The Tale Of A Lost Boy In A Very Stingy World

I will start this story with a quote that I believe should be hammered into every person in the business of making a profit’s head. Yes, that includes hostesses at restaurants, retail clerks, FedEx/Kinko’s employees, and even the government employees out there.

“Here is a simple but powerful rule: Always give people more than they expect to get.”

– Nelson Boswell

Just the other day, I had the brilliant idea of selling my old textbooks for a small sum of cash online. Turns out I was going to get a whopping sum of $17.56 for 3 of my 20 textbooks and another $2 for another! It was worth it. So I began to assemble my strategy.

You see, it wasn’t as simple as just boxing up the books and shipping them… I couldn’t just climb into my box-filled attic and grab the perfectly sized box with the sturdy and strong cardboard… NOPE. I recently acquired a large sum of office furniture (if you’re interested, give me a call and I’ll make you a deal). This furniture is taking up half of my garage, thus blocking the entrance to my attic.

So I had to improvise. That’s ok, I thoroughly enjoy being creative and coming up with alternative plans to make cash here and there! So I found a box that used to contain diapers, about 132 diapers to be exact. So I said to myself, “Self, this is a great box… not quite the right size (a little big), but we can fix that!”

I began cutting the box to fit my specifications and making some quite mind-boggling modifications to this “Pampers” diaper box. I got all 3 of my books (which were going to be shipped via the good ole fashioned United States Postal Service – USPS). And I couldn’t find any other boxes for my lone $2 book… which was going FedEx.

I set off on my journey.

Aside: my lovely Honda has had a bit of a thermostat problem as of late… when it sits idle it begins to overheat (or at least claim that’s severely overheating), then when I drive and drive FAST… it is very cool (which makes sense at the speeds that I’m topping).

As I’m driving throughout the day, I must continue to stop and let the car cool down before proceeding… or else just drive real fast to get to my locations.

I decided to stop at the Goodwill Donation Center first… because I felt like if I were going to get the best out of my gas mileage… I should “donate” (more like “DUMP”) my 16 other textbooks at the donation center first.

My next stop

…FedEx/Kinko’s to package my 1 book and send it out. I show up and realize that I left my phone at home! To some of you… no big deal… it’s just a phone… yes, but to ME, I had all of my stored numbers, addresses, and information on that phone. I couldn’t look up where I was supposed to ship the book to… I couldn’t even process life without it (ok, not the last part, but definitely the first).

So I go home, all the while listening to a speech given by Brian Tracy – he’s telling a story about how his wife backed out of the garage in his Mercedes – but one of his kids had left the door open and so she knocked his precious Mercedes door off. No problem… it happens… it happened to him… TWICE. But the whole point of the story was that he was practicing responding the crisis in a peaceful way and allowing it to diffuse the situation… especially when it was an accident.

I get home and get my phone and drive back to FedEx… all the while my car thermostat is bouncing up and down like a “teeter-totter” or a “see-saw!”

So I’m packaging my book at FedEx… yes FedEx TAKES FOREVER… but I’m just staying calm, because I know whatever they do… it won’t be as bad as USPS. Then, it dawns on me… I’m shipping in a Pampers box via USPS! Every time I tried shipping in a box with writing on it last time, they made me buy one of their boxes! Oh no… dadgum…

Stay calm.

Ah ha! I see a HUGE box of butcher paper for packing… I’m talking enough butcher paper to wrap an entire African village in… tons…

I think – ah… I’ll get a piece of that and wrap my “Pampers” box in it… then I can ship it at USPS and they won’t be able to stop me!

So I say to the slow, but kind (at least I thought he was kind) FedEx employee (if you want his name… I have it…), “Oh, um, excuse me kind sir… might I trouble you for a small piece of that butcher paper?”

He looks at me like, “Who you calling sir?” Then he realizes that I’m speaking English and asking him for a bit of something I like to call… service… or help… or assistance… or just plain it’s your job talk to me here!

He walks back to the HUGE (like Fat Albert huge) box of butcher paper and says, “You want some of this?”

I nod like a little 4 year old boy who was just asked a question by his favorite movie star…

FedEx employee replies, “How much you want?”

I say, “Oh just one pull…”

“Oh… ok…”

He then reaches to pull the sheet and something evil clicks on the inside of him… like he just had a malicious thought and is wrestling with whether or not he should carry it out…

His face contorts and shifts like when Bilbo is fighting off the power of the ring in Rivendell for the last time before Frodo and the Fellowship depart…

And he says in an evil voice, “Well… I’ll have to charge you for it.”

I laugh in the face of danger and say, “Haha… how much?!”

He says, “3 dollars.”

Me: dumbfounded… just staring at him like, “SeriouSLY?” No ways…

I look him square in the face… he stares meanly back…

I say, “That’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Then, I walk out of the store.

I don’t like FedEx. But as much as I don’t like them… I doubly don’t like USPS.

So I drive to USPS and go strapping in… a bit “touched” (as they say in Zimbabwe, which means “annoyed” or “put off”). But all of a sudden, my hopes are restored! Not only did I get the best parking spot in the lot… but there was only one other person in line in front of me! Oh joy!

In record time, I make my way to the counter (they have 4 counters… but I’ve only ever seen 2 open – and that was at Christmas time – what’s the point). And of course, typical USPS style, there’s one person working at the counter and another just standing behind her talking and chatting back and forth… DOING NOTHING.

It’s like bringing a little taste of Washington DC right to my backyard… this is where my tax dollars go… to pay for this “doing nothing’s” salary… and if she’s making anything over $10 an hour, she should be done away with.

Anyway, the counter lady yells loudly “Next! Can I help who’s next?” As if: 1. She doesn’t know who’s next – there’s ONLY ME!  2. Does she REALLY think she’s going to “help me?”

I’m thinking… well she’s going to have a problem with my box, but maybe… just maybe she’ll help me out.

I ask politely, “Is this box okay to ship in?”

She replies nonchalantly while looking at her computer screen (as if there’s something about the jump across the screen at her), “Oh yeah… it’s fine.”

I say, “Great… well I didn’t attach the shipping label yet cause I didn’t exactly know how it should go.”

She looks up over her computer screen… and I know something dreadful is about to come out of her mouth…

“Do you have tape?”

“Uh… no, not right here with me.”

“Well, then I can’t help you put the label on if you don’t have tape.”

I say, “Oh that’s no problem, YOU have tape… ” And I point the ginormous roll of packing tape sitting on her counter!

She says, “Nope, I can’t give out tape.”

“What? SeriouSLY? All I need are two tiny pieces!”

“We have tape just behind you on the wall for sale. I can’t give out tape or I’ll get in trouble.”

I think to myself (what are you a 3 year old? Afraid to “get in trouble?!”) and say, “What do you mean you can’t “give out tape?”

“Oh yeah we’ve been doing that for about a year now… can’t give out tape when we’re selling it.”

My blood is boiling now… I say nothing… I walk back to the wall and they want $3.59 for about 4 pieces of tape! I have tape at home… I don’t need to squander my money to finance this gluttonous beast full of low-lifes.

So I say with a forced smile, “I’ll be back, LADY.”  (You thought I was going to say “Baby… ” Nope… )

So I have to drive all the way back home! Car overheating… you know the routine…

I get back to the post office… walk in… wait in line… get to the front… and I slap my Pampers box down on the scale and look the menace right in the eyes and say “I’M BACK.”

I ask her to tape my box… and that’s it… it was over… I could finally go home.

I looked at the USPS lady worker and I said, “You know what I desire sometimes… I just desire a little bit of SERVICE.”

Slightly anti-climactic.

But as I’m doing all of this, a thought kept reverberating through me a business should always strive to “give more in value than it takes in price.”

That’s why, historically, I have liked UPS the best… they are always willing to help… friendly and actually care. Now part of is because of their franchising… the owners of the stores usually work there and actually seriously care about their customers…

But the other part of this is HIRING… hire people who care, and then once you’ve hired them, don’t put ridiculous and silly restrictions on them when they are trying to help your customers out!

Charging me over $3 for a piece of paper? Charging me over $3 for a piece of tape? Nonsense!

Back to the quote at the beginning of my tale…

“Always give people more than they expect to get.”

If you do that, people will always leave happy – or at least satisfied – and you won’t have to worry about losing customers for life because they were ill-treated.

Lastly, this whole business thing, it’s not about you… it never was and it never will be.

It’s always been about them. Take it off of “ME” and put onto “YOU” (your customer). You’ll be amazed at the growth of your business and relationships when you are looking to give more than you take.

So all that for $19.56… I probably spent all of that on gas. Thanks FedEx; thanks USPS. (*sarcasm*)