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Friday, March 27, 2009

We All Make a Difference

I have been sad this week thinking of President Obama's accidental yet hurtful comment about bowling like the *Special Olympics.* I believe what has made our country great, stemming from the Christian foundation of our Founding Fathers, is that we have always valued the individual. We are not groups and classes and interest blocs; we are PEOPLE, each of infinite worth.

This is a story that you may have heard before. I couldn't verify its origins on, although it is said to be a true story told by Barbara Glanz CSP. If anyone knows, please let me know and I'll post it!

Anyway, with President Obama's comment I couldn't help thinking of this story -- it is beautiful and reflects truth, whether true or not.

A few years ago, I was hired by a large supermarket chain to lead a customer service program to build customer loyalty. During my speech I said, "Every one of you can make a difference and create memories for your customers that will motivate them to come back.


"Put your personal signature on the job. Think about something you can do for your customer to make them feel special; a memory that will make them come back."

About a month after I had spoken, I received a telephone call from a 19 year old bagger named Johnny. He proudly informed me he was a Down Syndrome individual and told me his story.

"I liked what you talked about," he said, "but at first I didn't think I could do anything special for our customers. After all, I'm just a bagger. Then I had an idea! Every night after work, I'd come home and find a Thought for the Day. If I can't find a saying I like," he added, "I'll make one up."

When Johnny had a good Thought for the Day, his dad helped him set it up on the computer and print multiple copies. Johnny cut each quote and signed his name on the back. Then he'd bring them to work the next day.

Johnny said, "When I finished bagging someone's groceries, I put my thought for the day in their bag and say 'Thanks for shopping with us.'"

It touched me that this young man with a job that most people would say is not important had made it important by creating precious memories for all his customers.

A month later the store manager called me. "You won't believe what happened. When I was making my rounds today, I found Johnny's line was three times longer than anyone else's! It went all the way down the frozen food aisle. So I quickly announced, 'We need more cashiers; get more lanes open' as I tried to get people to change lanes. But no one would move. They said, 'no, it's OK, we want to be in Johnny's lane. We want his thought for the day.'

"It was a joy to watch Johnny delight the customers. I got a lump in my throat when one woman said, 'I used to shop at your store once a week, but now I come in every time I go by because I want to get Johnny's Thought for the Day.' "

A few months later the manager called me again.

"Johnny has transformed our store. Now, when the floral department has a broken flower or unused corsage, they find an elderly woman or little girl and pin it on her. Everyone's having a lot of fun creating memories. Our customers are talking about us, they're coming back, and they're bringing their friends."


Isn't that so cool?


Alison Bryant said...

Amy, what an amazing story! Very inspiring.

Anne L.B. said...

Yes, that's cool. I hope I'm not the only person who can get down in the dumps thinking I'm not really making any difference. I suspect that God limits our view of how we impact others, or else we'd become puffed up with pride and be nearly impossible for Him to use. *sigh* If only we could all be as humble and usable as Johnny.