Wish a Karen Would” and a Marketing Decision about Spreading the Message of Kindness.

Can we chat a minute about being a kind customer from an entrepreneur’s perspective? I posted a slightly controversial photo recently of a crew member wearing a t-shirt that reads “I wish a Karen would.” On one hand, I knew it might offend anyone actually named “Karen.” On the other hand, the statement is trending for a reason and I knew our 16-30 year old demographic would totally relate. The payoff? Hopefully, targeted customers will further identify with our brand that boasts, “fun, trendy, a little bit edgy, but also family-friendly (we play clean indie music mostly). For the most part, when we post on social media, we weigh things against our mission, our brand, and our core values to make sure all things align.

Let me back up for those who have made it this far but are still confused about this phrase. It originated because of the “Mean Girls” character named Karen. Yep, whoever scripted her name ruined it for “Karens” across the globe. This high school character is described on Quora as “simultaneously arrogant, bullying, privileged, and utterly ignorant.” She is THE mean girl of the movie. So, I guess you could say the whole “Don’t be a Karen” started as taking a stand against bullies. Taking this phrase one step further has to do with “Karen” displaying this attitude especially when interacting with service and retail employees. She commonly makes very specialized requests, demands the impossible, and is never satisfied with the outcome. Ultimately, she asks to speak to the manager. And there you have it, “I wish a Karen would” (ask for a manager, dump her food on me, throw her money on the ground, etc.) started turning up in conversations and eventually on t-shirts across the nation. 

So, it was a somewhat thought-out decision to post the picture on social media. I was probably feeling a little “salty” that day. We’re late in the season, maybe we have encountered a few too many “Karens” during a time when you would think everyone would be understanding (ehhhhemm..Covid), maybe I was missing my young crew that keeps me in the know with this stuff (I only work in the truck on Saturdays now). But I do consciously remember backing out from posting it a few times. Ultimately, it came back to understanding our ideal customer and finding a way to connect and a way to remind our audience to “be kind.”  So how did it go? Predictably, it went over well on Instagram where followers commented, “This shirt wins the internet today” and “…all retail employees need that shirt!” On Facebook, we had someone reach out and comment that her friends named “Karen” are offended by this movement. I get it. AND THEN, someone commented, “ok, Karen” and another, “Would you like to speak to a manager?” and then shortly after the original comment was gone. And so, I question the decision.

What I am left wondering is: Was this kind? What is kindness? Should I use my business to be the authority on kindness? So many questions. Is calling out “unkind” people a “kind” act? How about groups of people? Erg. Maybe I was unkind to all Karens of the world. Or was I?

Here is what I do know as an entrepreneur and small business owner. Kind customers MAKE OUR DAY! We share your acts and attitudes of kindness amongst ourselves and it puts smiles on our faces and peps in our steps. For example, as I was walking away from the truck one day, a customer pulled up next to me, rolled down her window, and yelled out the window a compliment about our business. You bet I shared this with the crew, and it carried me past some negativity I was dealing with. Kindness as a customer comes in many forms including having your order ready when you get to the front of the line, taking time to pause your phone call and converse with the person taking your order, meeting a smile with a smile back when you’re product is given to you. I am not saying you shouldn’t make it known when your order is wrong, of course you should, but be gracious in doing so. And please…. leave tips at restaurants, food trucks, and coffeeshops. Covid has been A LOT for all of us. Be kind, don’t be a Karen, but also, we love you Karen!!! 

By Stacy Orndorff

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