It’s All in the Framing

Reader Steve Cebalt from Fort Wayne, Ind., sent in this picture, taken at a mega-supermarket near his home.  Here’s what he  had to say about it:

Winter Snow Song

I was struck by the unapologetic, commanding, imperative, unexplanatory tone of that message. I liked it and thought it was very effective communication. Understand that this is a mega-supermarket, and that closing this exit imposes a major inconvenience on all shoppers and a hazard on elderly people who have to traverse to the opposite exit and then back to their car in blizzard conditions, so the closure of this exit door is a major issue for the store. Somehow I find the store’s imperative tone more satisfying than anything else they possibly could have said. But why does it intrigue me, and why do I find it more satisfying than the overwrought “customer-centric” tone of most similar communications I see? I have my theories, but I’d be interested in whether your readers have reactions. By the way, I discussed this with the store manager, who thought I was nuts. Not really. Actually, he said they gave that sign a lot of thought. He said the wording was very deliberate because they knew that closing that door was a major decision that affected customers significantly during the worst weather of the year…Safety? Mechanical failure? OSHA regulations? It could be a lot of things, right? 

Well, Freakonomics readers, what do you think of the language? And what’s your guess as to why the store opted to block off the door?


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  1. Random post says:

    The reason I liked the sign has more to do with the design aspect(font, differential color&size of words, spacing, concise illustration) than the message itself. We all appreciate good art when we recognize it.

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  2. Frank says:

    My guess is that there’s less customers and so they cut down on the number of store detectives. They closed one door so that it was easier to keep an eye on the customers that braved the weather.

    When or how do we find out the answer?

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  3. Alix says:

    I like it as well. It makes the message unequivocal and my guess is they are saying, “No, we will not come around and open the door just for you…”

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  4. Tom L says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6
  5. tree schlosser says:

    My 1st thought was.. is that a baseball bat and boxing glove?? They mean business!!

    What are your Super Market expectations??? My thoughts are I’m not going to wander the aisles if I am freezing my ass off, I will get what I need and go! Keeping employees warm and healthy, keeping customers warm while shopping to keep them around longer I would suspect would be a good move whether the customer or employee had to walk an additional 50 feet to get to it.

    kuddos to you Mr Kick Ass Frigid Super Market Guy

    Next Chapter “Meat Locker Madness”

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  6. Derek says:

    I like the direct language and think the sign looks great. My guess about why the door has to be closed is that there is something in the vicinity of the door (probably water pipes) that would freeze if the door was allowed to open and close too often in exceptionally cold weather.

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  7. illiNOISE says:

    The sign looks like it was manually created using markers. I’m sure it took awhile to draw it up that nicely. Even if the sign’s creator only makes $8-10/hour, how much money did the store save on heating bills by closing the door, in relation to the wasted wages spent on a worker who could’ve otherwise been serving customers?

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  8. Joe says:

    Thefun pictures and fun fonts are just as important. They encpurage the customer to let their guard down, resulting in them being more likely to accept the bluntly worded note.

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