Concierge Service at Big Lots!

Our New Conference Room. April, 2011.

It Felt Like Nordstrom

I found myself at Big Lots! last week, purchasing a serving cart for the conference room in our newly-remodeled office. My boss had spotted the cart and sent me a photo of it from her iPhone; I drove over in my pickup truck to buy it and haul it back to our offices.

We were busy preparing for important meetings in our offices. I dreaded my trip to the discount store, expecting to hunt down an employee to bring the cart, in its box, from the warehouse for me. I regretted that I hadn’t begun the search for a cart sooner, when we had time to order one online for delivery to our offices.

I had more important things to do than to chase down a clerk at a discount store, then linger as the clerk retrieved a cart from the warehouse.

John dissolved my dread.

In the furniture department, I spotted the serving carts and pulled out my cell phone to review the photo my boss had sent. Once I’d identified my target, I scanned the aisles for a clerk to fetch one for me from the warehouse.

Just fifteen feet or so away, a man stood holding two six-foot sheets of particle board on end as he assembled a bunk bed. “Excuse me,” I said. “I’d like to buy a serving cart. Where may I find someone to help me?”

“I will help you,” he smiled.

“Oh!” I said. “I can see you’re in the middle of a project. I was only hoping you could point me toward someone…” my words trailed off, as he had already laid down the particle board and was walking beside me to the cart display.

“Which one?” he asked.

I pointed. “I’m wondering,” I said. “We’ll be using this in our office, not in a home. It looks like the towel rack on the end bolts on. Maybe we could leave it off?” My boss and I had worried together whether the towel rack made the cart look too “homey” for our conference room’s cream-leather-and-aluminum-chairs and glowing espresso table.

He studied the cart, opening a cabinet door to examine the construction. “It bolts on,” he reported. “You could leave it off and fill the holes with wood plugs. Shall I bring one out for you?”

 I nodded.

“I’ll be right back,” he said.

My eyes wandered to the nearby garden department. I mentally calculated my line of sight from the pots and trowels back to the clerk’s expected point of reemergence, planning to browse while I waited. I’d worked at a home-improvement store as a teen and expected a wait as he searched for the cart.

I’d taken two steps when I heard the faint rumble of wheels on linoleum. I turned around. The clerk was approaching with my ready-to-assemble cart loaded into a shopping cart. I reached for the shopping cart, preparing to push it to the checkstands near the door.

“I can ring you up right here,” he smiled, as he called a cash register to life at a counter near the warehouse doors. “Is there anything else you need today?”
“That’s all for today,” I told him.

“Now pull your car up to the front of the store and I’ll meet you so I can load this up for you.”

“Thank you,” I said. “You’ve been so helpful!”

“My name is John,” he told me. “Any time you’re shopping here, I’ll be happy to help you.”

I practically skipped to my truck, relieved to have completed my mission so quickly. John pushed my cart through the store’s front door just as I pulled up to the curb. I watched in my rear-view mirror as he lowered the tailgate, slid the box into the bed of my truck, then latched the tailgate, giving it a tug to make sure it was secure.

Then he approached the driver’s side window. I rolled it down. “Thanks again for shopping with us,” he said. “Have a wonderful day.”

John’s professionalism and courtesy surprised me, as if I’d been greeted by a maître d’hôtel at McDonald’s.

Kindness Came with the Cart.

I mused as I drove back to the office. Was John an underemployed victim of economic brutality working at Big Lots! as a last resort? Was he bucking for manager? Was he the manager?

Or was John simply a man who strived to do his best?

7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
Ephesians 6:7-8 (NASB)

On In Around button

I’m linking up today with L.L. Barkat. This Monday I remain in a place of delight.


  1. John sounds like an angel. Are you sure he wasn’t? Stranger things have happened…

  2. He may be, Laura! With the challenges that week brought me, I would not be surprised to learn that an angel had been placed in my path.

  3. At a High Calling team retreat last fall, we went on a scavenger hunt looking for people doing their job effectively. When we found someone who fit the parameters of the hunt, we would tweet them with this hashtag: #goodwork

    And this — *this* — is the perfect example of #goodwork. How good of you to point it out. So encouraging.

    #goodwork, Sheila!

  4. Thank you, Jennifer!

  5. Okay… GREAT post.

    But… now I’m going to Big Lots. That cart looks JUST like something I need. 🙂


  6. Thanks, Duane!

    Duane, be forewarned: It came in 6,244 pieces. My husband and I were here until 10 pm while he spent FIVE HOURS assembling it.

    And don’t forget their exclamation point…It’s “Big Lots!”

  7. A small correction: While we were at Sheila’s office for five hours, only four of those were spent assembling the cart. There was another table to assemble, a short dinner break and a coat hook to install as well.

    6,244 pieces (a small exaggeration) and less than clear instructions resulted in a couple of minor disassembly/reassembly steps.

  8. And there you have firsthand testimony from the expert. Thanks, Rich! xoxo

  9. I love it when somebody at least pretends to love their work. It makes the whole world a brighter place.

    And is that the towel rack I see?

  10. Ann, I promise, if he was pretending then he belongs on Broadway. 🙂

    Yes. It’s the towel rack. It’s also the handle one pushes it by. Did I mention it has locking casters? How did we ever manage without locking casters?

  11. Superb blog post, I have book marked this internet site so ideally I’ll see much more on this subject in the foreseeable future!

  12. Thank you, Anon. May I call you Anon.?

  13. Thank you for recognizing this person for doing their job well. Who knows about John’s faith, but he honors God by his attitude and by doing his work well. Thanks for sharing!!

  14. Yes, he does. Thanks for stopping by, Johny.