By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

Today’s retail world may seem like a frightening chapter in a fairy tale. Here’s some thoughts on how to deal with the storybook characters you may have on your store team.

It may be a case of history repeating itself or life imitating art. But back in 1812 the Grimm Brothers (a.k.a. the Brothers Grimm) published a story we now know as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Over the next 40 years they revised the tale several times, including assigning names to the dwarfs. They initially went by Huckepack, Naseweis, Packe, Pick, Puck, Purzelbaum and Rumpelbold, but their names were later changed to the seven days of the week.

The story was produced as a play in 1912 when they were renamed once again, this time Blick, Flick, Glick, Plick, Quee, Snick and Whick. Next came a Betty Boop cartoon, with Betty in the lead role. The version most of us are familiar with is the 1937 Walt Disney take. If you ever engaged in a barroom bet to name them all, and assuming you didn’t sample too many IPAs, you would be correct if you answered Bashful, Dopey, Grumpy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Happy and Doc.

Ol’ Uncle Walt wanted to bring fun family entertainment to all of us, but he wasn’t shy about adding a few life lessons along the way. Hence, each dwarf had a personality that matched his name. During this COVID thing you may find a few dwarf-like personalities on your store team or may have developed one yourself. Read on to discern them, and remember: it takes a big person to admit they have a few small flaws.


Bashful is very shy and kind-hearted. In our retail world, it may be the person we call “a trouper”— one who takes direction and never argues. He or she may even be the staffer that faithfully does all the tagging, dusting and breakroom cleaning. Although Bashful is quiet, it doesn’t mean he/she doesn’t desire human contact! Bashful is more comfortable in one-on-one situations. Take time to call or text your bashful teammate today, just to check up on things.


Dopey is the only dwarf that does not have a beard. He is accident-prone and just a bit goofy. Your organization may have a similar character. During your re-opening period this dude or dudette may forget about social distancing and safe hygienic practices, putting themselves, your team and your shoppers at risk. While different states and cities will have different requirements during re-opening, be sure everyone on your staff is in compliance during their work time.


Grumpy is the dwarf who’s initially opposed to Snow White’s presence in the dwarfs’ home. You’ll recognize your own Grumpy when they grumble that “Nothing is as good as it used to be,” “We’ll never recover,” and other comments that suggest the world is crumbling. Grumpy acted that way before COVID and will continue to act that way after. You can’t change behavior, but you can change teammates. It’s OK to have a Grumpy on staff, as long as he doesn’t affect the attitudes of others.


His name is earned by his extraordinarily powerful sneezes. These days we don’t need people who “suit up and show up.” One powerful paradigm shift of the pandemic is learning that sick people need to stay home, without shame or fear of job loss. It was true before COVID and truer today. 


Sleepy is always tired and appears lethargic in most situations. In our business there is no more room on staff for Sleepy. The entire retail world has changed in the last two months. It’s not a change we can sleepwalk through. The survivors and victors will be those who can adapt to change quickly and actively. Sleep through the changes and you’ll be left behind.


Happy is the jovial dwarf and is usually seen laughing. COVID is no joking matter, but we all need to keep a sense of humor in any period of major change. Happy is the person on the team that keeps the mood light, sees the best outcomes, and lives in a world populated with old friends and friends they haven’t yet met. Put Happy in charge of keeping people in touch, whether its video chats, phone calls or texts. Videoconferencing services like Zoom are a great way to see and hear your team, even if it’s just for an informal happy hour. (Be aware that there is a potential security risk to Zoom, as Forbes most pointedly pointed out.)


The leader of the seven dwarfs, Doc often mixes up his words when he wants to make a point. Every team and every organization, even in our retail world, needs great leaders, and listening to what the leader says is often more important than criticizing how they say it. It’s important to get past the static of grammar and minor speech errors that occur when speakers are passionate about a subject. If you are the leader, you can help everyone out by considering what you want to say, and by being a leader who also listens.

Sometimes it seems like we are living in a story written by the Brothers Grimm. But like most fairy tales, there will be some scary moments, a few evil villains, an unsuspecting hero … and the happy ending we all want and can’t wait to hear.

Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding. You can reach him at