When Speaking Your Mind

My Daily Question: Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us today?

Today, I had an unfortunate post office experience. I complained.

I had purchased a roll of 100 stamps three days before the price was increased from $0.41 to $0.42. No sign was posted announcing the change that was only days away. Nor did the sales clerk communicate it to me when I asked for this large quantity of stamps. On the morning of the change when I heard of the price increase on NPR news, I seethed. I knew it was only $1 extra for all of those stamps, but they were worthless three days after I bought them without that extra one cent stamp that I now had to return to purchase.

When I went to the post office I told them of my complaint, which was primarily that no one communicated the price increase with words or with a sign. I didn’t think I was rude; I just expressed that I was a little “perturbed.”

The clerk, whom normally has a smile and a joke for everyone, put me in my place with his ultra polite, “Well, it has been difficult for all of us.”

But it didn’t feel like he understood me or even acknowledged my concern. So I upped my emotion. Then he said things like, “You asked a question, can I have a chance to talk, now?” I felt my confidence diminish that I had even stood up to speak.

KH and NH stood beside me during this attempt to express myself. Later when I asked KH about it, she admitted it was a bad scene. “A little embarrassing,” she said. “And your voice was shaking.”

So I wondered, how else was I supposed to handle it? Not saying anything? Act as if it doesn’t matter? I am opinionated, and sometimes I have a hard time knowing when I need to step up and say something and when I don’t.

But the good news is that I am mentoring my own daughter to know how. She received a late slip from the public library for a book she thought she had returned. Apparently she didn’t. She looked for the book everywhere at home. She even stayed after school to clean out her locker just too find it, but still no book. It was lost.

She stressed over it for many weeks. Every time she wanted to check out a book at the library, the outstanding fee prevented it and reminded her of the loss.

She waited until the end of the year to pay the $25 for the lost book and the $5 late fee thinking that maybe it could still show up. For a 14-year-old that is a high price to pay for a book that you won’t even get to read again.

This morning, she moaned about the “consequence” for losing the book and insisted that she had learned her lesson to be more careful. She resolved to pay it with her own money.

At the library, she paid her fee. After, I found her in the young adult stacks. She pulled out a book. “This is the book I paid for.”

“You mean you think it is the actual book that you checked out?” I said.

She hemmed and hawed, not wanting to commit. She explained something about the computer listing only one copy at our library, and that it was lost and paid for, but she said, “This must be from one of the other libraries.”

She hesitated as if she didn’t really believe that, so I pressed her. “Do you think that is the same book you checked out?”

She wasn’t completely sure, but I could tell she felt something growing inside of her. I encouraged her to trust her feeling and tell the librarians.

I sat on a bench with my other children and watched her in action. She took her concern to the front desk. She handed them the book and said she thought this was the book she just paid for.

They checked the barcode. Indeed it was. She had paid for a book that was sitting on the shelf the whole time she was stressing about it. They acknowledged that they should have looked on the shelf first. Two librarians thanked her for coming to tell them, which built her confidence in speaking up.

What a genuine learning experience in so many ways! Why couldn’t my “speaking up” at the post office have looked this good?

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4 Comments

  1. Julie
    Jun 5, 2008

    I’m sure that you’ve probably spoken your mind in other instances where it went over better. And you must be so proud of your daughter! That’s great that you were there to encourage her.

    I think customer service is becoming obsolete and it’s very, very sad. Wouldn’t a simple apology from the clerk have made all the difference in the world? I’ve worked in customer service oriented jobs and I can truly understand both perspectives. I’ve had jobs that I was miserable in and took it out on customers. I think it takes a certain amount of emotional maturity and confidence to not feel personally offended when a customer has a complaint. I certainly wasn’t capable of it when I was younger but now I have learned that the all too important skill of listening can make all the difference in the world. (I think I feel a blog post coming on!) I don’t think those qualities are high on the list of priorities for employers anymore! Anyway, I’ll get off the soap box now! I didn’t realize the strong feelings your story would evoke about customer service!! ūüôā

  2. Michelle at Scribbit
    Jun 5, 2008

    What a rotten thing–I’m glad you found that book afterall but it’s an unfortunate thing to have happen for sure. I hate complaining but it seems to work when you do it so I find myself giving in periodically and doing it.

  3. Ryan
    Jun 5, 2008

    I lot of “speaking your mind” has to do with how much people want to receive it. It’s a whole lot easier telling your friends how the cow ate the cabbage than to do so to strangers … especially postal workers. Watch out! Haha, just kidding. I actually heard all postal workers were required to take depressants while on the clock. Librarians, on the other hand, should probably be throwing back a few energy drinks a day.

  4. Miriam Lovell Dyer
    Jun 6, 2008

    I wish I would have learned to handle a situation like your daughter did at that age (great parenting!). I’d probably have more confidence when speaking up now.
    It makes me think of all the things I can teach my children that I never learned (not that they weren’t taught :))

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