My first quarter of grad school I was working a full-time position as a general manager of a store. Well, really it was more of a kiosk that sold and repaired watches, but that’s neither here nor there. I was in charge of several employees that weren’t the best at sales, but they cared about people. That’s a big reason why I hired them.
In a short 6 months, we cut the $40,000 debt in half through selling $10 Timex and $15 battery replacements. Caring more about people really showed and made our customers want to come back. Each month I shared my sales bonus (only available to managers), by taking everyone out to a nice meal. They knew I was getting a bonus and I wanted them to know that I appreciated them enough to share in the spoils. It also helped them grow as a team by giving a shared sense of winning together.
The December before we closed was difficult. I was required to work 60-70 hours a week and was a full-time grad student. There was also the high number of aggressive customers, stolen merchandize, and even one incident involving a very violent drunk.
This post is about that drunk.
Around noon on a Saturday, scheduled to work until 10 pm, I was happy to have dressed in a clean suit and pressed tie. Considering my schedule, these were hard to come by at the time. One employee was inspecting a watch with a customer. The other was at the workbench tinkering away. I walked in noticing in the distance a disheveled man trying to hug mall goers many of which included children. He yelled angrily when parents grabbed their children hustling away.
My assistant manager told me she had called security 20 minutes prior, but that no one answered. The man then sauntered a jagged B-line towards the kiosk and started making sexual remarks about my two female employees. I decided on an isolate and wait approach. I knew that I would rather be the one to deal with a violent drunk than a kid or some family out for a weekend outing. I needed to have the cops called and to be away from the crowds.
I turned to both of my employees and whispered, “please call the cops. Have them meet us at the East entrance”. Offering to buy the man another drink, he agreed to walk with me to the nearest bar at the east side of the mall through one of the big box stores.
As we marched side by side, I stopped at a busy register in the big box store, smiled, and stated, “we have a Code C”. The cashier nodded in agreement. The man luckily didn’t hear and pushed passed the crowd walking himself through to the exit. After I told him I called for a cab, he agreed to wait several minutes. Still there were no cops and no security, but I was happy that he was away from others.
Deciding he had enough of the waiting he decided to walk his way towards a Red Robin that was across the parking lot. As well, he had enough of being held back from more drink. Threatening to kill me if I followed he started walking through the dozens of parked cars. I stepped back inside and rushed back to the register where I gave the “Code C”.
“So, did you talk to the dispatcher? Are the cops on their way?”, I asked the cashier exasperated.
“I didn’t call anyone. I didn’t know what you meant,“ she replied defensively, “I’m only a seasonal employee. I don’t really work here. Are you one of the managers?”
I looked around at the numerous people all waiting in lines to pay for their holiday gifts. “Did anyone call the cops?”, I asked the crowd of shoppers. The question was met with quiet darting eyes. Pointing outside and yelling, “No, I don’t work here, but you’re telling me that you all saw that man in need of help and you decided to do nothing?”. I received more blank stares, “Even if you don’t know a ‘Code C’ none of you saw that he needed help or that I needed help?”.
With the echoing silence ringing in my ears, I walked back to the kiosk to explain to my employees what had happened. Half an hour later security showed up to let me know the cops had the man in custody. Security would later reprimand me for doing anything other than ignore him.
You can really tell how much someone cares by how they communicate or, in this case, fail to communicate. I count about a dozens points of communication in this story.
Caring about others is more than making them feel like a good customer, or buying expensive meals, or getting them gifts for some holiday. Caring is communication. Others are convinced that you care by that communication. It’s easy to tell that none of those shoppers care about anyone they don’t know. It’s also easy to place the priorities of mall security.
I hope that through this busy holiday season you slow down enough to see the everyday lives of others. For many, this is a tough time of year filled with loss and solitude. Consider the ways you talk about the holidays with others and really listen. I really appreciate those two ex-employees and how they handled difficult situations like that one. I’m grateful for their caring.
Like always, Thank you for reading. I hope that you found something useful to add to your everyday rhetoric repertoire.
Side note: I later found out that the man had gotten drunk in one of the mall restaurants earlier that morning and had assaulted several people. He had been walking around for hours without anyone calling the police or security doing anything. The police let me know that the man had been arrested only minutes after I stopped walking with him (he never made it to Red Robin). Police said the only 911 call came from my kiosk.