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"Why Choose Between Fun and Content When You Can Have Both"

What gift cards might really be saying about you

Just finished reading an article in USA Today where it mentioned that more people than ever are hoping to receive a gift card this year. And while I give gift cards, heck just I bought one last night, and they do make gift giving so much easier, have you ever really thought about some of the other reasons people give gift cards:

  • Like you really don’t know much about the person whom you’re giving that gift card. Maybe this year you should give yourself a gift instead; the pleasure of getting to know that recipient. Learn their likes and dislikes; their hobbies and interests. Hmmm….She takes a Zumba class at the local Park & Rec. Maybe pay for her next series of classes? Heck while you’re there sign yourself up as well. You know you need to exercise a bit more.
  • Or maybe you, the recipient, are such a pain in the you know what and don’t know how to appreciate a gift when it is given to you. Perhaps this year take the time to find use for that gift that put a fake smile on you last Christmas. Yes, it was obvious as you looked around for the gift receipt. If I can find use for a pencil cup made from a bull’s scrotum you can find use for something just as odd.
  • Maybe it’s indicative of your life in general; you are always looking for an easy way out or a quick fix to accomplish tasks? No attention to detail. Not willing to put extra effort into your work.
  • Maybe it’s time to spend less time updating your Facebook status with every move you make or tweeting about nothing of relevance and go spend some time buying something meaningful for the people who really matter. Or maybe go shopping with that person. Trust me, during your time together he or she will be eyeing something. But will your eyes be listening?

Gift cards are here to stay. I’m not knocking them. Nor do I intend to stop buying them. But at the same time this is my favorite time of year….to find that perfect odd gift that will cause my friend Sherry to go WTF when we get on the phone Christmas morning and open our gifts to each other from over 1,000 miles away.

Now get your butt to the mall.


And next year, make a vow not to do all your holiday shopping at the gift card rack at your local pharmacy. Don’t worry, there will be plenty left on Christmas Eve if you can’t find that perfect gift.

Happy Holidays.

If employees are not trained properly should the customer be honest?

I was a firsthand witness this past week to 2 incidents that led me to this question:

If employees are not trained properly should the customer be honest?


Incident #1: Friend walks into Walmart to buy 5 Poinsettias. He puts all five on the belt. Cashier rings up four. He pays, leaves, and makes a comment to me about if they don’t know how to count it’s their problem.

Incident #2: Having some work done on my house my contractor needs a piece of oak trim. I drive him down to Home Depot so he doesn’t need to take his truck. He buys a four foot piece of oak. Oak is priced by the foot. Cashier scans the item. Machine doesn’t ask how many feet are being purchased. It rings up as a one foot piece. He told me the piece of oak was my Christmas present from him since she didn’t charge him the right amount. When he left my house he was going back to see if she was still working so he could build up his inventory.


I worked my way through college. One of my jobs was the “Cashier Trainer” for a large supermarket chain. Yes, the store had a 12 hour training program before any cashier went live on their own. I got to teach people how to scan a UPC code. Which when you think about it is quite humorous since today we can check out on our own at the supermarket with no training.

Now I know honesty is the best policy, but is it your job to make up for companies who are not investing in proper regular training of their people?

On another note, maybe the Walmart Employment Application needs to include this question: Do you know how many fingers and toes you have?

Talking “to” vs talking “with” someone. Do you know the difference?

And three hours later he/she finally shuts up and asks what is new with you. You were so exhausted (or irritated) that you have no interest in even replying. You wanted to take a nap. Of course you had already ripped your eyes out of their sockets and were not sure you could even find your way to the nearest bed.

Oh c’mon, you know you’ve experienced this; the conversation with the person who just doesn’t seem to come up for air. Maybe it wasn’t three hours but it did seem so. I’ll bet it was at minimum a 20-minute run-on sentence. (Where is Mrs. Soff when I need her and her grammar rules?) It happens with family members. It happens with friends. It is particularly common in the workplace with managers and leaders who just have this incessant need to hear themselves talk; stifling creativity and rarely allowing for free exchange of ideas.

Is it intentional? Do they not want you to be part of the conversation? Are they just so excited about things going on in their life they don’t even realize they are doing this? Do they even know they’re doing this to people? Or are they just so totally in love with their own self?

Now I guess a good thing is if anyone ever did try to drown this person they should be able to hold their breath for a very long time. And if it was a Roman Empire-like water fight to the death he or she would become the new King/Queen.


So while you were doing other things during that call (rolling your eyes, updating your Facebook status, or attempting to make your computer ring as if “that call you were waiting for” was coming  through) I was doing something more productive. It’s time to take a permanent Recess from unhealthy conversations…….


Stop Talking “TO” Me: The 3 simple rules for Talking “WITH” me.:

  1. When you call someone please clarify (or ask if you are the receiver) if this will be a talking “to” or talking “with” conversation. If you are on the receiving end of a talking to conversation, tell that person you have a very important meeting you are about to attend or go get large bottles of alcohol.
  2. Your “Talking With” conversation should occur in rounds with each person given no more than 90 seconds at a time to speak. Please purchase a time piece of some sort if you have no clue that even 90 seconds of listening to some people is enough to make others want to jump off a bridge. (Note: I don’t even like bridges. So me walking onto the bridge in the 1st place is evidence of the severity of this issue.)
  3. Learn how to ask questions that might allow the other person to contribute to your thoughts or ideas. First, this will force you to take a breath (see I am interested in your health). Next, it will actually force the other person to listen and avoid awkward silence at the end of what seems like a keynote address when you ask “So what do you think?”

And in those famous shampoo bottle words…..Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Meaning, practicing this technique regularly might result in people taking your calls a bit more often rather than letting your call go to voice mail.

RICH DIGIROLAMO, founder Recess At Work, works with organizations to create happier work environments, strengthen work teams, design new programs, and create better relationships with customers and peers. Sometimes even to save a customer.

Are you ready to take a Recess from lousy communication and stifled creativity? Are you ready to inject more fun and engagement between employees and customers? Invite Rich to work with your team.



Of course, then there are the ones who ask you what is new with you and the minute you start speaking you screw up; you pause and take a breath. Sorry, you had your chance.

Is your coworker/employee looking for a new job?

So this guy emails me and asks me to write a guest blog for him. I said sure. Then I checked him out. His name is Jeetesh Kathawaroo. Turns out he’s from South Africa.  He seemed like an okay guy so I said……”Hey, how about we swap. You write one for me too!” Plus I love the people of South Africa!

So forget about asking Jeeves! Let’s Ask Jeetesh! Below I bring to you a writing from my new friend. (Of course I couldn’t help add a few of my own comments.)

Charles’ customised keyboard did  little to disguise his intentions.

I ran into a neighbour of mine the other day and asked him why he was  selling his house. He genuinely looked surprised and asked me how I knew.

Mmm… lucky guess, but the large For Sale sign was a bit of a clue. The same  sort of thinking can also be found in our offices and our teams – people  scurrying about applying for new jobs, thinking that the rest of us are
blissfully unaware of their intentions. Like the For Sale sign, the clues are  staring right at you! Here are my Top Ten Signs That Your Employees Are  Looking For New Jobs:

10. There’s a rash  of doctor’s appointments, car trouble, children finishing school  early or any other superficial excuse needed to disguise interviews  with potential employers.
9. They seem to  be spending an inordinate amount of time at the printer and  photocopier. You would too if you need to scan, print and photocopy  your identity document, Matric certificate, university degree, CV or  résumé, reference letters, most recent payslip and a PowerPoint-generated “An Introduction to PowerPoint 2003” certificate. (Hey Jeetesh, around here we do all that stuff with our smartphones and send things electronically. I can give you some pointers.)
8. They’ll casually test you with questions like “If you had leave owing, would you take the leave or ask to be paid out instead, less the tax deduction… hypothetically speaking of course.” Not very subtle. (Leave owing? Must be a South Africa thing. I encourage you to contact my new bud for interpretation.)
7. They’re blasé  about tasks that need to be completed in more than one calendar month’s time. Someone’s a little confident… (Way to go South Africa!!! You can actually get things done in a month. Here in the US of A we’re still organizing the committee one month later.)
6. They take full advantage of the newspapers that the company subscribes to… to thoroughly investigate the jobs section. This job search is usually done after hours, so wait a little, creep up behind your soon-to-be-former-colleague and suddenly exclaim “What you doing?” They’ll turn to the sports section of the paper faster than a surprised graduate pressing ‘Alt’ + ‘Tab’ when caught surfing porn during office hours. (What’s a newspaper? I get all my news from my facebook friend who reposts every CNN breaking news story.)
5. When you ask for a progress update in a meeting, they tell you where they see themselves in five years time. Force of habit, I suppose.
4. They keep dropping hints round the office, saying things like “You’ll miss me when I’m gone”, “It’ll take months to train up my replacement” and “No one else here knows how to put animated kitten borders on Word documents”. What will we do without those animated kitten borders?!
3. Internet usage changes from news, sports, Facebook and LOL Cats, to jobs, interview techniques, LinkedIn and Google Maps, which they’re using to work out their new route to their new job. And of course, porn. What are they going to do, fire you? (Can Google Maps get me from the US to South Africa?)
2. You start getting a large number of calls from recruiters and HR people all wanting to check references. Most employees who ask you to provide references for them often forget to tell you they’re looking for jobs again, thus subverting their plan to keep their new job hunt
under wraps. Answer the questions loudly on your phone and soon everyone in the office will know. Confront the forgetful minion, asking “I’ve been getting a lot of calls from recruitment agencies  recently. You aren’t looking for a new  job are you?” Relish the subsequent squirming! Here in the US an employer will only verify employment. they’re afraid of being sued. So rather than waste everyone’s time I propose that all countries just use your paystub as that reference. You can also get to the truth about the salary.
1. They start  dressing better. This is a vain attempt to camouflage when they  really have to dress up for an interview. A sure  sign is a well dressed employee leaving early for a doctor’s
appointment. Since when do doctors insist on formal attire for a prostrate  exam? If you run into a well dressed colleague, ask them how many  interviews they still need to attend.

Well that was fun! And thanks to my new friend Jeetesh who when he is not keepinmg an eye on his employees, he’s available as a keynote, conference and after-dinner speaker. You can reach him at Or visit  him at his web site at

Employee to Customer: Where have you been? The Answer: ????

Last week I walked into a local retailer. Ben came over, shook my hand, asked how I’ve been, and then asked the question……………………..

“Where have you been?”

Truth is I’ve had no reason to stop in. The product they sold me was great. I bought all my accessories from them. I was set. I was actually going in to buy one for my mom.


Yesterday standing in line at my local Starbucks a customer walked over to order her drink and the Barista enthusiastically said………………

Hi! Where have you been?


Now in the case of Ben he has my name, phone number, address etc. If he missed me that much he could have contacted me. In the case of the Starbucks employee maybe she has access to that customer’s information from a rewards card or something else.

My point: Every employee has the ability (and perhaps should be required) to personally reach out and connect with a customer. It’s not that hard. Why aren’t we Facebook friends?  Why aren’t we LinkedIn? Can I text or email you when we’re having promotions? Can I send you a message just to say “hi, we miss you.” Or just to say I’m thinking of you? Why is it expected that the customer will just return?

Why am I just a transaction at so many businesses? Don’t get me wrong, I was extremely impressed when Ben went out of his way to come over to me while I was working with another associate. He walked away from a customer to say hi. My customer experience is always great at this place. It’s why I keep going back there; even though I have options closer to home.

It’s not that hard to stay in touch. It might even make your job a bit more fun. Try it. Take a Recess from the way you normally interact with a customer and take your relationship to a higher level.


Or maybe the customer response might be……

  • Why didn’t you invite me back?


  • I’ve been doing business where they stay in touch with me regularly

RICH DIGIROLAMO, founder Recess At Work, works with organizations to create happier work environments, strengthen work teams, and create better relationships with customers and employees.

Are you ready to take a Recess from so-so customer service and to inject more fun and engagement between employees and customers? Invite Rich to work with your team.