Sunday, December 08, 2019
Thanking those who helped look for money would be kind
It was a full day of holiday preparation for a reader we're calling Frances. After rising at 7 a.m., making coffee and reading the morning newspaper, she was off to her local farmer's market to purchase fresh fruit, an evergreen garland and other accoutrements she needed to create a centerpiece for her dining room table where about a dozen friends and family members would be sharing a meal the next evening.
Frances then drove to the nearest shopping mall so she could purchase boots. She also received a free tote bag and coupon for a future purchase. She stuck the coupon in her purse. Then it was on to the gas station to fill up the tank. After that, Frances stopped at her local bank branch to get five $100 bills to use as gifts throughout the season. She put the envelope with the bills in her purse. A quick stop to the local chocolate maker followed. Finally, she drove to the grocery store to buy groceries for the family dinner and a lottery scratch ticket, the latter of which also was placed in her pocketbook.
Once home, Frances unloaded her groceries and other purchases and put everything away.
Early that evening, Frances remembered the cash she had withdrawn along with the lottery ticket and went to retrieve it from her purse. Neither was there. She emptied her pocketbook. Nothing. She looked through the trash in her wastebasket to see if she had mistakenly tossed them out. Nothing. She then called the chocolate maker and grocery store to see if anyone had turned anything in. Nothing.
As a last hope, Frances drove to the grocery store to see if she had dropped the envelope with the money and the lottery ticket in the parking lot. Even though she had already called the service desk, she went inside and asked again if anyone had found anything. No one had, but the young man in charge of security took about 20 minutes to check the video surveillance records. He found footage of Frances at the checkout and leaving the store, but there was no sign of anything falling from her purse.
Frances was despondent. But on returning home, she noticed the shoe store coupon on her desk. Folded into it were the lottery ticket and the envelope with the five bills. With all that she had done that day, she simply forgot that she had placed the items on her desk.
"Everyone took time to check to see if I'd left the money or ticket behind," Frances says. "Shouldn't I do something to thank them?"
Each of the people who checked did the right thing - and their job. Frances had thanked them each, but now that the money and ticket are found, the right thing would be for her to call them back and let them know she found them. Sometimes knowing things turned out well for a customer they tried to help is sufficient reward.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
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