Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: A Little Old-Fashioned Honesty



I believe fundamental honesty is the keystone of business.  - Harvey S. Firestone
I received a curious voice mail the other day.

Hi, Mr. Farnsworth. My name is Cheryl and I'm calling regarding a card that you left at St. Cloud Lodge Hall in downtown St. Cloud and there was $10 with it. I'm just calling to find out what this is about. Please call me back. I still have the $10 and your card.

Not knowing who Cheryl was and not being familiar with St. Cloud Lodge Hall, I returned the call. Cheryl said she had found an envelope in their mail slot a few months ago. Still puzzled, I asked her for the address. She told me the street number on New York Avenue, and said it was upstairs above New York Artist Shop, a small framing and art supply store.

A-ha! Now it all made sense. I then told Cheryl the rest of the story about the envelope and the $10.

Back in December I went to New York Artist Shop to get a picture frame repaired. The congenial shopkeeper fixed it on the spot for $5. She didn't want to take a credit card for such a small amount, so I offered to pay with a $20 bill, the only cash in my wallet. She didn't have change and all the shops around us were already closed for the day.

She suggested that I could come back when I had change; she would trust me to do that. I agreed.

The next day I returned to settle up. I had decided that since she had trusted me so much and had charged me so little, I would add a $5 tip to the original bill of $5. The shop was closed for lunch but I had an envelope with me. I put my card and a $10 bill in the envelope and put it through a mail slot in what I assumed was the front of her store.

It turns out the mail slot belongs to the office upstairs, St. Cloud Lodge Hall.

"The $10 belongs to your downstairs neighbor, New York Artist Shop," I told Cheryl. "Please drop it off to her with my apology. I thought the mail slot was hers."

Cheryl promised she would.

* * * * *

You may be thinking that ten dollars is no big deal. Monetarily you are probably right. But to me there is more at stake here than a ten-dollar bill. I'd like to think that if the amount were a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars, the narrative would have been the same:

The friendly shopkeeper would have told me to come back and settle up when I could.

I would have returned as promised to pay my bill.

Cheryl would not have slipped the misplaced cash into her purse - which she very easily could have done - but instead would have gone to the trouble of finding the rightful owner, completing the circle of integrity.

It's reassuring to know there are still good people in this world like these two trusting and trustworthy women. And I like to think there are many more. People with integrity in matters large and small. People who can be counted on to keep their word. People who still believe in a little old-fashioned honesty.

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