I worked for a shop owner who once told me that there were three things I could not discuss at work with co-workers or customers: sex, religion and politics. It was a simple rule to preserve civility, and one that I wish more people would observe this time of year.
All around us, the airwaves are filled with political ads that will not end for another three months. On the roads, political candidate signs seem to be breeding at an alarming rate.
Of course, you’re allowed to have any political allegiance you wish, but your shop should be a politics-free zone for customers and employees. Politics can be deeply personal for some people. No matter what you believe or where your political views fall, there is always someone out there with the opposite view. Customers come to your shop to get their car fixed and employees come to work to make a living — not to hear a sermon on political discourse.
This month, I received a call from a shop owner who was looking for some information. In the background, I could hear the usual shop sounds of impact wrenches and the whine of a two-post lift. But, the one sound that dominated all the shop noise was that of the waiting room TV tuned to a cable news station.
I asked him how business was. His response was highly influenced by what was on the TV that day. He said business was good but he “feared for the future.” He was concerned that recent foreign currency shifts were going to affect parts prices, and that a certain national candidate would force him to face increasing regulation if the individual made it into office.
The whole time I could hear the tones of political fear and punditry coming out of the TV in the waiting room. I have seen waiting rooms like this all too often where the TV stays glued to one political station or the other all day, subjecting all the customers to the shop owner’s political doctrine in the process.
My best suggestion is to stick to sports or documentaries. I was recently buying a set of tires and a TV was showing a cable news channel that leans a little bit in one direction. It was obvious that a lady in the waiting room did not like that it was on, but didn’t want to offend someone and start a ruckus by asking for it to be changed. The standoff was ended by a five-year-old girl who wanted to watch cartoons.
I am not saying that talk of all politics should be banished from your shop. The one area that is often neglected and should be discussed with your employees and customers is local politics, which tend to be about tangible issues that affect everyone in the community. If you cannot name your mayor or one member of the city council, than you need to become involved with your local government. Go to a city council meeting, stop by the mayor’s office or even say hi to your local zoning board. The benefits will be greater than sparking controversy over the next president.