More of Lesson 55: Just a simple smile

Belinda Wilcox Ouellette, Special to The County
12 years ago

Much to my dismay, I found myself in the midst of a verbal confrontation with a sales clerk in a small shop. I had purchased a lamp and discovered a broken piece that could not be mended. This was the last lamp of that particular style and there were no plans to order more. Armed with my sales slip, I requested a refund. The store employee informed me, very politely, that the store policy did not allow cash refunds. I would have to accept a store credit. I looked around the store and though the merchandise was of high quality and design, I could not find an item I wanted. I asked if the “no refund policy” was posted anywhere in the store and the prompt response was no, it was not posted, but it was a well known store practice and everyone complied.

We stood there at the counter, our eyes locked. It was quite apparent to me that she was not going to back down and I was in over my head. I asked to see the manager. She informed me that she was the manager. I asked to see the owner. She informed me, with some obvious delight, that she was also the owner. Then, she did the absolute unthinkable: she crossed her arms.

Oh, dear! I pulled my eyes away from hers and told her that I thought the store policy as well as the customer service was poor at best and that I would be sure to let everyone know of my experience. I picked up the wounded lamp, turned around and marched out to my car.

I sat behind the wheel fuming. I prided myself in always thinking carefully before I spoke words I would regret but for some reason, I had tossed caution to the wind and broken my own rule. (Life Lesson Number 11.) She had been steadfast in her policy and I had been rude. What in the world was I going to do with a broken lamp? And more importantly, I needed to apologize for my behavior.

I went back into the store, holding the lamp before me like a peace offering. She crossed her arms once again, her eyebrows raised in anticipation. I placed the lamp on the counter, took a deep breath and smiled. Her arms uncrossed. She stepped closer to the counter, removed the lamp from the box and once again inspected the broken area. Her shoulders relaxed. Her voice softened. She said she was quite sure she could send the lamp back to the manufacturer and if I didn’t mind waiting, she would order a perfect replacement for me. No charge.

I told her I thought that was a splendid idea. I left her my name, address, phone number and a sincere apology. She assured me she completely understood my reaction. After all, most people expected a full refund. And then, she smiled! A brilliant, dazzling smile that more than sealed the deal.

There is infinite power in a smile. Doors open. Conversations begin. A shattered heart heals. A smile can launch love and revive friendship. There is such magic in a smile! A smile can change lives, cast light on darkness and saturate tension with respect and understanding.

Editor’s Note: Belinda Wilcox Ouellette has lived in the Caribou area for all of her 56 years. She presently lives in Connor TWP. with her husband Dale and their Goldendoodle Barney. They are currently working on building a home in Caribou. You may contact Belinda online at: