Monday, October 26, 2009

'Come and get 'em, folks'

An audio slideshow of my latest photo column can also be viewed HERE.

Over the squeak of the wheels and rattling of carts, over the beep of the checkout counter and the crying of the babies, over the constant noise that is Costco Wholesale in Naples on a Saturday afternoon, a voice can be heard.

Protein bars! Come and get’em,folks. Have ’em on the golf course, folks.
Eat ’em while at the computer, folks. I’ve got protein bars, woo!

“If I wasn’t loud, the customers would think there was something wrong with me,” says Sheila Roughan. “They’d say, ‘Are you ill? Are you not feel ing good?’ ” Roughan, 53, is best known as the singing sample lady at Costco. She works for Club Demonstration Services, a company contracted by Costco to hand out product samples throughout the large box store.

Her sing-song style of serving customers everything from pastries to potato chips can be heard through the aisles. This day, she’s at the front of the store just behind the checkout lanes selling protein bars. It’s a premier spot where Roughan can persuade people they need a box of 18 for $17.49 before they head out the door.

Power bars, they’re chocolate and chocolate always makes ya feel good.
Take some hoooooome.

“She is the ultimate huckster, and I mean that in a wonderful way,” says Jerry Jackson, referring to Roughan’s showy style of pitching the products she sells. Jackson, a middle-aged, frequent Costco shopper, turns to Roughan, “I come here, in part, because I love seeing you on Saturdays.” She thanks him with a smile and tells him it’s her honor.

He proceeds to checkout and Roughan doesn’t miss a beat singing out to the customers moving in her direction.

No one would believe the spunky redhead is shy. But, before she got the job at Costco three years ago, she was.

Roughan has dyslexia and bipolar disorder — two things that have, in the past, made her reserved.

“The job changed her life to a great degree,” said Roughan’s father, Fred. “She was always shy and conscious of her handicap and consequently always stayed in the background.”

Those days are gone.

Roughan calls to everyone. She sings out with authority that they will love what she has to sell them. Customer after customer comes to her smiling and laughing about her delivery. Half of her customers seem to buy the product less because they love protein bars, and more because they love to buy them from her.

Come on over and try some, pleeeeease take some home.

“She’s the best, she’s so energetic,” said Naples resident Sandy Piekarski between bites of a chocolate protein bar. “It’s fun, she’s got great spirit.”

That’s what makes Roughan love coming to work.

“I just have fun, otherwise it would be boring,” Roughan said. “I put a smile on people’s faces.”