This is one of those times when it’s nearly impossible to share what you wish to share without sounding like you’re patting yourself on the back. So I’ll tell my story and hope it’s received as an encouragement to readers to do the right thing and nothing more.
On Friday, January 17, wife Evelyn and I went shopping at our local Walmart (that should be cause for confession right there). Among the cartful of items we bought was a small scrub brush for the master bathroom to replace the one that had become so contaminated and black that it was impossible to clean (and, for that matter, made cleaning impossible).
We came home and put most of the groceries away except for a bag of Progresso soup which I set on the floor of the closet where we keep soups. A few days passed, and I realized that Evelyn hadn’t put the brush in the shower. I asked her where she had put it. Imagine my surprise when she said, “I thought you put it someplace!” A frantic search turned up nothing. Conclusion: I apparently left it on the check-out carousel.
I was back in the store shopping shortly after that stark revelation and inquired of the cashier about their policy for items left behind by customers. They do, in fact, take them to Customer Service where they are catalogued in a binder according to date discovered and item left behind. However, the store requires one to present their receipt in order to find the item.
Great. It had been nearly a week since we left the brush in the store. The receipt was probably tossed in the recycling bin days ago. So we went home.
Lo and behold, among a few other receipts, the one from the previous Friday was there with the brush noted on it. I put a small check mark next to it so the nice Customer Service lady could find it easily.
The following day I went back with my receipt. The nice lady saw the brush listed and looked in the binder where left-behind items were listed. No, it wasn’t there. But it came out that she was looking for it under the current date. I told her that it was about five days prior, so she went back into the binder to look under the 17th. My hopes were dashed. No, again.
She then told me to get another brush and bring it to her. She would then check it out for me. So that’s what I did – brought her an identical brush which she scanned and gave to me. “I’m sure you wouldn’t try to cheat Walmart out of four dollars,” she said. “Especially when I’m a pastor,” I said.
So I brought my new brush home, took the cardboard off, and placed it on the shelf in the master bathroom shower.
The next day I decided that the soup had been setting in the bag long enough and went to the closet to put the cans on the shelves. (You’re ahead of me here, aren’t you?) Yep. As soon as I opened the bag, there, on top of the cans of soup, was the first brush I bought!
Well, I had no choice. I had to return a brush I never bought. So on the Friday following the day of our initial shopping trip, I took the brush back and made the dear soul behind the counter listen to my tale. “So,” I told her, “this is technically neither a return nor an exchange. This brush belongs to you, so I’m bringing it back.” I meant to add, “I don’t think this will keep Walmart from tipping into bankruptcy,” but forgot to add that bit of wry humor. (The brush was all of $4.27!)
But that was the point: the ethical demands superseded the fact that Walmart is just so humongous that it would never miss a tiny scrub brush any more than taking out a cup of water would make the ocean disappear. I hadn’t paid for two brushes; therefore I shouldn’t be in possession of two brushes.
The greatest benefit of my special trip back to Walmart was how good it made me feel. Doing the right thing usually makes you feel that way.