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Majoring in the Minors

Like most men, I don’t like carrying change in my pocket–especially pennies. Therefore, I throw the annoying little buggers in a drawer and deal with them when a pile has accumulated.

When that occurs, I often count out a handful and go down to my favorite deli near my office and purchase a banana (currently @ 74-cents per).

In the past, two different women who no longer work at the check-out counter simply opened up their hands, thanked me, and dropped the pennies into the register without counting. Each one understood the value of her time.

Currently, however, there is a nice guy working the register who surprised me by uttering, “Oh my, oh my,” when I dropped my treasure into his mitts.

Mark obviously intended to count every single penny before waiting on the three customers standing behind me in line. He was taken back by the enormity of his unexpected task and, judging from the disgruntled look on his face, had no immediate plans of adding my name to his Christmas card list.

My reactions were twofold:

1. I felt bad about being the source of his consternation. He obviously saw it as a problem and the last thing I intended to do was make his job more difficult.

2. A totally polar-opposite, though unspoken thought, however, was: “My gosh, man, why are you majoring in the minors? Checking to see whether you were underpaid or overpaid by two-cents is not worth the effort. Dude, you’re costing your employer money!”

I understand that he was being totally conscientious, but his actions reminded me of the futility of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic when the ship was sinking. It just plain did not make sense for him to be focusing on minutia when there were other customers to serve.

It makes me wonder how often each of us does the same thing in the course of a day’s work. How often do we let some silly little task that is doing little or nothing toward garnering success get in the way of achieving our critical goals and objectives? How frequently do we piddle away time and resources trying to save pennies while losing dollars in the process?

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Mark the Check-out-Guy had nothing but the best of intentions when he made his decision to count my seventy-four pennies.

The truth of the matter, however, is that his decision was not in best interest of his employer or the folks waiting in line. He was majoring in the minors.

Bill Sheridan—SHERIDAN WRITES: Bio under Guest Authors

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3 Comment(s)

  1. John R. Ingrisano | Jan 23, 2008 | Reply

    A banana? I’m still working on that one, Bill. I can picture you — banana in one hand, pennies in the other — standing at the counter. And you wonder why retail clerks drink!

    Seriously, this is a good reminder that customer service is the name of the game. Similarly, I was stuck in Chicago this week as a blizzard rolled into O’Hare Airport. Flights were a mess, and I was hoping and praying to catch that last leg flight up to Green Bay.

    A young pup fellow, who was, I am sure, harried, as well, pretty much dismissed me when I protested that I’d rather get onto an 8:00 PM flight (bumped back from 4:30) rather than watch my midnght flight (bumped back from 9:30)get cancelled, especially since there the earlier flight was only about half full.

    Well, Dennis was determined I would have to wait and began lecturing me. I have a problem being lectured by kids younger than my own children, especially since the plane was waiting, not 50 feet from me, and even the captain came back up the stairs to ask if there were any more passengers.

    Dennis was going to stick to his guns, invoking some vague, anti-customer rule. Fortunately, a delightful (equally harried) young lady beside him punched the keys on her computer and, magically, got me on board … abd with a smile, to boot.

    She knew customer service. JRI

  2. Jason Karns | Jan 23, 2008 | Reply

    Although I agree with the overall message of this post, I feel compelled to defend Mark the Checkout-Guy. I too was once a checkout-guy, working at the local Subway in my hometown. The store policy was very strict on having the exact amount of money in the drawer as was registered by the computer. Any discrepancy, no matter how small, was recorded at the end of each employee’s shift. Although Mark’s actions were not in his employer’s best interests, they were most likely in *his* best interests as determined by his manager. In situations like these I try to remember that many (most?) managers do not even operate in the business’ best interests, and employees generally just follow the rules.

  3. Bill Sheridan | Jan 23, 2008 | Reply

    Point well taken, Jason. I absolutely knew that Mark felt he was making the right decision so it is good to get your input on his probable reasoning. Thanks for weighing in on the subject. Come back again. (And if you ever really get bored and have nothing to do…sometime read Ingrisano’s stuff)!

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