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Making the Right Choice

§ December 23rd, 2010 § Filed under communication § Tagged , , , , , , § No Comments

A friend of mine called today on her way home from the grocery store. She was headed to put up her purchases when she realized that the checker had not charged her for most of her items. She had a dozen items, but the checker only charged her for six. She asked me “What should I do?”

My first response was “Do you want me to channel my mother?” She said, “I know. My mother, too. She once went back to a store to return a penny.”

I remember being with my mother when she returned some change. I also remember being with my mother when she was given $10 extra in change (a huge sum in the 1960s). With my friend’s mother and mine, the size of the error did not matter. If someone’s cash drawer was going to be short, it was worth it to make the trip back to the store and correct the mistake.

I warned my friend that the cashier might not be happy to see her, since my friend would be pointing out the cashier’s mistake. I know that when I have returned money that I mistakenly received, occasionally the recipient has looked at me as if I had grown a second head. There have been occasions when I have not heard a thank you.

But I don’t return the money because I expect gratitude. I do it because if the roles were reversed, I would hope someone would return to help me. I don’t know if the checkout clerk at my local grocery store will be expected to make up the money or not, but I know if I were in his or her shoes, it would drive me crazy wondering what happened.

In my friend’s case, the inventory would be short, so there would not be any way to track down who made the mistake. But we both knew the correct route to take. A return trip to the store was required.

My friend called a little later to let me know what happened. When she returned to the store, the clerk was grateful and confused, unsure how she could have made that mistake. My friend was in and out quickly, but it took enough time that she did not have the chance to go home before her next appointment. As she left the store, she saw a fire engine and an ambulance headed back in the direction of her house. When she did manage to get back home, she saw a wrecked car on the street leading to her place.

Would my friend have been in the middle of this wreck if she had headed home and not returned to the store? Who knows? The important thing is that she did what was right. The choices we make have repercussions, whether in avoiding an accident or simply in being an example to others.  For my friend and me, we’ll continue to follow the examples our mothers set for us.