Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Never Underestimate Your Ability to Make Someone's Day

Never underestimate your ability to make someone's day, even a complete stranger. 

Case in point: I was recently chosen by the U.S. Census Bureau for a Consumer Expenditure Survey, which is how they obtain data to update the Consumer Price Index (yeah, sounds like fun, don't it?). A field representative came to my house to conduct the hour-long survey. She will come back once each quarter for the next five quarters to conduct more surveys to document my spending.

The field rep was a woman (I'm keeping this anonymous out of respect for her privacy) I would estimate to be in her mid to late 60s and she clearly had some health issues because she used a cane and seemed to have limited mobility in general. She was very friendly and as a self-described "people person," it was clear she really enjoyed her work. She has been working for the bureau for several years and I found her to be quite interesting because she was so gregarious, but at the same time maintained the professionalism of the bureaucrat. 

We completed the survey, made an appointment for the next one, and she went on her way. Today, I get a handwritten card (yes, you heard me, I said hand-freakin'-written) in the mail with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census seal on it. She wrote:

"Dear Trinity,
      I want to thank you for participating in the CPI survey. Your information is a valuable contribution to statistics.
     You made my day.
     Wish you well and see you in May.
Respectfully, (signature)" 

Maybe it's policy to send handwritten cards to thank participants in order to ensure their cooperation in the future. After all, a lot of people would find this to be an inconvenience, or might even be freaked out by having a government employee come to their home to ask them questions about how they've spent their money over the course of a particular period. 

But I don't think she's directed by the agency to tell someone they "made her day." Did I really do something special? Was it because I understood what a lousy job that might be at times and I let her know that I was happy to participate. Was is because I was hospitable and offered her a glass of water when she arrived? Or does she write that on everyone's card to build a rapport to help ensure that they won't feel quite so inconvenienced next time?

Did I really make her day? I can tell you one thing, with this card she made mine.