Editor's note: A version of this column was published on FoxNews.com.
For Christmas, my boys asked for and received matching mini flashlights from their grandmother. They want to be prepared for things like camping, power outages and late-night ninja attacks.
I told them they could count on me for the first two, but they’re on their own if ninjas strike.
Koleson, my youngest, recently discovered that his flashlight was broken. I congratulated him, because to my knowledge, it’s the first time in world history a Christmas gift that takes batteries has lasted until February.
As usual, I think I’m funny and my kids just think I’m funny looking. Instead of doubling over in laughter, he made a compelling case that he knew the gift had come from Lowe’s and that we needed to search for another.
We devised a plan, and a couple of days later, I came home early and he met me in the driveway ready to roll. My wife said he’d been regularly checking on my ETA since before lunch.
We made the short drive to our local Lowe’s in Woodstock, Virginia, and began checking the obvious places. It took just a minute or two for an employee to ask if he could help, and my small shopper suddenly realized he’d forgotten to bring the broken flashlight. He had wanted to ensure we were replacing it with an identical twin.
So it began. We walked in looking for a flashlight and we walked out knowing that Lowe’s doesn’t give a hoot how old you are.
Soon, a young woman at customer service was also on the prowl for the exact match. While she searched in a display at the front of the store, the first employee we’d met was flagging down manager Aaron Roberts.
After hearing the description and backstory, Roberts was certain he’d seen the model of flashlight as recently as that day, but was equally convinced they’d just been moved. “I know they’re here somewhere. Let’s see what we can find.”
At this point, three employees were hunting for a flashlight that probably costs three bucks. Eventually, the other two were understandably pulled into other responsibilities, and I expected the same to happen with Roberts. Perhaps if we’d been shopping for a snowblower, chainsaw or some other expensive widget, it might have made sense to invest such time.
But is it worth it for a tiny flashlight for a tiny customer?
Roberts led us from one corner of the supersize store to the other and back again. We soon split up, and as Koleson and I went to grab something else we needed, Roberts tried to remember all the aisles he’d passed through that afternoon. When we saw him rounding a corner five minutes later, he held up his index finger and said, “I haven’t given up yet. I’m still looking!”
Roberts made another pass scanning end caps and displays, and I began artfully describing to Koleson the fantastic benefits of other similar flashlights in the same price range. He was a good sport and chose another without a whiff of complaint.
While we stood at the customer service counter thanking the young woman who’d helped us earlier, Roberts appeared yet again. He’d struck out, he admitted, and the flashlights were gone. But he wasn’t empty-handed. After apologizing for not finding what we’d come for, Roberts handed Koleson a promotional hat he’d retrieved from behind some magical wall.
The boy was thrilled. And when we finally walked out the automatic glass doors, he whispered, “That guy is nice.”
Koleson chatted and buzzed most of the ride home about the man who would not give up. “Just for a little flashlight!”
When he paused to take a breath, I explained what I hoped he would remember about the experience years from now when he’s the guy with the name tag, uniform and management responsibilities. “Bud, it wasn’t about the flashlight. It was about you.”
In a highly competitive retail world where money and margins rule the day, where stocks rise and fall based on billions, not a single flashlight, Roberts and his team unwittingly painted a pleasant memory for a boy and his dad.
My son might not remember Aaron Roberts' name when he’s grown and wearing a name tag of his own. But he’ll always remember learning firsthand that every shopper matters, every item is worth finding and, whether it’s Lowe’s or Lenscrafters, Little Caesars or Lenny’s Subs, the customer always comes first.
Because it’s not just a good way to run a company; it’s a good way to run your life.
Jason Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars" and "The Wednesday Letters." Learn more at jasonfwright.com, or connect on Facebook at facebook.com/jfwbooks or by email at email@example.com.