On Doing the Nice Thing

Yesterday morning at work business came in waves–heavy, then light. The store would be empty, save for myself, followed by a half an hour of a jam-packed store with a dozen customers all wanting attention. In the midst of all this….

A woman came in, and she wanted some advice–should she buy a video game system now, or should she wait until the PlayStation 3 and the Wii come out in the fall? This isn't an unusual question–people want the newest and latest, and the current generation of systems, despite their vast libraries of titles, are yesterday's news. While working with her, I had to juggle a little to help another woman, this one wanting skateboarding games that weren't Tony Hawk for her son's birthday today, and then another family came in, a father and his two sons.

Second woman, she ends up buying three games. She'd come in for one–Super Smash Brothers Melee–and left with that, a Rocket Power game, and a third game that escapes memory. Finished with her, I returned to the first woman, whom I'd left hanging, and greeted the father and his two sons, answering in passing a quick question about baseball games for the PlayStation 2.

The first woman bought a PlayStation 2, memory card, two racing games, and two role-playing games. Also, I convinced her to buy the replacement warranty on her system–she was buying a slim PS2, and mine melted internally due to overheating within three months, not at all atypical for the system.

As this was happening, the father was on his cell phone while his two sons were playing the store's GameCube demo unit. The older son wanted to buy MVP Baseball 2005, and the younger son wanted to buy a pack of Japanese Pokemon cards that we've had as long as I've been at the store (and that's close to four years now).

I scanned the baseball game, and asked the older brother who his favorite baseball team was. “I like the Giants,” he said, after some thought. “And the Yankees. Boston, too.”

I had to laugh at that. It's rare that someone will admit to liking the Yankees and the Red Sox, and I told him so. His father said that they'd lived both places, so that made sense.

Then I scanned the pack of Pokemon cards. The game came up 14.99, as it should. The cards came up 0.01. Yes, that's right–the cards rang up for a penny a pack.

We had a price change two weeks ago on clearance items, to mark them down to a penny and throw them out. The problem is, the clearance sku is a generic sku that covers a lot of different products–there's no way to tell, except by scanning everything in the store, what's clearance.

I said to the two sons, “I tell you guys what. If you want all the Pokemon cards, you can have them. That okay with you?”

Their faces exploded in huge smiles and they nodded their heads rapidly. I took the pack of cards I'd scanned out of the transaction, bagged up the game, and then bagged up all the other packs of Japanese Pokemon cards–which I would be throwing away anyway–and handed them over to the boys.

The transaction was finished, and the father asked me if he could have a piece of paper. Then he asked for a pen. Oh my, I thought, what have I done.

He scribbled out a name and some information on the paper and handed it back to me. He then introduced himself–the new assistant basketball coach at North Carolina State. “I appreciate what you did for my boys. You ever want to see a game, give me a call. Courtside seats.” We shook hands.

Even now I'm not sure that I did anything special, letting the two boys have the trading cards that I'd have otherwise thrown in the garbage. But for this one father, I did.

Maybe come fall I'll have to take him up on his offer.

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