It had been a really long day. We finished youth camp. I drove 2 hours to Arlington to the hospital to check on my Dad. Right as I got their they came to move him tot he rehabilitation hospital so I didn't get to talk tot him except to say, "Hello." They hurried him out and I got the address to follow the ambulance.
I stopped to write my article and send a couple of things to the office and then headed to the place. I knew there would be that check in chaos, but it was worse than I expected. Person after person came in needing forms signed and information. Sometimes, they were competing with each other. Frequently they seemed mad at us for not being finished. The director came down and told one of us that we had to go to the main office to check in. She left in exasperation. We were exhausted. It took nearly 2 hours before there was any moment to ourselves.
After a trip back home to receive some things it looked like Mel was buttoned in for the night and I felt like I could leave and head to Athens. I was hungry. I had missed lunch in the hurry to get to Arlington and now I was on the edge of grouchy. I decided to stop at a fast food place that I enjoy. I was going to sit. Eat oriental food and drink a tall glass of sweat tea.
I got in line and waited. It took a little while. The attendant looked right past the guy in front of me and asked me what I wanted to order. I immediately pointed to him and said, "He was here first." The attendant turned and looked at him. He looked at me and then at her and handed here a bag of food. "I want my money back," he proclaimed. She did not move.
"These are not any good," came out of his mouth as he produced a bag with some mystery item in it. "We can replace them" was his reply. "No, I just want my money back." More hesitation. The two cashiers talked for a bit. They finally decided to give him his $1.47. They gave it out like it was taffy stuck in a raccoons fur. I was amazed at their reluctance and his persistence. I went back to his seat tired from the encounter.
I placed my order, got my food, paid my bill and then headed to the drink area. This was the tricky part. I do not like the regular fountain drinks at this place, but they have great sweat tea. I was really looking forward to the tea. Before I ordered, I checked to see if they had the container for sweat tea. I filled the cup up with a mound of ice. I was hot and tired and I wanted something cold. I pulled the handle. Three drips released into my ice maze. I took a deep sigh and went back to the counter.
"Can I have some sweat tea from behind the counter?"
"We ran out. We will have to make some." I had been in line for at least ten minutes. They already were aware of the missing tea. I shook my head. "I would really like to have some sweat tea." I shuffled over to me seat. I just needed to sit for a little bit. I also needed to send an email, so I worked and chewed and waited. I watched. No tea was in my future. I had a two hour drive home and was counting on that tea to get me home.
After thirty minutes, I had licked my plate clean done all the work I could do and could tell that they had not yet responded to my request. I went back to the counter. "I would like some tea," I said with as little heat as possible. "Well, we have been really busy." I held up my receipt. "It has been thirty minutes since I asked you for tea. You said you were going to make some." She stared at me.
"I would like my money back." She seemed stunned. "I don't think we can do that." I was incredulous. I knew they could give money back. They did not move. I asked for the manager. I reviewed the process and again asked for my money back. It was $1.99. He went in the back and came out with $3.00. I told him I only needed what I paid for, but he insisted. I went down the street and bought two one dollar sweat teas from another place for $2.00.
Later, I wish I had given the money to the cashier and told her that the gap between the request and the response is the measure of great service. I wanted her to remember me, not as that cranky guy, but that surprising guy who gave a a money tip and a life tip. I bet she went home and told a story about how this really demanding guy ruined her night. I bet she got jumped on my her manager.
I listened to the sermon last Sunday about adding value to others. I don't think I did a very good job. The sermon last week made me want to do better.