I was working with an elderly female client and she wanted to walk to the grocery store to get her exercise and get her newspaper after I finished cleaning her house and reminding her to get washed up.
We went to the grocery store and the first thing she did was go straight to those stations where you pay a buck or whatever to get a lottery ticket (I took statistics, so I know most people come out losing in the end), but I had to stay silent and help her to put her money in the way she wanted.
She said to me, “I love playing these things. My neighbor down the hall, she is CRAZY about these things. She won FIVE HUNDRED dollars not long ago! I think she spent more trying to win it than she got from it. But I like to do it now and again for fun. Sometimes I win a couple of bucks.”
She checked her previous tickets in the machine only to discover she didn’t have winning numbers, and then she bought some new ones. I was trying to make conversation, so I feigned interest in the process, and asked her to show me how it was done. Then she came up with the grand idea that I should buy a ticket and see if I won.
I dreaded this. EVERY single client I have had has tried to give me something.
One couple tried to feed me endless cupcakes and give me a credit card, probably from a time when credit cards were invented. Another woman tried to give me a rubber duck that was decorated like a unicorn. Another one tried to give me weight watcher’s ice cream bars. This lady….wanted me to take her dollar and buy a lottery ticket.
My company’s policy is no accepting gifts or tips of ANY kind. That should just be a basic rule of professionalism in general I think. Anyway, my company suggests you gracefully decline before blatantly saying it is our business policy.
So, I tried that “decline gracefully” tactic:
“I’ll put the dollar in and press the button, but if I win, you keep it.”
That did NOT go over well. I thought she was going to throw an elderly temper tantrum.
“NO! YOU TAKE IT. It’s YOURS!!!!”
I pressed the button hoping to God I wouldn’t win. Of course….I did, but we weren’t sure for how much. From reading the thing, it looked like a dollar. I still hoped I didn’t even win that much.
We went to the clerk, and she said, “I have a winning ticket here. How much is it?”
“A big ole buck!” the guy replied.
“Only a buck????” She replied, feigning being horrified. “That is just…just….CHEAP!”
He laughed, gave her the dollar, and while he went to serve another woman, we stood near the counter debating the dollar.
“YOU TAKE IT!” she kept insisting.
“I really shouldn’t. It was YOUR dollar,” I replied smiling.
“No, no no no no no no! I want you to have it. Please take it.”
“Well why not?”
“It’s not my dollar.”
“But it IS! Take it!!!”
Finally, the gracefully decline method had died. I pulled out the “It’s business policy” tactic.
To this she replied, “Well, that’s just….mean!”
The customer at the counter turned to me and laughed and said, “Good luck with that. I’ve worked in your sort of job and it is futile.”
I laughed, turned back to my client, and she then said, “Well, can I at least buy you a cup of coffee???”
We began walking away. “Well, I can’t exactly accept that either unless I pay for it, and I don’t have my money with me.”
“It’s JUST a cup of coffee!!! Please? I want to do something for you!”
I felt so guilty.
How about this: I’m coming back on Thursday. We can take a trip to the store again, I’ll bring my money, and we can get a cup of coffee. Does that sound like a plan?”
“I suppose,” she said reassured, but sullen.
We made our way to where she would pick out her newspaper.
Out of nowhere, the woman who had joked with me about my efforts being futile came over to us, handed ten dollars to us, and said, “I know the rules of being in home care in the medical profession, and I’ve been in your frustrating position many times. I want you to buy a cup of coffee on me.”
Before I could dissuade her, she fast-walked out the door.
I was dumbfounded. What a kind act to do. My client was totally confused, but I got it.
That random act of kindness totally made my day.
I sat down for a cup of Joe with my client, made her day, and was guilt-free doing it. What a special blessing that stranger was today.