I used to drive a UPS (United Parcel Service) truck.
This was the job I had when I one day received an apology.
I had been working for UPS during college. I was a student at the University of North Texas I worked at the Dallas location in the evenings, loading and unloading trucks. Each day, I drove from Denton to Dallas and then back again. I usually got home about midnight.
I was a business major with an emphasis in management. As graduation came nearer, I still had no idea what I was going to do with my life. However, I worked hard at my job and received some degree of satisfaction from it. I was offered the opportunity to work full-time with UPS. It was an opportunity to get into management with them but meant that I must first drive a UPS delivery truck. So after graduation, I delivered packages each day to downtown office buildings in Dallas. Most of my days were spent in high rise buildings going in and out of offices. Then in the afternoons, I would return to about a dozen different businesses and pick up packages that were being mailed out that day.
On a given day, I might deliver to a restaurant, a drafting supply company, a uniform company, a jewelry store, a sporting goods store, a convenience store, a large hotel, a library, a movie distribution company, etc. Each day, I interacted with many, many people.
I learned to respect the people who quietly went about their work. For example, I regularly delivered to two older English ladies who owned a small travel company. They seemed excited when I came into their office. After handing them their packages, they always wanted me to have two lemon drops. These lemon drops were from England and I sensed that they felt like they were sharing a bit of their country with me.
I also came to admire the many receptionists, clerks, and administrative assistants who worked very hard in the many offices to which I delivered. I was impressed with the people who were cheerful to this non-descript UPS guy coming into their office each day.
Then one day, I made a delivery to a small cosmetic jewelry manufacturing company on the 5th floor of a smaller office building. The company was located at 500 S. Ervay, a historic building in Dallas. It was a company that I delivered to occasionally. On that particular day, I got off the elevator with three or four large packages. A clerk had obviously been instructed to get his supervisor when I arrived. The supervisor came out of his office and began yelling. Apparently, he had been waiting for many other packages and they had not arrived. He went on and on about how frustrated he was over not getting the packages that he needed.
I apologized for his inconvenience. (I really had nothing to do with his predicament but I was the physical face of UPS at that moment.) I gave him a direct telephone number and the name of a supervisor. He ignored this.
He kept yelling.
He got louder.
He became animated.
He went ballistic.
People stopped what they were doing and came over to see what was happening. It seemed like more and more people were stopping to watch.
The guy had a complete meltdown.
Finally, people who had been watching this awkward situation began to leave. I apologized again to this guy for his inconvenience and then I left.
The next day, I made another delivery at this company. This time, as soon as I stepped off the elevator, I was met by a man in a suit who said that he and another gentleman would like to visit with me in an office. I followed him down a hallway to an office. He introduced me to the president of this company and then he closed the door.
I looked at both of these men and they seemed very somber. Then the president said, “I want you to know how sorry I am at the way you were treated when you came here yesterday. This is very embarrassing. This is not the kind of company that we want to be. We will deal with Mr. Smith. There is no excuse for his behavior. That kind of behavior will not be tolerated. If you ever have any problem from anyone in my company, I wish you would let me know about it.”
I never forgot that moment.
I was 22 years old and had little or no direction in my life. But for a moment, these two guys in the office of a small manufacturing company, communicated to me with this apology that I had value. For many years, I have been grateful for that moment.
Can you recall an important lesson that you learned from an earlier job? (Perhaps this is a job you had in high school, college, or beyond.) How has this particular lesson impacted you?