Thursday, January 24, 2013

Behavior Matching Beliefs

Integrity is important but it struck me in some curious ways recently. I was watching an interaction in a Christian bookstore recently. The associate at the cash register was trying to get some discounts to work on the computerized system. The product had already been marked down and some additional discounting was in play. The associate remarked how the computer sometimes resets prices and then applies the discount creating a higher price than it's supposed to be. The customer was harrumphing and fidgety. At one point, an item's price went from $7.49 to $13.99 to $3.74 back up to $5.62. The customer was excited about the $3.74 price. "How come I can't have that?" he wondered.

"Because the correct price is $5.62. If you look at the discounted price of $7.48 and we apply the additional markdown of 25%, it comes out to $5.62. Sometimes our computer goes wacky on the pricing; sometimes it's come out negative when a discount is entered," the clerk replied.

"Right," the customer responded disdainfully. "I've worked in retail. I know you can manipulate the system."

After the transaction was done, the clerk approached the customer one-on-one as he was leaving the store and said, "I'm insulted that you think I'd manipulate the system. If you look at your receipt, you'll see that the $5 price is the result of 25% off of the marked down price."

"Whatever." Not an apology in any way.

Since this was a Christian bookstore, we can assume that the customer was a Christian who knows about not judging, assuming the best, and forgiveness of sins, especially forgiving others in order to enjoy God's forgiveness and the admonishment to forgive 70 x 7 times. But this customer didn't apologize and walked away grumbling, after accusing a person trying their hardest with a poor, automated system to give the customer the right price. It's evident that this person doesn't really believe what they say they believe. It's also evident that this person is giving all others who claim those beliefs a bad reputation by association.

I overheard conversation where a pastor was telling another person that he had a friend in retail who thinks Christians are the worst customers because they always want something a little cheaper. If an item is on clearance for 90% off and another 25% is taken off of that, a product that was once $1.99 is now $0.14. "Will you take $0.13 for it?" he joked.

Frugality is a virtue. Being a snob about it is not.

Same selfish attitude shows up when we leave a public place in worst shape than we found it, with our food, beverage or paper discards left behind, creating a hassle for the next person wanting to use the space or worse yet, making the space not usable at all.

But then there are some others that I admire. When visiting certain stores when the product is hand-made, or at farmer's markets, craft shows, or going to markets in third-world countries, I've known some good men and women, who will not hesitate to pay a higher price, even when they could get it less expensively elsewhere. (One barker who claimed his Cozumel shop was "cheaper than Wal-Mart".) They know $2 difference in price is less important to them but very important to the people who put their own sweat into the product.

If you believe that all people are equal as our Declaration of Independence says, then others are no worse nor no better than you and deserve simple courtesy, respect and honor.  Practice your beliefs. Be a person of integrity.

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