Missed Opportunity

The other day I was reading through my subscribed blogs, and I ran across a new post from Michael J. Brennan entitled, Lesson in Customer Service: Delta Airlines. I highly encourage you to take a minute and read through this post, and his others, as he has a really good blog that has a lot of useful information and stories.

As I was reading through this particular story, I realized a missed opportunity that I had about a year ago at work. It was a typical day at work, assisting customers with their various needs all day and doing my part in the preparation for a corporate visit the next day. I was approached by an older lady, probably late 60’s to early 70’s, with a little girl’s bedding set in her shopping cart. The lady was very tired looking, was wearing old and worn out clothes and shoes and her hair in disarray. We rarely get customer’s that match this profile due to our store being an upper end department store in the area, selling name brand clothing that is relatively expensive. The bedding was on clearance and she wanted to know the final price of the item, as we were running an additional percentage off the clearance-marked price. I told her that I would be glad to help her and I told her the final price of the item. She then asked if there were any coupons we could give her to take more money off the price, and I explained that there were not any out to help with clearance prices.

She then told me something that has stuck with me for over a year. She stated that this bedding set was for her granddaughter’s new room at her house. From what she told me, the customer’s daughter was going through an extremely rough time financially and her and her child were left with no other choice but to move in with my customer. She wanted the transition for her granddaughter to be as smooth and comfortable as possible, and thought a new bedding set would help to accomplish that. She stated that due to helping out her daughter so much and being retired, she did not have the money to pay for the bedding at the asking price. She asked if I would hold the set for a few days until she could get the money together to purchase it. I promised the bedding was hers when she was ready. This goes against my company’s policy as we are not “allowed” to hold clearance merchandise for any period of time, let alone an indefinite amount of time, but it was the right thing to do.

She came back to my register about 4 hours later with cash in hand. I greeted her and she told me that she went and closed out the last of her savings account and was back to buy the bedding set. I totaled the sale and the final price, after tax, was under $30. She went on and on about how her granddaughter was going to be so excited about her new room. She continued by saying that even though the bedding set completely wiped her out, the look on the little girl’s face was going to be more than worth it. What a story!

While the story is sad, what is even more sad is the fact that I failed to take advantage of the opportunity I had to help her. Even though I do not make much as an associate, I could have at least paid the difference to allow her to take the bedding home the first time she came to me. I understand that I cannot solve the world’s problems, and I cannot pay for everyone’s items, but I could have helped this lady. I could have helped her granddaughter. I should have helped. This experience is one that I will not forget. It was a learning experience that will be with me forever, and I will help next time I see such an incredible opportunity.

I encourage you to take advantage of these small opportunities to make a difference in your customer’s life. Not only is it good customer service, its an excellent opportunity to be a good Samaritan and pay it forward. We have the responsibility to help others in their times of need.

Thanks for reading!


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