Walmart’s Redeeming Quality

Yesterday, I experienced fantastic customer service. What surprised me wasn’t that this customer service was from a nice restaurant, a hotel concierge or an airline representative in whose carrier I hold Gold status. It was in a Walmart, from an elderly gentleman working the cash register.

I stopped by the super store on my way home from work to pick up a few items. After getting what I needed, I walked toward the shortest checkout aisle, when a woman with a cart full of items wedged herself between the last customer in line and me. Somehow, a trip to Walmart is never complete without a rude or annoying person of some kind. I take out my phone to check my email and pass the time, when an older man, at least in his early 70s, tapped me on the shoulder and told me he was opening up a new aisle.

As I followed him to a new checkout lane, he made pleasant conversation and asked me what I was baking, since I had flour, sugar and other miscellaneous baking items in my cart. He told me he and his wife used to own a bakery and we discussed the merits of red velvet cake. When I finished paying, I turned to the bagging area to collect my items, only to find that the cashier had already walked out of his booth to put the bags in my cart for me. He was still making his way slowly back to the register, so I thanked him profusely, to which he ended our transaction with a big smile and a “Don’t mention it, hon.”

For the first time in my life, I left Walmart feeling warm, happy and contemplative—contemplative, because my mind continued to think about the old gentleman’s delightful demeanor, despite his arthritic-looking hands. I couldn’t help but smile at his thoughtful stories, just like how I automatically winced when I noticed how he strained to pick up the large watermelon I purchased.

I come from a generation that grew up in the prosperity of the ’90s, but graduated from college during the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. With many of my friends and peers unemployed, underemployed or saddled with outrageous college loan debts, it’s easy to get caught up in a frustrated, entitled view of life. But after my encounter with this hardworking individual, putting aside his pride to earn an honest living, it leaves me with a humbled reminder of how important it is to do your best and work your hardest, no matter how different life is from what you imagined it to be.

And isn’t that what truly great customer service does? It leaves you feeling so fulfilled with whatever company you initially had issues with that it creates a greater appreciation for it. Or, in my case, makes an already content customer so happy that it forges a better attitude.

If you’re reading this, thank you, Jerry.

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