The Apology

I used to drive a UPS (United Parcel Service) truck. dallas.jpg

Really.

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.
     
Question:

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?


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  • http://jamesbrett.wordpress.com JamesBrett

    i just finished posting on my blog all the leadership concepts i learned while coaching soccer. but that’s not what i’ll comment on here.

    my first job was working for a construction company, cleaning up the sites after they’d mostly finished the houses. i also got to do some simple landscaping and the like. the owner, lynn brookins (i’ll never forget his name), would take me and the other guy working out for lunch every day. we’d go to sonic, or burger king, or wherever, and he’d buy our meals. i remember thinking, “wow, this guy is not only paying us $5 an hour, but he’s buying lunch every day.” and then he’s sit and talk with us during lunch about whatever. i was amazed that he acted as if he actually wanted to spend time with us. i didn’t realize it then, but i learned that summer how to treat employees.

    just the other day i took three tanzanian guys out for lunch. all have done some work for me recently. they ordered whatever they wanted off the menu, and we all got sodas, and just talked. i hope i’m showing them they’re valuable just as lynn brookins showed me.

    • Jim Martin

      James, I love this story about Lynn Brookins! What an experience! Not only were you working under this kind of a guy but he was spending time with you as well. Really nice to see how you are continuing this practice in your own life now. Thanks for sharing such an encouraging story.

  • http://anasasblog.blogspot.com ANASA

    I am still waiting for an apology from one person in my life that had a significant role in it, but after some years he treated me with the most unfair way. 8 years passed…I have never received an apology, although he owes me one. Honestly , I do not believe I am going to receive it ever! …

    Great post!

    Best Regards from Greece – which lives her worst days after the war…God help us…

    • Jim Martin

      ANASA, I am so sorry about the person who hurt you and treated you unfairly and yet, never apologized. For eight years, he has apparently gone on with his life. You may be right about not ever receiving an apology from this person. I am sorry that you have experienced this. Unfortunately, some of the people who hurt/disappoint and treat others unfairly just go on with their lives. I suppose that one of the challenges that many of us face is how to go on with our own lives when we do not receive the apologies that we feel that we deserve. // Regarding Greece. Your last words are very stark. “…which lives her worst days after the war… God help us…” We hear much in the U.S. regarding the economic woes of Greece. Are there other concerns which make life especially difficult there?

  • http://www.gregengland.com Greg England

    No story to share, but a great story. Thanks for sharing it. Hopefully there are still people “out there” who are still that way. Hopefully I am one of them!

    • Jim Martin

      Greg, thank you very much! I hope you are doing well. (I hope I am one of these people too!)

  • http://anasasblog.blogspot.com ANASA

    Martin,

    of course my life did not stop, I still hope, dream and love and I am not expecting anything from this kind of people. ;-)

    As for Greece, after the loans the Goverment desided to cut sallaries, most of the small business and companies are in a very bad position and they have to cut down the number of people working for them so many families will be in the worst time of their lifes, there are no money left, no production, nothing. The worst of all is that the politicians who brought Greece in this situation over the years – starting from 1974 until now- and who had stolen money from the loans of European Union had loan to Greece, are free and enjoying their lifes and nobody of their politician friends do anything about it.
    Theres in nothing left but to wait to be “raped”. People are very disapointed and extremelly ungry. I don’t know where this is going to end…Germans are doing their best to destroy Greece, as they did during the 2nd World War, and they never paid for the damages they did to Greece, probably they will never do, but the only thing they want is to ruin once more this beautiful country and its people. Greece after the dicatorship of 1967, had never had the politicians and the treatment she deserved and probably that is the price we the Greeks have to pay for the wrong choices of the voters majority.

    (pls excuse me for my bad English but I am very nervous right now…sorry.)

  • http://anasasblog.blogspot.com ANASA

    p.s. Just for your info – in order to understand the huge economical crisis – Greece has debt that reaches the amount of …… 300 billion Euro!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Huge, my friend, HUGE!

    So, GOD HELP US!

  • Jim Martin

    ANASA, thank you for such a thorough explanation. I had really had very little understanding of this. This helps me to understand the ongoing story of Greece as I read various news articles regarding its economy. This sounds like a setting that has too be very stressful and frustrating. I can see why people would be disappointed and angry. Again, thank you for taking the time to help me understand the situation in your country better. (By the way, your English is very good)

  • http://anasasblog.blogspot.com ANASA

    Thank you too, for your nice words Martin.

    Please watch the below video on utube. Maybe you will find it interesting to understand how this small country who offered culture worldwide and how she had been and still being treated over the years by foreigners as well as her own politicians ( a very large part of them)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGitmYl6U90

    It’s a great short moovie created by Costas Gavras a Greek international awarded film director.

    I will be glad to receive your comments on this.

    Thank you.

  • Jim Martin

    Anasa, I watched the video. Wow! It is interesting and much of the historical background I did not know. I have seen a replica of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee several times and had no idea of some of the facts surrounding the real Parthenon. Very sad history. — Jim Martin

  • http://anasasblog.blogspot.com ANASA

    “So when the lion quits his fell repast, Next prowls the wolf, the filthy jackal last…” Lord Byron’s “Curse of Minerva” Athens , 1811

    always the same thing….then and now, a circle with no end and no beginning….

    thank you Martin.

  • Julie

    Thanks for this post! I actually have a great example from yesterday… I am the senior administrative assistant to the provost at a university (Christian). When people come for meetings I always offer to get them coffee or water. We’re in our craziest season at work right now (it’s almost commencement) and I have expressed a lot of frustration to my boss lately. Yesterday, when he had a meeting, I overheard him offering to get coffee or tea for the person in his office and then he went down the hall to the copy room and got her some tea. This reminded me of what a really humble person is like. Not just because he did this yesterday, but because he does this kind of stuff all the time (a couple of days ago it was buying me lunch from the taco place across the street)… his position doesn’t require it; in fact, it almost seems not the best use of his time (which I do remind him of :o), but I know that he’s thinking of me and the person he meeting with before himself. I learn so much from his example and I do carry this into my interactions with others I work with as well.

    • Jim Martin

      Julie, I am so glad you left this comment. How encouraging! Your boss sounds like a very special person. How wonderful to be able to say regarding this person that you “learn so much from his example.” What a powerful witness he must have at that university! It is great to hear of someone like this and the powerful impact that he has had on you and others. (I am glad that you came to this blog. I hope that you will return and continue to comment.)

  • Julie

    Oh, and I found your blog noted on Scot McKnight’s blog… I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts! Thank you!