Lesson # 2 — Learned from the Man in the Express Checkout Lane

Lesson # 2 — Learned from the Man in the Express Checkout Lane

I’ve become pretty good at running in high heels since I took the job at American Express. Around 5:30, you’ll find me sprinting from my last meeting of the day to catch the PATH downstairs in our building. Soon I’ll be able to jump over a turnstile in Newark to secure a seat on my connecting train (If men only knew what it felt like to wear these shoes — there might just be a few more open seats).

I was commuting home a few weeks ago when I got a call from my step-daughter Sarah (we call her Sharky).

“Maaaa! We have no food,” she said. Sound familiar, ladies?

“No problem, I’m on it,” I replied.

I’ll just reroute to the grocery store when I get off the train at Princeton Junction.

I dash into the store, grab a few things for dinner, then head for the express lane. It’s almost 7PM now and I’m running out of steam. This should be quick.

My commute home is usually a blur — I’m either scanning through one of my mental checklists, recounting the day’s meetings or I’m deep into listening to something on Audible. I don’t often remember the people I encounter — commute is “my time.” However, something happened that made it hard to forget the man standing in line ahead of me.

After paying cash for his groceries, he grabbed the bag and headed for the door. He walked rather slowly while reconciling his money against the receipt. The automatic door open, but he stopped and turned back around with a confused look on his face. I was sure the young clerk accidentally short-changed him.

He apologized to me for butting-in to get the cashier’s attention.

Extending his arm and opening his hand with the receipt and said:

“I think you gave me too much.”

She recounted — in fact she handed him one dollar too many.

I meet hundreds of sales professionals every year, and I’m well aware of how much time and effort they put into differentiating themselves from their competition. The fact is, in spite of their impressive presentations and flashy product demonstrations, many are forgotten.

Every so often someone does something unexpectedly to stand out in a positive way. I’ve had a supplier extend their trust by completely opening their books to show their cost structure and margin; another sales leader prevented us from buying something we really didn’t need; yet another preemptively reduced the price without being asked after doing their own benchmark and finding opportunities to lower the cost.

The short, elderly man with thick gray hair and beige jacket standing in front of me in the express lane illustrated a valuable lesson that doesn’t cost much or take any preparation: Integrity is unforgettable.

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