A couple of weeks ago I thought I had finally found a frame to fit a matted print of my former church in Montevallo, AL. I got the drawing at the congregation’s 110th anniversary celebration in 2006, but since then it’s been propped up on the top of a bookcase in my home office. Time to remedy that and display the wonderful picture properly!

The drawing is in charcoal or maybe pencil, black and white, matted in white, so I wanted a black frame. Not too plain, but not too fancy either. Finding something in that Goldilocks zone was proving impossible, for a reasonable price anyway. On a trip to a nearby town with a K-Mart, Susan and I stopped by that store and found what I thought was a good choice.

Boy, was I wrong! Even though the frame cost almost $14 (remember: this is K-Mart, so that’s a high price), the opening on the back was cut poorly and would not fit an 11 x 14 print as claimed. Also, the “glass” on the front turned out to be merely a plastic sheet!

I carefully prepared my “speech” to give to the cashier when I returned the defective product for credit, detailing what my expectations had been and what was wrong with the frame and how disappointed I was and how much trouble I had been caused to have to bring back the purchase all the way from Starkville. To my chagrin, the clerk didn’t even look at me, much less listen, as I began to rattle off my concerns. She just scanned the receipt and gave me my credit. No “I’m sorry for your trouble” or “Please shop with us again. We’ll try to do better” or “I’ll tell the management about this poor product.” It was as if she knew the stuff K-Mart was selling for a higher price than I expected was junk. And she didn’t care. She was there to give refunds. Period.

That young woman was not invested in the image of K-Mart. She offered me nothing extra (lagniappe, value added) like even an expression of concern that their product was so lousy. I didn’t even get a friendly smile. Consequently, though I rarely shop at K-Mart, I will definitely not do so again unless there is no other choice.

I criticize that refund clerk, but how many of us do any better in our work? We perform competently and show up on time. But really, isn’t that the minimum requirement for holding a position? Is there anything special we do for clients or customers that sets us apart as individuals and creates an impression of our firm as a notch above everyone else?

And what about on a Sunday when we attend worship or some other day, when we’re involved in mission? Are we particularly interested in showing hospitality to guests or to those we serve? Is there anything that sets our witness and welcome apart as particularly winsome and inviting or do we just sit and/or talk with the same people, wondering about a guest “who is that?” rather than introducing ourselves? Are we imaginative and creative in worship and welcome such or do we expect the same words and music and thoughts every week?

I learned a lesson from that disinterested K-Mart clerk. If I ever get into a rut or stop caring, I’ll remind myself of her and try to be someone distinctive, knowing that I represent One who cared so much he gave his very life.

© 2012 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.