause and think about what art and artist teach us about service. As reported by NBC news, at the 2017 Burning Man event, the Fergusons created the skin of the bear pictured above out of pennies. They then recreated the sculpture in downtown San Jose using over 200,000 pennies with the help of a team of volunteers. The Fergusons took ordinary pennies and made this memorable art piece.

It’s inspiring and we need that now. What can we do to fend off the unnoticed training we get from technology to be short and abrupt, almost rude. These behavios by customers and your team members, creates a dull experience, not a shiny one.

“Studying the Genetics and Evolution of Dogs’ Friendliness”

Did you watch the 60 minutes episode “Studying the Genetics and Evolution of Dogs’ Friendliness” by Anderson Cooper, 11/28/22? Net, net, the hypothesis is that the friendliest of the wolves might have been the origin of some of dogs. Because some wolves tended to like and were friendly to humans, they eventually broke off from the typical wolf group to form dogs as we know them today.

  • I know it sounds crazy, but could the opposite be happening to us today?
  • Are we morphing into a less-friendly species by the constant training from technology to be abrupt/distant?
  • If so, like the friendly wolves, can your team relearn how to be the friendly human species?

Technology training us to be rude

In a recent WSJ article (What We Lose When Companies Make Things Easier For Consumers by Kate Murray 11/21/22), Yale University professor Nicholas Christakis reminds us that when we talk to Alexa, we don’t say any leading pleasant comments, just Alexa and a command. Simple, super short phrases work the best with no niceties.

  • So, are we now learning how NOT to be friendly?
  • When we have to talk to others as service providers OR as customers, have we become too abrupt when we talk? Rude?

Maybe so. Maybe talking to Alexa is why I just said my name at the dry cleaners instead of saying, “I’m here to pick up a comforter that should be ready”. After a long day dealing with rude customers, I unknowingly came across as rude too.

How to create a “shiny penny” customer experience & the friendly species

So, what now?
Like the Fergusons who took pennies and created art, how can we create a “shiny penny” customer experience while also handling customers who are morphing to rudeness.

  • Talk about it – Alexa silently encourages us to make brief changes that end up a little on the rude side.
  • Talk about this change from customers, the short commands they might blurt out.
  • And then talk about your team’s tendencies to be too crisp when they speak too.
  • Strategies for rude customers – If your team finds customers just barking demands,
  • Humanize the conversation with sentences, not just one or two words answers back.
  • Keep the temperature of the conversation happy and it will rub off.
  • Most of all, don’t be offended. Technology has been training all of us to be rude.
  • Planning for a shiny penny customer experience
  • Now that your team understands the Alexa and other computer assistance tools have created some rude patterns, encourage them to connect with their customer. As a team, come up with suggestions for “conversation openers” that best fit your business and time. Do what fits for you, but do something.
  • Maybe it’s telling them what you are going to do next…”Let me get that for you.”
  • Maybe it’s telling them just something nice “I hope you don’t get caught in the rain”.
  • May just tell them verbally what you’ve done for them and to have a nice day.

Now that you know unfriendliness is a thing, create the friendly human species and a customer experience that is the shiny penny! Mary Furrie, Furrie Consulting, helping clients think critically and provide great service!

Image:  Photo by Jennifer Garner, NBC Bay Area,