Jessie's Baseball Glove (12/1/09)

I do a lot of management training each year for the Circle K Corporation, a national chain of convenience stores. Among the topics we address in our seminars is the retention of quality employees - a real challenge to managers when you consider the pay scale in the service industry. During these discussions, I ask the participants,

"What has caused you to stay long enough to become a manager?" Some time back a new manager took the question and slowly, with her voice almost breaking, said, "It was a $19 baseball glove."

Cynthia told the group that she originally took a Circle K clerk job as an interim position while she looked for something better. On her second or third day behind the counter, she received a phone call from her nine-year old son, Jessie. He needed a baseball glove for Little League. She explained that as a single mother, money was very tight, and her first check would have to go for paying bills. Perhaps she could buy his baseball glove with her second or third check.

When Cynthia arrived for work the next morning, Patricia, the store manager, asked her to come to the small room in back of the store that served as an office. Cynthia wondered if she had done something wrong or left some part of her job incomplete from the day before. She was concerned and confused.

Patricia handed her a box. "I overheard you talking to your son yesterday," she said, "and I know that it is hard to explain things to kids. This is a baseball glove for Jessie because he may not understand how important he is, even though you have to pay bills before you can buy gloves. You know we can't pay good people like you as much as we would like to; but we do care, and I want you to know you are important to us."

The thoughtfulness, empathy and love of this convenience store manager demonstrates vividly that people remember more how much an employer cares than how much the employer pays. An important lesson for the price of a Little League baseball glove.