At work today I made a man cry. I feel no shame in what I did, in fact it filled me with pride. The customer, a man in his late seventies brought in his and his wife’s bicycles for us to prepare for the upcoming riding season. It wasn’t his first time in our store and it wasn’t the first time I have helped him but never before has he broken down from pent-up emotion.
I have had other people cry when dealing with me. As an amateur actor I cry on stage in front of hundreds and I like to think I have on occasion had the affect of bringing my audience to tears, but Mr. Stone’s tears were not the result of intentional manipulation of heartstrings. No, he cried simply because he was moved to tears.
Recently I had another customer bring me a twenty plus year old bicycle to work on and this man also became overcome with emotion. In this instance he revealed to me that the bicycle represented a strong emotional tie. The original owner of that bike had been his 37-year-old son who had recently passed away from cancer, leaving behind a five-year grandson. As he told me what he wanted to have done to the bicycle, what had become of his son, his love and hopes for his grandson he became overcome with the past, present and his dream for a better tomorrow. The bicycle was the focal point of his emotional magnifying glass and all the emotional baggage associated with his son and grandson came pouring out in heartfelt sorrow at his loss.
Mr. Stone’s tears were different. I have been involved with bicycle service since 1986. Doing a thorough job of listening to a customer’s description of what his bike is doing poorly, asking what changes he would like, looking at the bicycle’s set up and how the owner might benefit from minor changes in seat or handlebar height or reach to the bars, if a seat is level, if the brake and shift levers are easily accessed, inspecting parts to determine which have worn and are in need of replacement and myriad other points of diagnosis are perused and explained in what I hope is an amiable, low pressure opportunity to address and improve the fit and function of a bike. Bikes are tools for transportation, fun, fitness, adventure and enjoyment and I feel pleasure in helping make those things happen.
Mr. Stone was overcome because he was receiving the service every human should receive, but frequently don’t. I know this to be the case because he said, “I don’t know why I’m crying, it’s just that you people always treat me so good.” We live in a time where hurrying is considered normal, where we sacrifice service for low price and think we get a “bargain” when we shop somewhere that ignores our wants, needs, dreams and desires and we accept this in the name of economy. Mr. Stone received the full extent of my attention because he was someone special; he was my customer. If you think you deserve to be treated as something more than just a quick sale then perhaps you should consider where you shop and how that shopping experience meets your needs, wants and values and not just your pocket-book. After all, you’re someone special too!