Integrity Matters
July 26, 2006

Dismissal leaves store clerk confused

Question: (E-024)

Dear Jim:

Last year, when I graduated from Hartnell, I got a job at a local clothing store. Customers were always thanking me for the way I helped them. Then I was suddenly fired over an incident that has left me hurt and confused.

A lady had come into the store looking for a particular brand of cotton top. I knew a shop in the mall had what she was looking for, and so I told her where she could find what she wanted. I asked if I could help her in any other way, but she said she was just interested in the blouses, thanked me and left.
My manager came up to me and told me she wanted to see me in the break room after my shift. To my shock, she handed me my final check and told me I was being let go, effective immediately. I will never forget her words when I asked her why. She said, "You never, ever refer a customer to a competitor."

Is it possible that general business practices put self-interest before the best interest of the customer? Please tell me this isn't so.


This should not have happened, yet it provides a lesson: Simply being right is no guarantee that we will not have some "bumps." As for your boss, everyone understands that these are demanding times.

Generating revenue is tough. Likely, she was feeling tremendous pressure to generate immediate cash flow from customers, despite not having exactly what the customer wanted or needed. Unless your former boss had instructed you that you were never to refer a customer to another supplier to fulfill their needs (a poor policy, by the way), your boss was wrong to terminate you for this.

From a customer's perspective, you made the right decision and are living with the consequences.

When your own integrity is on the line, there is a piece of wisdom that you might choose to read, over and over. It appears on our Web site: "Integrity is one of several paths; it distinguishes itself from the others because it is the right path and the only one upon which you will never get lost." - M.H. McKee.

You have learned that one particular organization is not a good match for you. But high-integrity employers do exist - ones that will welcome you, promote you and regard you as a true partner in their efforts to serve customers effectively.

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