This is one post that is not going to sneak up on you. As a matter of fact, I am going to be as blunt as possible as quickly as possible. Is this you?
I took these photos on a recent shopping trip. Being the Christmas season, I was in these same stores exactly one year ago. While my family has been moving around the past decade, I have become increasingly aware of this one piece of evidence that “Basic Decency” is leaving our society. In fact, in April of last year I wrote a post by that name to address some related evidence. I say evidence but it might be more accurately stated as symptoms of a disease. After returning from shopping and deciding to write this post, I sat down to study the Manual for specific references for the issue. I discovered what I already knew. The list of Scriptures that didn’t apply would be shorter! Shorter because this is a character issue and the entire Manual is an aide to the Pursuit of that Character.
Back to shopping. As I said, only a year ago I was in these same stores and, except for the aberrant article, the shelves were neat and organized. Everything was folded. Everything was neatly stacked. Everything was piled according to size. Everything was organized by specific identifying information. This year…everything was none of that. Not only were there items from the wrong pile, the wrong shelf and the wrong rack, but items from an entirely different section of the store. In case you’re wondering, this was not unique to this area; the entire store was in this condition. And every section of every store I shopped had the same symptoms. This fact is clearly demonstrated in the photos shown, which were taken across the stores I shopped.
What the photos show is that the disease is present in the average shopper, the general employee and infecting management as well. Upon leaving a store I saw this and found it appropriate…
What does the sign say? Let’s zoom in…
No, this is not to single out and disparage the department store employee. That sign could just as easily say “Reserved For Great Managers” or “Reserved For Great Corporate Heads” or even “Reserved For Great Customers.” Just as appropriately, in any case, these parking spots would be empty. These shelves show the infection has touched everyone who touches them. Let’s take them one at a time.
Shelves don’t get like that across the store and across town from one or even a couple of customers. Shelves get like that by a society of customers who don’t care. I speak to you first. You walk into a store and act as if you are the queen or king. You grab and toss products you do not own with the mentality that, “it’s someone’s job to fix my mess.” It never even crosses your mind how difficult you have made it for the next customer; if it has, you don’t seem to care. You show no respect for the investment someone else has made so that you can have the opportunity to inspect and, in most cases, try something out before you put your money into it. You show contempt for the employee who is working against the odds to get ahead in this diseased world and who is fighting this battle at the low end of the pay scale. As you are not the only king or queen in the room, the swath of destruction you and the other arrogant royalty leave in your wake is an impossible feat to keep up with. Your disrespectful behavior looks down on all of your fellow man.
Next, I work from the top down: the corporate decision makers. When I was in these stores a year ago, the neatest, most well kept was in a particular chain. Everywhere I looked were employees (associates) refolding and re-stacking. While busily keeping the store in order they seldom failed to ask if they could be of assistance. This experience made this chain my preferred shopping destination. This year, my shopping trip took me to four stores in that chain. Across the four stores I saw only one, improperly trained employee trying hard to force just one more item on an already overstocked peg. No one was folding, no one was picking up. This reveals an obvious truth: You decided to care a little less about the care of your stores. You decided to have a little less respect for your customers. You decided to have a little contempt for all your customers because of the increasing number of kings and queens shopping your stores. You decided to cut store staffing. You lowered your standards. You caught and spread the disease.
Like the need to refer to employees as associates, it seems every store has sixteen “managers.” This lack of true responsibility and accountability has helped create an environment for this disease to thrive. While you too might have been poorly trained as a manager and, as indicated, you may be short staffed, you too show symptoms. I spent several decades in retail as an employee (not an associate), which I was proud to be, and as management. I also owned a couple of retail businesses. I point this out to get rid of the argument, “you just don’t know.” Anyone, from customer to corporate head, who has tried to remove a single item from an overstocked peg and had three more items drop at their feet knows that there is a “right” amount to stock. It doesn’t take extra training to know that. And short staffed does not excuse it. Unlike cleanup, which takes extra time, stocking is being done, just done wrong. You, as management, have cared a little less about the caliber of employee you create. You don’t take responsibility for teaching them to care about your customers, your other employees or the company’s image. You accept the frustration improper store care causes your customers. You disrespect the company who has invested in stocking those shelves so that you can have a paycheck. Whether by neglect or intent, you are okay with watching distressed and overwhelmed customers leave empty handed as I did this year.
To the employee: You disrespect yourself. Yes, you disrespect the customer whose purchases keep your employer in business and you employed. Yes, you disrespect your manager who is responsible for keeping customers happy and making purchases, and, like the others, you disrespect the company who has invested in the possibility of a sale and entrusted you to help make that happen. But, ultimately, you disrespect yourself. You are the contact person for the company. You represent a standard to the customer, not just for the store but for yourself. When I go to a shelf and find it stocked with items that belong somewhere else, that’s a choice you made. You chose to be less. You chose to tell me and everyone else quality doesn’t matter, your standards are low. You tell me that I, your manager and the company that employs you are not worth your best, that we are not worth your respect. By not showing others respect you disrespect yourself. As I said to the managers, you don’t need to be trained to pay attention, to put things where they belong and to not overstock just so you won’t have to carry the extra back to the stockroom or so you won’t have to restock sooner.
Lastly, to the Christian in all categories: The people “of the world” could and should show respect for themselves and each other, and, because they don’t, the world they are a part of is spreading a disease that makes living in it less pleasant. A disease that will eventually kill it. But, you claim the cure! How dare you go into your job and not fight every moment to be the best representation of God you can be. Instructed to do everything, including stocking shelves, “to Glorify God,” what disrespect do you show Him when you don’t? As a shopper, you are not king or queen, you are “servant.” Even more, you are created and called to be the “image” of God.
What… too harsh?
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. Do not become a stumbling block…” 1 Corinthians 10:31,32
“…whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17
“If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever.” 1 Peter 4:11
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!” Romans 11:36
“I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you.” Romans 12:3
“…we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, not in order to please men but God, who examines our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4
“Speak these things as you encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” Titus 2:15
No, I think I’m good.
As I walked from shelf to shelf, store to store, I found myself so ashamed that I started refolding and re-stacking jeans. Over the line? I realized as the day progressed and the symptoms of the disease continued, that these shelves could not get this way without the participation of those who call themselves “God’s people”… and I was ashamed. I was disappointed in my fellow man, but I was ashamed at the image my fellow Christian was representing to them. “Conduct yourselves with such honor among the Gentiles that, though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” (1 Peter 2:12) I often find myself fixing a stocking issue as I shop, but this was different. My heart sank as I saw that the disease had reached stage four and metastasized destroying the Character of individual Christians everywhere.
In this season where the world shows its greed and contempt and Christians show a half-hearted tip of the hat to Christ’s birth we ought to be thinking about His return. If, at a time when reminders of Him are everywhere, the store shelves and the world around us can look like this, when are we? Yes…when? The disease is no longer just showing itself in wars, communism, world hunger and other large-scale symptoms, it has manifested itself at a local, personal level. When that happens, when mankind no longer just breaks the Big Ten but takes the violation in stride, When Are We? The Manual tells us what the world will look like “when…” and frankly, it’s hard to find differences these days. And, while I look forward to the day Christ sets it all right, I for one will take my antibiotics (read the Manual), seek the advice of my Doctor (pray) and work to show the world and my fellow Christians that infection is a choice. A choice you are responsible for.
While I might get strange looks for re-stacking shelves in a store I am not employed at. While I might make people wonder when I pick up an item from the refrigerated section that was discarded by The Queen in the chip isle and return it to where it belongs. While I might be the only one left walking my cart to the cart rack. I will respect my fellow man, show love for my neighbor, respect myself and I Will Not Be Ashamed! I am the adopted Child of God and I will make my Father proud!
© Scott A Caughel 11/5/2019