Kindness is Contagious but Should Not Be Taken for Granted

two hands reaching out to each other in kindness

So the other day I went to pick up some shoes that I had given in for repair. I go to a shop nearby that I’ve been frequenting for some time. It’s a nicely-run shop by an older, hard-working gentleman who is very obviously passionate about his job and dedicated to making his customers happy.

Anytime I would come in, he would greet me with a friendly smile and assure me that my shoes were in good hands. And sure enough, they always were well taken care of , looking as good as new, every time.

But this most recent visit was a bit different.

I went in to pick up my shoes and they weren’t ready yet. It was the first time this had happened in all the years I’d been going to him. I didn’t mind at all considering how busy the man was. He just needed to shine them up so it was really just an extra five minutes wait.

But in those five minutes (and being quite the observant person I am), I noticed a slew of shoes on the back racks that had pick-up dates for months ago, some even a year or more old.

Now most people would probably notice that, forget about it, pick up their own shoes and be on their way, but curiosity got the best of me.

So as he was preparing my order, I asked him if all of those shoes were orders that hadn’t been fulfilled yet, and immediately his expression became slightly grim. He nodded and said that yes, these were shoes already done and worked on from a very long time ago that simply never got picked up. He would call and no one would answer, or the number given to him would not be in service. At this point, I must have opened up a small can of worms because he became a bit emotional, and went on to say something to the affect of not understanding why people would bring their items in the first place, if they had no intentions of coming back for them – or paying for the service.

It’s like when you give your clothing in at the dry-cleaners and then leave them there for six months – why? What is the point?

You gave in your shoes for a reason, you clearly want them fixed so that you can continue wearing them, so how does it make sense to just abandon them, essentially? If you truly didn’t care for them all that much, then why not just get rid of them or donate them as is?

The Dark Side to the Honour System

Anyway, in getting to the point, this is where the whole ‘honour’ payment system comes into question. What made the shoe repair man’s story more disappointing was the fact that he only asks you to pay when you come and pick up your shoes. He wants his customers to be satisfied and happy with the work, obviously. So you can imagine, just how much his business may have suffered financially by the sheer fact that so many people simply haven’t bothered to come back – and don’t end up paying for the service in the process.

Overall, I just felt so bad for him. I mean, this man has to be in his late ’70s with a business to run, and you’ve got people just taking his kindness and trust for granted, in a way. Anytime I’ve gone in there, he’s always coming out of the back with those ‘workman’s” hands full of black grime indicating authenticity (kind of like a true mechanic’s hands).

As a business owner, you would like to think that your exuding a level of customer satisfaction by not asking for payment upfront and then you have people that simply take that for granted. I’m sure most of these people are not intentionally trying to undermine his business, of course, but to be honest, if I was the business owner, then I would expect the same level of trust and honesty from my customers and they are putting into my business services. It’s about the relationship.

Before leaving, I asked him to consider changing his business model and maybe start asking for an upfront deposit at the very least, just to protect his business going forward. I’m sure his regular customers would totally understand and not mind. Hopefully that would entice those people that become MIA to actually return in a timely manner.

So yes, just a reminder to ourselves that we know life can easily get in the way. We have good intentions and don’t mean to neglect these errands; but try to put yourself in their shoes (no pun intended, I swear) and think about the effect your prolonged tardiness may have on their business and ultimately their livlihood. These are real people too, with their own families and their own need to put food on the table. Let’s all have that mutual respect for each other.


8 thoughts on “Kindness is Contagious but Should Not Be Taken for Granted

  1. One reason why I try to make sure that I pay for the service before I leave (Dry Cleaning, etc). If they won’t take the whole amount, at least 50%, and then the rest upon collection. Some places have that policy as a standard.
    If the old guy could change his policy to that, I’m sure his regular customers wouldn’t mind. And that way, it ensures that some kind of payment is made for services rendered.


  2. Wow, this post made me sad. Maybe it’s a bit much to say this, but I feel like people are losing their sense of respect and just common decency, especially toward people providing a service. I see it all the time at fast food restaurants. People don’t thank the cashier when they’re given change (then again, the cashier rarely thanks us after we pay), people don’t thank the person who gives them their food, etc. Just common manners. And if they feel like the worker is moving too slow (because it’s busy), they’ll make a remark about how long they’ve been waiting, or just send a message via body language. I don’t get it, Sarah. I always try to thank these people or sometimes wish them a good day upon leaving.

    Anyway, sorry for the rant. Thanks for sharing this! I’m sure that gentleman wishes all his customers were like you.


    1. You’re so right! It’s all relative. I mean, these people that work at all these food service establishments, or any other service provider are incredibly important to our lives. I mean, someone has to make and hand you the medium double/double at TIms, right? It’s just so important to not lose sight of the person behind the counter or on the other end of the spectrum. We may have be a different levels in our quest for happiness and financial stability, but we all share a common goal.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s