Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Owning It

There's a famous line from the Kevin Smith film Clerks: "I'm not even supposed to be here today!" That's how I felt when strolling into my spot behind the teller line at the bank branch located inside of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. I wasn't supposed to be here. I wasn't supposed to be inside of a Wal-Mart--I hated Wal-Mart. The branch I had been working at, close to home with a great bunch of co-workers, wasn't supposed to close down. I was supposed to be home, with Abby, enjoying a Saturday, a perfect summer day. I wasn't supposed to be working when I had already worked the last two Saturdays.

I wasn't supposed to be, but I was there.

Worse, I had screwed up. A small pile of work awaited me, left behind from the night before--checks, deposit slips, loan payments. There wasn't much, sure, but every piece represented a transaction that wasn't processed for a customer. I hated making mistakes like that. It was embarrassing.

I slumped down in my chair and began the process of crediting customer accounts. I had done it many times before when other bankers had made the same mistake. For the most part, the errors would go unnoticed. Other than one account, the customers had healthy bank balances and a couple hundred bucks gone missing wouldn't have effected them over the night. As long as that one customer didn't notice, it would be smooth sailing.

Then the phone rang. About that one customer. . .

"Yeah, I just went through the checkout line and my blankety-blank card wouldn't work, so I couldn't get blankety-blank breakfast this morning. I know I put a blanking deposit in there and should've had plenty of blanking money in there and would you tell me what the blank is going on there? I'm through with this bank and I'm going to tell everyone I know what a bunch of idiots you all are."

Turns out he noticed.

My first instinct was to lie my ass off. It was easy enough. All I had to tell him was that something must have gone wrong in the back room, there's no telling what, and dang it, I'm as mad as you are about those idiots. The back office was a bunch of nameless, faceless people that he couldn't call and cuss at while I was living, breathing person that could be cussed at, and quite vehemently. So what if the backroom was innocent? They made terrific scapegoats. The words were right there; I only had to say them.

But that wasn't accurate, exactly. No, that wasn't accurate at all. It was my mistake. I knew it was my mistake.

So I told him so. I screwed up, I said. I explained what had happened. Then I told him how I would fix it--in fact, how I had already fixed it, only a little too late for his debit card to work.

The customer listened to me, seemed to understand what I was saying, but man, he was worked up and he wasn't quite ready to let go of it yet. He let another barrage fly, and it was a good one, with lots of f-bombs and so forth, but it started to taper off about halfway through. In a slightly nicer tone, he asked for some clarification regarding how I would fix it again.

I calmly explained my error again, and how it would be taken care of. Again, I apologized profusely for my mistake. "I screwed up and I am very, very sorry, and it will not happen again. It was 100% my mistake."

There was a short pause. I was afraid I was losing him again, and was preparing to listen to some more of his immense and creative vocabulary. Hoping to avoid that, I queued up another apology. But as I began, I was interrupted.

"Hey, that's all right buddy, don't you worry about it, mistakes happen. Thanks for getting it taken care of and you have a great weekend."

Turns out that maybe I was supposed to be there. Nobody else could have owned my mistake but me. And, after a slight delay, I did.


  1. By owning it, you showed that person that they weren't talking to "The Bank," they were talking to someone who works at the bank.

    That, and some people just need to have a good fight before everything feels ok. I don't mean to say that with judgement, it's just how some people are wired, I think.

  2. Yep, it was a good lesson for me to learn! It doesn't always fix everything, but all you can do is learn from it.