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Giving Thanks to Our Customers

April 18, 2014

Customer appreciation is an important part of the Goodwill culture that is evident in every interaction with the public. Assistant Store Manager Julian Rance shares how a small gesture of showing gratitude made a big impact on a very special customer and his family.

Mr. Bob was one of the regular shoppers at our Cornelius store.  He was an elderly man who always enjoyed giving management a hard time about our pricing of medical supplies such as wheelchairs and walkers.  He would never disclose any of his own health issues with us, but we could clearly observe him slowing down.

He would often request a manager to visit him on the sales floor to discuss his concerns, but would still remember to thank us for our efforts to help people in his situation receive lower prices on medical supplies (even though he argued we could go even lower).  Mr. Bob enjoyed his interactions with us and openly considered us his family.

In December as I was making my 30-mile commute to work, it dawned on me that Mr. Bob had not visited the store for a few weeks. Upon my arrival, I decided that I would look him up in our store database and contact him later that day. Good fortune would have it that I would not need to make the call. Within 20 minutes of being at work, Mr. Bob called the store to speak with me!

He inquired about our jewelry jars, which he absolutely loved, and also shared that his battle with cancer was nearing its end. He was in hospice care. He told me he planned to come see his “family” when he got better. I knew what this meant.

For hours I pondered how to share our appreciation for Mr. Bob with him, but I knew time was limited.  Then, a few hours later, Mr. Bob’s son entered the store to look for the jewelry jar that Mr. Bob had inquired about earlier. I immediately knew who he was because he looked like an identical version of Mr. Bob, only 30 years younger. In speaking with his son, I learned that Mr. Bob was too sick to leave his house. At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do.

We could not bring Mr. Bob to Goodwill, but we could bring Goodwill to Mr. Bob. The following day, I brought my personal camera to work and recorded videos of the staff sharing their appreciation for Mr. Bob and his antics. I then made a DVD for him and contacted Mr. Bob’s family to see when it would be best to drop it off. I was determined to share the DVD with Mr. Bob before he drew his final breath.

That Friday, on my day off, I drove from my home in Matthews to Mr. Bob’s home in Davidson. I was greeted by his immediate family and they welcomed me into their home where I found Mr. Bob resting on a bed in front of his television.

As soon as he saw me, he reached for my hand and told me how much he missed his Goodwill family. I showed the DVD to him and he began giving instructions on how to turn on his DVD player. After watching the video, everyone in the room was visibly moved and began sharing stories about Mr. Bob. I learned how the staff from the Cornelius Taco Bell had already come by to deliver a “Mr. Bob Special” – a special food order made with ingredients that he could easily chew, which received the name because it was all he would order. I also learned about his childhood and his early days as a new father.

I spent an hour with Mr. Bob and his family that day. As I was leaving, his daughter hugged me several times and told me he was now satisfied because he had his whole family with him.

Mr. Bob passed away a few days before Christmas. I was alerted to his death by a personal phone call from his son. Although he was distraught, he jokingly told me he had a ton of stuff to return to Goodwill that his father had accumulated over the years. I told him we would take exceptional care of Mr. Bob’s belongings when they came back to us.

In late January, I entered the building on a closing shift and found one of our Donations Processors waiting for me. He immediately told me that Mr. Bob’s family had dropped off his belongings. Before I could get the question out he said, “We all took good care of his donations and his family thanked us the entire time.”

We can never lose sight of the fact that without our customers, we have no business. Thanking them or appreciating them should be the largest part of what we do, outside of providing excellent retail experiences.


Julian and Mr. Bob, a longtime Goodwill supporter



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