Last Tuesday, my only daughter, Lydia, and I went out together. You have no idea how much I love to have time with her. And whenever we go out, we love to go window shopping. For me personally, what I enjoy the most is the chance I get to listen to my daughter’s heart. In that way, I know in what area of life I need to pray for her.
So, while we were walking around in a shopping center, we ended up getting into one store that I tend to go often and we picked three items. On our way to the cashier, I saw one of my favorite perfumes and the price was just unbelievably cheap (the price of the perfume is $120 but I saw it for $60) and this particular store doesn’t sell anything fake or imitation. I know that! Lydia knows that her mama has a very, very close and intimate relationship with perfume. So, she said, “Mom, remember, we didn’t come here to buy perfume and don’t let the cheap price trick you.”
But I couldn’t just pass that perfume! I mean, hello! It is almost 50% off. So, I picked it up and we paid for the items we had and left the store. When we got home, I looked at the receipt and noticed that they didn’t actually charge me for the perfume; instead they charged me twice for one of the items that was for $9.99. So, I knew that they made a mistake. I said to Lydia, “Look what happened! They didn’t charge me for the perfume.”
What was in my mind?
Yeap! I wanted to just keep the perfume. Duh! How would they know, right?
But I immediately said to myself, what would I do with the Holy Spirit who resides in me. When He asks me, “Missy, where did this perfume come from and how did you pay for it?” What would my answer be?
So, I said to Lydia, “The easiest thing for me is to keep this perfume but my conscience won’t allow me,” and she wholeheartedly agreed with me. She had somewhere to go; so I went back to the store by myself. I went directly to the information desk and said, handing over the perfume to the lady who was standing behind the counter, “I was here like an hour or so ago and I bought four items including this perfume but I didn’t get charged for this perfume.” And I added, “Here is my receipt and I was also charged twice for one of the items I got.”
The lady gave me that weird look. I mean, I thought the issue was so straightforward for anyone to understand it. I think she understood what I was telling her but she looked confused and looked at me as though I was there to trick her to get money. I felt a bit uncomfortable but I knew that was the right and the only thing I could do and it was okay for me to be looked at as if I was a thief. I felt like that was the cost I needed to pay to get a free conscience. She took the perfume from my hand and said, pointing her finger to one lady, “Go to that lady and ask her to give you a refund for $9.99.”
I said, “Okay,” and went to the other lady.
I explained to the lady how I didn’t get two of the item but just one but I was charged for two. The lady looked at me, again, as if I was there to lie and get away with the money. She didn’t say it but I knew with her look that she was saying, “Something looks fishy here.” Trying to study my face, she said, “Well, this is what we’re going to do. We will go ahead and make a photo copy of your receipt and give it to the guy who is responsible for the security camera. If he sees you in the camera holding only one of this item, we will go ahead and refund you.”
I was like, really! So, I returned back $60 worth of perfume but asking to give a refund for the item you charged me twice by your mistake? And they have to go through the security camera to make sure that I was not lying about the $9.99?
Amazing! But you know what, I didn’t get offended at all because I knew what I was doing.
I said, “Sounds good to me.” But right there, I began thinking: So, when the guy looked at me in the security camera, he would definitely see me holding four items, including the perfume. So, he may get confused how my receipt says only $30.
While I was thinking, the lady came back with my receipt and the copy of my receipt and she handed me my receipt. I said, “Would you please write a line or two on the copy of my receipt, telling the guy that I actually left the store holding a perfume that I didn’t get charged for it but brought back and gave it to that lady,” pointing my finger to the first lady. Again, this lady gave me one of those funny looks that says, “Don’t pull my legs now,” kind of look! I said to myself, “Here we go again!”
She gave me a second look while jotting down on the receipt and I left the store.
They didn’t call me that day but the next day, yesterday, a lady called and left a voice message saying this: “Hi, this is Michelle, the lady who spoke to you yesterday about being charged twice for one item. So, it is okay, you can stop by at our store and we will give you the money.”
When I heard that voice message, I felt, I don’t know how to express my feeling, but I felt terrible. My mind kept replaying her message, “it is okay, you can stop by and we give you the money.” What? Give me the money? What money? Did I ask them to give me money? I asked them to correct their mistakes and refund my money back to my account! They are not giving me a gift; rather they are returning back my money they took from me by their own mistake. Wow! Really? How much does “We are so sorry for our mistakes,” statement cost?
I couldn’t silence my mind. I mean, I worked in a retail business before. I know how a business should be run and this is not the way. So, I went online and looked for their corporate number. I hate doing that but I wanted somebody in a higher up position with some common sense to listen to me. I sure found a number and called.
I briefed the operator what happened and she transferred my call to a regional manager. My call went right through an answering machine and I left a voice message giving my name and my number and asking the person to call me back.
Nobody called me until the end of day yesterday. Today in the morning, while I was eating my breakfast, somebody called. My phone was next to me and I saw the light blinking (my phone is always off). So, I picked it up and it was the regional manager.
I introduced myself, told her for how long I had been their customer and had their store credit card but how I was mistreated and my issue was mishandled.
She immediately said, “Wow! I am terribly sorry! Wow! This is not the way we want our customers to be treated. Wow! I apologize! I will call you right back after I find out who is the manager today working in that store and I will call you.”
I said, okay, inside my heart, I was saying, “Praise God! Somebody believed me, heard me and validated my feeling!”
Then she called me right back and told me the name of the person I needed to talk to in the store. So I went there and a nice lady came out and said, “We are very sorry for what happened to you. The issue had never been brought up to the manager level; that is why it was handled that way. We are very sorry. And we will go ahead and correct our mistake and refund your money. And do you remember the perfume that you were thinking of buying?”
I was like, “Yes.”
She said, “Go ahead and grab the perfume and we will take care of that.” First, I didn’t understand what she was saying but she added, “We will cover the cost of the perfume.”
Yes, I left the store feeling justified and relieved! And of course, feeling good, not so much about the free perfume I got, yes, I am happy about that but more so because I left the store treated as a person who didn’t steal anything from them.
So, this is the take home message left for me from this experience: More often than not, choosing to do the wrong thing is easy and quick. It blends us to the majority and won’t expose us any weird look from others. When we choose to do the right thing, not only it is hard to do and takes us long, but we also get marginalized and be mistreated by others. Doing the right thing makes us look stupid and foolish. And for some people, like the ladies I talked to in the store first, our way of doing the right thing looks “a brand new way of lying, deceiving and stealing,” and puts so much stress and shame on us.
However, regardless, after all is said and done, it is worth everything to us to have a clear conscience. Part of Martin Luther’s short and famous prayer goes like this: “to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”
May this also be our prayer and stand no matter what the cost maybe, to fight for the freedom of our conscience, because true freedom can only be experienced from a clear and free conscience. And it always feels good to have freedom even when we have nothing.
May God help me to always resolve not to bring anything into my house that I did not pay for (unless it is a gift), so help me God.
“Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.”” Acts 23:1 –
Hmm! I wonder what that “perfectly good conscience” feels like. ///