Everyone has had this experience or at least witnessed it happening. You’re exiting a store after a purchase and an alarm goes off all around you. Lights flash. People stare. You (or whoever it happens to) are embarrassed.
The store clerk failed to remove one of the security tags from an item you bought, stuck the item in the bag and sent you on your way. It was an innocent mistake. No one is mad. Normally. You simply return to the counter, they remove the tag and you’re on your way again. No harm. No foul.
But, for a split second, you’re embarrassed. It feels like people are thinking something about you that isn’t true.
“You stole something.” And yet you didn’t.
“You’re an idiot.“And yet you’re not.
Those alarms usually place us initially on the offensive. Even though you didn’t do anything wrong, you feel like everyone thinks you did.
Of course, sometimes people did steal something, which is why the systems exist in the first place. But, for you, because of an honest mistake, it became a nuisance.
Recently, Cheryl and I were out of town and witnessed this happen at a T. J. Maxx store. Yet, instead of obnoxious piercing noises and flashing lights, we heard a polite, easy to understand voice recording say:
“Excuse me, but we must have forgotten to remove a security tag from one of the items you purchased. Please return to the cashier’s desk and we will be happy to assist you.“
I loved it. The lady “caught” simply returned to the counter. She appeared to be surprised, but unalarmed. People seemed to laugh about it. No one seemed to be looking for a criminal. Instead they looked for an honest mistake.
It seemed to communicate…
“We are not assuming you did something wrong. We simply want to correct our error.”
Someone at T. J. Maxx has been thinking.
Most people who set off those alarms aren’t criminal in their actions. They are innocent people. T. J. Maxx is thinking for their paying customer. A relationship they want to keep and protect.
It was a great reminder to me of something I remind myself and our team frequently.
The way you approach an issue of concern often determines how it is received.
Do you have an issue to address with someone that could prove to be uncomfortable?
Consider these suggestions:
If the relationship is valuable enough to keep and protect…
Write it down and consider how it sounds initially. Put your response to the issue in print…for only your eyes to see at this point. Does it sound unsensensitive or alarming? Would it immediately put you on the defensive? If so, consider rewording to a softer, kinder approach.
Practice how you will say it. Pay special attention to your tone and body language. You can be truthful…and you should be…without being degrading and accusatory. Practice grace and truth.
Prayerfully address the situation. Pray to change your heart towards the issue first. Pray for your approach…perhaps even more than you pray for their response.
Because, your approach will often determine their response.
Thanks T. J. Maxx for the inspiration.