I love putting on a brand new pair of socks.
I can’t be alone in this, right?? Don’t you agree that there’s just something great about putting on a brand new pair of socks? The feel of the fresh cotton; the pure white material that will soon enough be stained; the texture of the little fibers that will be gone after their first rodeo in the washing machine. New socks are one of life’s joys, plain and simple, and I am always excited when I purchase them.
I was out running errands today, doing the quarterly routine of replenishing toiletries and whatnot, and I fancied a trip to the mall to browse the clearance racks at the brand-name stores. (NOTE: Guys, shop like a girl — shop the clearance racks, and occasionally splurge on something nicer or expensive for an important event. Both your closet and your next date will thank you.) I found the socks I wear for $12 per pack with 3 pairs in each pack. I grabbed 2 packs of socks and a $5 shirt for my buddy on a whim since it was his style and he’s a very good friend to me. I handed the items to the cashier, and as she scans the first pack of socks…
Cashier: “Wow! Three bucks!”
Cashier: “Yep! Three bucks! That’s a pretty good deal, huh??”
My first thought was, “This can’t be right. This must be a mistake on their end; I shouldn’t take advantage of their mistake.” Then, I recalled an incident from my teenage years that put my mind and heart at ease…
Me: “Yes it IS! Ring me up for two more packs, please!”
Walk with me down memory lane for a moment. When DVD players were first available in the late 1990s, you’d spend upwards of $300 to take home a quality unit. My dad is a technology guru, and is always researching to discover the best possible bang for the buck; think of him as a walking Consumers Report on new gadgets. Of course, he bought a great DVD player for a good price, and I wanted to follow suit for my purchase. I went to Target and they had the floor model available. I used to work in retail computer sales, and always sold our floor models with confidence, so I don’t mind not having a box…as long as I get the requisite discount! The DVD player was already marked down to $250, so I was pretty happy. I took the unit to the cashier (easy there, perverts!) and she scanned the bar code…
Cashier: “Wow! Ninety-nine ninety-nine! That’s a pretty good deal, huh??”
I froze. I didn’t know what to do. Obviously this was a mistake. An inner voice spoke to me: “Target is a big, successful company,” the voice whispered as fast as it could, “They don’t make mistakes like this. You could cost this woman her job, and you can tell by interacting with her that this is probably a second or even third job. Get her to look into the situation and pay the marked price. You can’t live with this on your conscience.” But then, as quickly as the first voice came and went, a second voice appeared…
“John, you’re making way too big of a deal of this. She probably won’t lose her job, and Target is a big enough company that they can absorb the loss. Plus, you’re a good person, and you weren’t trying to deceive or switch tags or something. This is an error in your favor; take it!” So, after the few seconds it took to process those thoughts, I looked up at the cashier…
Me: “Yes it IS!”
I paid the $100 and walked out feeling absolutely…
I have a very guilty conscience. I am ever concerned about making sure others are — and remain — happy, and if I have contributed even in a minor way to the unhappiness of another, I beat myself up over it. I replay situations over and over in my mind, and analyze the events that took place; what was said, what wasn’t said, body language, eye contact, physical contact, etc. Like a detective, I search for every opportunity to discover where I messed up or said something upsetting or offensive; I want to be a better person, always (and you should, too!).
So, even though I convinced myself to take advantage of the situation, I still left feeling remorse for potentially costing someone their job, or at the very least getting them in hot water with their superiors. Every time I used that DVD player, I would feel a tinge of regret. Of course, it passed over time, but still, I felt a little empathy every time I’d press “play”, and I’d momentarily wonder if that cashier is happy and good in life.
I continue to shop at Target for my toiletries (read: pretzel M&Ms), and I still shop at the same location at which I bought the DVD player. Sometime within the last year, I was doing my routine toiletry shop and was astonished to look up at my cashier and see the lady that rang me up for the DVD player. Not only did she not lose her job, she had remained with the company for over a decade!! I laughed to myself at how silly I was for feeling the way I had. I recognized the moment as a lesson in life: don’t feel guilty when you know in your heart that you’ve done nothing wrong.
That lesson resurfaced in my mind instantly when I was buying my new socks today; I used an interaction from when I was a naïve teenager to live a better life today in my thirties. I considered the savings at the register to be a reward from the universe for working so hard on my album, being a good friend to my friends, helping my parents when they need help, helping my clients make their music better for them, and just trying to make the world a better place. Call it karma…right??
Give of your gifts, and you will get some gifts from the universe in return. Just keep giving, even when you feel like you’ve already given everything you can, give a little bit more.
I hope you enjoy your gifts. Thanks for reading.