Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Tale of Two Employees

This morning I received a phone call from Blockbusters, it was a recording saying that I failed to return one of their movies. I had returned it to the store a few days earlier and since the message did not include a return phone number I decided to stop by the store to explain the situation. It was not a store that I normally use but it was near a fast food restaurant that I like so I thought I would try the single stone-two bird gambit.

Now, as you may know, Blockbuster does not give you a receipt when you return a movie. It’s sort of “On the honor system” and one has to hope for the best. When I returned to the store I waited patiently while the solo employee finished a phone conversation on the merits of various ski resorts. I thought my patience would be rewarded with a modicum of empathy. After waiting at the cash register for a time, the employee looked at me with a trace of annoyance and asked “What can I do for you?” I explained that I had received a phone call saying that I had not returned a movie but that, in fact, I had. This explanation was rewarded by a blank stare and the words, “Your card.” This I immediately interpreted as meaning my Blockbuster card and I handed it over.

A quick swipe of the card into their computer system indicated that I must be a kleptomaniac with a tendency for mendacity. I was told “Our records show that the movie was not returned.” I said that I returned the movie a few days ago. He repeated, “Our records show that the movie was not returned.” It appeared that we were in a bit of a loop.

I asked, “Could you check the shelves?” He said, “You could.” After two minutes of frantic looking, I found the movie and brought it to the counter. In a moment of contrition only found in some prison cell blocks, the clerk said, “Lucky you.” The clerk then turned his back to make another phone call.

I would suspect this person would score quite high on more than one of the warning signals of the Workplace Attitudes Test. But I got to thinking, how much money does this type of employee cost Blockbusters?

In the future I don’t want this kind of surprise. I like to know what to expect. Unless they embrace truth in advertising and they change their name to Ballbusters, I won’t be back.

Now I’m not a very good movie rental customer. I usually rent a movie once a week but when I’m in the store I often buy a snack or something so I drop about six bucks. Multiply this by fifty and it adds up to about $300 a year. Not a lot of money but if it happens often it adds up for them.

Contrast this with another shopping experience. I was waiting in line at McDonalds to purchase and scarf down one of their vaulted chicken snacks when a rather disheveled octogenarian lady cut in front of me. She asked for a coke and the cash register rang up $1.06. She took out a shabby coin purse and counted out 76 cents. Alas, she had no more and looked up expectantly at the Hispanic cashier who smiled sympathetically. The cashier said “No, no, that’s okay” and gave her a cup for her coke. After the lady had left, the cashier was obviously concerned that I had to wait and said “I’m sorry.” I said “That’s all right” but before I could give my order, the octogenarian was back. Looking confused, she said, “I want ice cream.” The ice cream machine was broken and I could see my snack wrap fading into the sunset. The cashier said “Ma’am we have apple pie, would you like apple pie?” Now you may have heard the expression, “No good deed goes unpunished.” The old women said, “I’d like two.” The cashier replied, “Two it is.”

When the cashier got back to me she again apologized. I got my order and gave the cashier extra change to make up for her loss. I did this because I can be very generous when it comes to small amounts and someone was probably watching. I am reminded of one of my favorite expressions, “There is no greater pleasure than to do an anonymous good deed and then to get caught.”

If you would like to hire the second employee rather than the first, maybe you would like to look at

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