A Job Well Done – Even at Minimum Wage

Target storeA final run for last-minute school supplies had my daughter and I out shopping last night. My OCD kicked in and I refused to let her start her day without the list being checked off at 100%. Add one Mom headed out-of-town on business and I definitely knew sending Dad out for the “pencil and paper” run would likely end in tears for someone.

Despite the extremely picked-over “Back to School” display we did pretty well. We picked our way through the remaining supplies – skipped the One Direction composition books with a promise to stop somewhere else for “normal” ones – and found everything we needed rather quickly.

As we placed our purchases on the checkout belt, the young cashier pointed out my 4 x 6 index cards were not priced.  Lucky me, I picked up the package that had made it through the packaging process without any printing on the package film.  No UPC code brought the entire lane to a screeching halt. Horrors!

“Do you know how much these are?” he asked? “No,” came my reply. “I am sorry, I did not look.”

He then suggests he just charge me $1.99 and we move on. I tell him I think that it sounded a little high and suggested he should have someone check the price.  After a deep exhale (which sounded eerily similar to the one my daughter makes when I tell her to clean her room), he says “$1.99 is a good price and it will keep the line moving.” I tell him I am not in a hurry and asked him to request a price check. I politely remind him that accurately pricing and packaging merchandise is his company’s responsibility, not mine.

The “I don’t want to clean my room” exhale returns, coupled with the “I have to do WHAT?” eye roll and he flips his lane light on to signal he needs a supervisor. The groans behind us begin. Even I am silently contemplating just saying ‘forget it’ on the blasted index cards, but this little kid has torqued me off with his non-verbal nonsense and I am challenging myself to now be the adult, remain calm and just wait this whole situation out with a new-found grace.

His supervisor comes over – he looks like he is maybe 17 – and inquires as to the problem. Cashier holds up the index cards and asks him if he knows what the price is. The answer “think they are $3.99.”

I silently count to ten (very fast) and respond “how about instead of thinking one of you actually walk back to the office supply or school section – either will work – and actually LOOK at a properly packaged one and then we can actually know the correct priceI know it isn’t your personal fault the cards aren’t packaged correctly – it isn’t mine either – but guessing at the price isn’t helping anyone right now.”

Supervisor stomps off like he’s just been sent to his bedroom without TV or supper, the cashier is now in a full rage over having to clean his room and the “guests” in the line behind me are all subtly expressing their displeasure at the situation.  Even my daughter is doing her best to find a pinhole in the floor tile.  I am feeling very alone in my little corner of the world.

I’ve not raised my voice, the smile has never left my face and I have surprised even myself in not showing any discomfort in the growing time it is now taking to make a few simple purchases. But deep inside of me, I am trying to somehow suggest to this young man embarking on his customer service career that it is important to do a job well. Whether you get paid $7.25 an hour or make $250,000/year; the responsibilities are the same: do what you do with a relentless passion for doing excellent work, give great service, respect others and display a great attitude always. Unfortunately, I was getting none of it.

After a long five minutes, the supervisor, returned with said index cards and a properly packaged companion. It rang up at $0.84. And yes, it took everything in my earthly power to not point out the savings associated with not taking his great $1.99 offer (2.4 times the price) or his supervisor’s suggestion of $3.99 (4.6 times the price). Instead, as he handed me my receipt and avoided any further communication, I simply said “you’re welcome” to his unspoken “thank you” and left the store.

On our way to the car, my daughter said “being an adult is really hard, isn’t it Mom?” Sometimes, it is much harder than she knows. So much harder.

Yes, the importance of a job well done can never be taken for granted. Whether it is inspecting index cards in a paper plant, checking out customers in a busy checklane or even parenting and subtly leading by example, the importance of making sure you do what you do with kindness, respect for others and an attention to giving the job you’ve elected to do your absolute best is your responsibility.

Don’t settle for anything less.

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