Wednesday, September 28, 2011

five minute rule

Today I was at Wal Mart, which is often a pretty terrible time because of the crowds and rudeness and florescent lights, and I had a really good experience.  I was in one of the slow checkout lanes behind this pretty, skinny, mom of five with a baby in her arms. It was probably way faster than the express checkout because I tend to think the crowds forget about the lanes in the middle. Of course, I didn't qualify for the express checkout anyway because I technically had a crap ton of stuff.  So I had unloaded almost all of my items onto the conveyor belt and the nice checkout girl, Amanda, had already scanned a few things when I told her that I would be making two purchases and one of them was tax exempt. She stopped and informed me that not only would she have to start over, but that I would need to go to customer service to get some sort of special card before she could start again.  Amanda was so nice and I was mortified.  I was panicked at the thought of the next person coming up behind me at any moment and rolling their eyes at the hold up I was causing.  Then Amanda turned off her light-- that one that lets you know half-way across the store that the lane is open-- gave me step by step instructions for what I was supposed to do, said she would wait for me and smiled the whole time.
I got everything taken care of and hauled my heavy cart out to the parking lot when a man came running out after me and asked if I had forgotten my paint. At first I didn't know what he was talking about because it had been so long since I loaded the conveyor belt, but then I remembered my gallon of paint that didn't quite fit as the mom-of-five was finishing up her purchase. Ooooh, I'll have to go back. I unloaded the mound of stuff into my trunk, hurried back into the store and Amanda was still there, waiting with my gallon of paint even though she was supposed to take a break.  She checked me out and I didn't have to wait a second.
Having worked in the service industry a lot I understand how important it is to receive praise for a job well done.  So just a few minutes after I left the store, while on my way home, I grabbed my receipt, where one can always find the number to the store, and dialed. A lady answered and I said I would like to leave a comment about an employee. She got a manager on the phone and I said:
"I just left the store a few minutes ago and I want to let you know that I had a really positive experience.  Amanda checked me out--line 11, I'm pretty sure-- and she was so patient and friendly, even though I had a ton of stuff and I had to go run to customer service in the middle of checkout.  She even had someone run after me when I had left something on her line.  I just want her to get credit for doing a good job."
The manager responded with so much gratitude that someone would actually call to say something positive. She explained that they get so many negative calls and that it is just as important to hear good things, too.
I felt so good about this whole thing and it got me thinking.  It was such a small thing to do. So small that I might easily have gotten home and gotten busy and neglected to do it and no one would have been the wiser... but then I would have missed a big opportunity to make a positive difference in someone's day.  It was also such a small thing to do that it took less than five minutes.  Three minutes and twenty-nine seconds, to be exact.
I tend to believe that if something is on my mind and it takes less than five minutes, I should just do it.  This is my five minute rule.  I cannot tell you how much more productive my life is with this rule than without.  And I'm not claiming to be a proactive powerhouse, here. Really, I just try to do the best I can and go to sleep at night feeling the least amount of guilt as possible at the thought of the things I should have done.  Usually it's just small things or small starts to big projects, but I tend to think it's the small things in life that mean the most. And that's what the five minute rule is all about: making a big difference, three minutes and twenty-nine seconds at a time.

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