independent

Wednesday 22 October 2014

How a bad event can turn positive

Published 15/10/2013 | 05:38

VACUUM cleaning my living room last Sunday week I got an awful fright. Suddenly flames started coming out of the back of the vacuum cleaner. No, not sparks or a smell of burning but raw flames.

Quick off the mark, I immediately turned off the power and all calmed down. I can tell you it was scary. I bought the vacuum cleaner I think within the last year and don't use it very often.

It was cheap cheap and bought in Lidl. I had not kept the receipt so I really did not know what to do. One thing was sure I was not going to leave the machine in the house. A good ten minutes after the flames it was still almost too hot to touch.

Later that day I called in to a Lidl store and told them my story. The assistant was very helpful and gave me a customer care card with a 1800 number printed large on it. Early on the Monday, I called the 1800 number and after a short time was talking to a friendly Finnish woman in Germany.

I explained my story in a polite and reasonable fashion. The lady asked me for the model and serial numbers of the machine, which I read out to her. Within less than 30 seconds she was back to me to tell me Lidl would post me out a new unit within ten days.

I was flabbergasted. No receipt, no examination of the machine. I could have filled it with ball bearings for all this kind Finnish lady knew. No questions asked. A new machine on demand. I could not believe my good fortune.

But then some minutes after I had finished the call the cynic in me began to ask a few questions. Maybe Lidl knew this machine was dodgy and was staying quiet about it and simply replacing it with an improved version. But I doubt that. If the machine were faulty they would be obliged to recall the series.

The upshot of the whole experience is that I am greatly impressed with Lidl and might even go as far as saying that I admire them and want to say a big thank you to them. I got this rare feeling that they are on my side. Yes, Lidl have won me over. And all done as a result of a mix of a bad event and good news.

It set me thinking about my own life in priesthood and the various jobs in teaching and journalism I have done over the years.

If someone were to ask me what jobs I liked best and why, I have no doubt my reply would be greatly influenced by how I felt treated or regarded by my superior in the context of the Dominican Order or the school principal in the context of teaching and the editor when it came to working on a newspaper.

Of course I can only talk for myself but when people feel respected and valued by their boss it is as sure as day follows night that the person will make it her or his business to live up to that expectation. When someone is told that they do a good job, most likely the job will be done even better the next day.

If someone is told they are useless, it will be almost impossible for them to produce a result the next day. Yes, there are those who will fight and win but they are the exception. Most of us like to be told we are great.

Surely a church that proclaims to preach the Good News of the Gospel should always and ever concentrate on the strengths of its people and inspire them to reach to new heights.

Amazing how flames from a vacuum cleaner can turn out to be something so positive. But it was the way the issue was handled by Lidl. If you want a good laugh listen to journalist Mick McConnell's 'The Ballad of Lidl and Aldi'. It's on YouTube. His wife sends him out to buy sausages and he comes back with a wet suit made in Japan.

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