When I first heard the story I thought, “Is this the choice I would have made?”
I invite you to consider the same as you read on…
Linda and the Missing Margarita Bottle
My sister-in-law, Linda, returned from the liquor store and glanced at the receipt. She realized something didn’t add up. She thought, “Hmm…I have five bottles in the bag and they’ve only charged me for four.” One bottle of pre-mixed margaritas had been left off the receipt.
It didn’t take Linda a second to decide that she needed to return to the store to right the wrong. She received five bottles and was determined to pay for five bottles. To her way of thinking, doling out an additional $21.00 for the missing margarita bottle was the right thing to do. She didn’t even consider another option. Her husband, Brent, was heading out so he grabbed the receipt and said he’d settle the matter.
After explaining the situation to the cashier, Brent was met with a quizzical look. Not quite sure how to respond to the unusual situation of a customer wanting to pay more money, the cashier was speechless and could barely utter, “Hold on while I get the manager.”
Having been briefed by the cashier, the manager approached Brent with his arm extended, handshake at the ready, saying, “You are amazing.” Smiling wryly and shaking his head from side to side, Brent replied, “No, I’m not. I just want to pay you the $21.00 that I owe.” The manager continued, “Yes, you are incredible—so there’s no need to pay me—have a nice day and enjoy the margarita!”
So, as instructed, Brent headed home, enjoyed a margarita with Linda, and had a nice day—and a good story to share—with a lesson for any of us willing to dig deep and see what we’re made of.
So, what is integrity?
Integrity is a core competence of emotional intelligence. As leaders and human beings we build trust by being honest—especially when it is a hard thing to do. Paying money when we’ve “gotten away with” not paying surely qualifies for being “a hard thing to do.”
I’ve heard it said that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. No one was watching Linda as she looked over that receipt. She could have easily tossed it in the trash and gone on with her life. But, what would that have said about her? How would she have felt? In talking this through with Linda I learned she couldn’t even consider another alternative. She knows her values and upholds them no matter what. That is integrity in action. How many of us can say the same?
It also shows how rare it is for integrity to make an appearance in a business environment. It’s a sad reflection of our society that the manager was shocked that a customer would return to pay for what was purchased. His over-the-top reaction had Brent half expecting a Nobel Peace Prize!
Would we do the “hard thing?”
General Norman Schwarzkopf is known for having defined integrity this way:
“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.”
How many of us share Linda and Brent’s belief that the right thing to do is to pay for our purchase? Would we have returned to the liquor store to pony up another $21.00? Would we have been more likely to do so if we noticed the omission while still at the store? Would it have mattered if it was a small, independent store or a big chain?
Their story had a significant impact on me since I’m ashamed to admit that returning to the store might have been more than I was willing to do—even though I believe it’s the right thing to do. Linda and Brent’s actions have reminded me that integrity is one of my highest values and one that I want to live by even when it’s hard—especially when it’s hard.
So, I’d say that when we demonstrate integrity by doing what is hard we reflect the best of ourselves to the world and more importantly to ourselves. What would you say?
Top photo taken in Philadelphia, of Tinicum Marsh at sunset, by my incredibly talented brother-in-law Larry Broido (this link will take you to many more magnificent images from Larry)