Ace Was the Place with the Helpful Hardware Woman!

I have fond memories as a teenager working in the hardware store as a cashier and hardware retail assistant. My dad loved the discount he received on all of his purchases there because I was an employee. I loved working in the store - mixing paint (we had to measure everything manually back then!) and helping people find the plumbing and hardware parts they needed for their home repair projects.  Maybe that is where I picked up my inclination for engineering.

One thing I'll never forget is what often happened at closing time. The doors would be locked, the registers closing down and there at the door or window would be a poor soul looking so desperate as he held up an old plumbing part or dropped to his knees in a begging position. You knew they had something break at the house and they just needed one little thing - and we were closed. It was definitely after closing time - we didn't lock the doors early, I always felt so sorry for them. Much to my delight, one of the managers always did too. He would open the door and listen to their story and help them out, letting them buy the part they needed even though the registers were closed - sometimes just letting them have it for free if it wasn't too expensive. I'll never forget the look on their faces - of gratefulness - and it just felt SO good to be a part of it.

Then there were a few very different experiences I had looking in from the other side of the door.

I needed to get a package out after the post offices were closed and ran to a little package shipping store around the corner. Their sign said they closed at 6:00pm and it was 5:50pm when I arrived. Plenty of time, I thought. As I grabbed the door to pull it open, it resisted! It was locked. I could see the owner in the store standing at the back table. He looked up at me, I pointed to my watch and he looked back down, completely ignoring me. I had a few choice words for that one and never returned to that place of business.

I experienced a similar situation at the eye doctor's office. They closed at 2:00 on Fridays and I had received a call that day notifying me my contacts were in. I was out of contacts and really needed the new ones. The employee told me that if I could get there by 2:00, I would be able to pick them up. I headed out right away and was walking up to their door at 1:52 - which is before 2:00 in my books. I was shocked and fairly upset to find the door locked, the front desk obviously vacated, lights out and not another car in the parking lot. What was up with that? I no longer get my contacts at that office!

So what does this have to do with creativity or risk taking? We take a risk when we close up shop a little early. How happy was that guy that came to the hardware store after hours? What kind of message was he spreading to friends, family and others? How happy was I at the shipping store or the eye doctor's office? What kind of message did I spread?

A little bit of empathy and kindness and a few more minutes before locking the door or turning off the phone will make a world of difference in your world and mine.