Excellence In Trying Times Rewarded


Two retail employees who are soon to be out of a job demonstrated friendly, knowledgeable service last night while helping my wife and I. When they have every reason to be bitter and let their mounting stress show, they each made a choice instead to be the best they could be. What happened next? I found myself in a position to reward those attributes and give back.

Let me first take you back to my drive into work yesterday morning. On CBC radio there was a short story where an employee agreed to have his feelings shared as long as someone else’s voice was used and his name not mentioned. He talked of low morale, people concerned for each other, couples soon to be both unemployed, he himself planning on buying a home that now wouldn’t happen etc. Employees are quitting outright and everyone is job searching. Tough times for sure and possibly a cancerous setting to work in.

Okay so my wife and I are shopping along with all the other vultures, err…shoppers, looking for the big bargains promised. We actually showed up to buy a cube freezer and bar fridge for the basement we are renovating. As it turns out we couldn’t see if they were in fact on sale down that particular aisle, and so it became necessary to look for an employee. As I went looking down the aisles, I wondered what kind of reaction I’d get because they were hard to locate, probably in demand and might be exasperated with the sudden flood of people in the store to scavenge when we all apparently stayed away in droves causing the stores to close.

I found two women who were in the process of concluding a conversation with another customer. One of these looked to be in her twenties and the other in her fifties. As they turned their attention to me, I asked about the items and if they were in fact on sale as no sign could be found in that area. “Well let’s go find out” said the older woman and all three of us headed over to find out.

As we walked over, I said to them, “Sorry to hear about your jobs ending, and I understand you’ve been told not to say anything negative.” The older woman smiled, gave me a knowing wink and didn’t say a bad thing. “Well”, she said, we’re just trying to do our best under the circumstances.”

When we got to the two items, the younger of the two scanned the items, told us they were both on sale (only 10% unfortunately) and then we were told if we decided we wanted them, they could call one of the guys with a dolley to help get them to the front check out. I indicated we wanted them and she called for help.

It was at this moment my wife started talking with the older woman and saying how sorry she was to hear about the situation. That left me with the younger employee. “So what are your plans when the store shuts down?” I asked. “Well, I had been hoping to stay here for a long time and earn enough to head back to school and get more education. I’ve got a degree but I want to be a Professor so I need to get my masters. I might just decide to backpack around Europe though and look for work wherever I am and do the poor trip thing.”

Ever thought of getting help from an Employment Counsellor for example?” I asked, knowing full well that business cards with that exact job title were in my left pants pocket. “Well I live in a small town and there aren’t really any jobs there, so I’d have to drive, but my mom is going to need her car back if I haven’t got a job so I’m stuck.” She was right by the way; the town she named is little more than a dozen streets branching off a main road and the employment opportunities are next to nothing.

At this point, my wife and the other employee had rejoined the two of us and I asked the older woman what her plans were after the store closed and she was out of work. Her answer was that she really hadn’t thought that far and it wasn’t apparently because she was in denial but it appeared more like she was trying to just focus on the job for the moment.

At this point I said I was in a position to make them an offer, and I pulled out the business cards and gave them one, stating that because they had such positive attitudes in trying times and provided good attentive customer service, I’d be happy to help them craft a resume and more free of charge. “Really?” said the older of the two. “Sure, why not?”

This story could be about me and doing a good deed but it isn’t. This story is really about two people who have not only good customer service skills but more importantly solid work ethics which govern how they perform under trying circumstances. Sometimes, good things happen to good people when it is most needed and least expected.

So if you find yourself in a fix, remember that’s when your character is revealed. And if by chance you can help somebody, seize that opportunity to do so.

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