Principles: A Steal for $6

The sales associate had a chip on her shoulder the size of Mt. Everest. I mean, she redefined rudeness while practically escalating it to an art form. Yet, in an attempt to give her the benefit of the doubt, I entertained the possibility that maybe she was just having a bad day. Maybe she was dealing with unforeseen hardships or stress I can scarcely even imagine. Perhaps my sheer presence was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. But... I just can't swallow the excuses I tried to make for her. Principles aren't something you abandon on a whim in the name of a bad day.

After initially denying my request to return a small unused item, she grabbed the receipt out of my hand and rolled her eyes in a manner that was so emphatic and over exaggerated, she was deserving of an Oscar. "Well...." she huffed, "if $6 is that important to you... I guess I'll go ahead and process your return." Slamming the item down on the counter, she nodded to the other cashier behind the register to process my request. What?! She's deciding whether or not to honor store policy and return my item based on her perception of the value of its $6 retail price!?

In a dazzling display of self-restraint, I responded with a simple, "It's not about the $6, it's the principle." I had bought an item and was told I could return/exchange it (minus some other non-refundable items also included in my purchase). In an effort to simplify my life and keep unnecessary consumption at bay, I took advantage of being in the area and dropped in to return the needless item. Little did I know the event would be riddled with such drama.

After leaving the store, my self-restraint ran thin and I voiced an avalanche of pent up fury to Emir (bless his heart!) who patiently persuaded me to relax, convincing me not to return to the store with the few choice words I had for the two young ladies who were by this time, surely lamenting my sheer existence and having a gossip hay day.

Left to my own devices, I replayed the exchange over and over in my mind, escalating in fury at what seems to pass for 'customer service' these days. Does her boss know she treats customers this way? Or worse yet, was she the boss? How do businesses that operate this way manage to survive? In a world bursting at the seams with competition, the transparency of social media, and a sheer overabundance of options from competitors, having and abiding by principles is sometimes the only leverage you have.

I like to imagine that this young woman went home that night with a slightly altered perspective, even if she can't yet admit it. Maybe, just maybe, I taught her something. Even if it did cost the store a $6 sale...