It’s been quite a week. Last Saturday I talked to a lady who told me that the highlight of her month has been a thank-you card she got from the employees at Ames. It seems she filled out a store comment card saying that she thinks Ames employees are top-notch, that they outshine Walmart workers by a long shot. Well, apparently this comment card went to corporate headquarters in Connecticut -- where Ames head honchos took note of the staff's superior service -- and then all the way back to Anytown’s store. The employees were moved by the lady's comments and wanted to thank her for taking the time to say a few kind words about them. So, they picked out a card, they all signed it, and they sent it to her.
Hard to tell who feels better here -- the employees or the lady who complimented them. These random acts of kindness have a way of feeding on themselves and becoming self-perpetuating. I'm guessing that the store manager will see an increase in productivity and a jump in sales this quarter as a result of the lady's card. Cashiers will be a little friendlier, the shelves will be a little neater, and the guy who works in Electronics will check on the sale price of miniblinds over in Domestics without even a trace of irritation. That's not because employees are bucking for more flattering comment cards; it's because they believe their work is valuable and appreciated by their customers,and by extension, that they, too, are valued and appreciated.
"Well," I said to this lady, "Maybe you should start the Compliment Clubs of America and recruit people to look for opportunities to give genuine compliments to people who do good work to make this a better world."
The lady smiled and said that Compliment Clubs could go international, with chapters all over the world -- from Albania to Zimbabwe.
"Wow!" I said. "Exactly!"
Seems to me that the Palestinians and Israelis might get along better if they complimented each other once in a while. Same is true of the Bosnians and the Serbs, the Catholics and the Protestants in Ireland, the Americans and the Iraqis, even the Crips and Bloods in South Central L.A.
We have Amnesty International to identify and complain about human rights violations and atrocities around the world -- a worthy endeavor if ever there was one -- so why not have an international organization dedicated to recognizing the good things people do that build up humanity and facilitate our development into a better world?
I thought I'd ask around and find out how the idea would play with the good citizens of Anytown, USA.
"It sounds like a lot of liberal, feel-good hooey to me," said Elmer Sandbagger. "People should do good things because they're supposed to, not because somebody's gonna compliment them. Keep your compliments to yourself -- that's what I say. Start passing out compliments and before you know it, people ain't gonna want to do anything unless they get a compliment in return. That's what's wrong with this country! Entitlements, I tell you! Everyone feels entitled and no one wants to work!”
"Will there be a cash prize that goes along with the compliment?" asked Jennifer Goldigger. "Talk is cheap. I say, put your money where your mouth is. Save your applause, honey. Just slip me some century notes."
"Why, I think this is a wonderful idea!" said Roy Christian. "It's a ministry befitting a Christian. We can share our agape with each other and bask in the rosy glow of love and mutual admiration. Jesus would definitely give the Compliment Clubs a thumbs up. And by the way, that's a sharp tie you're wearing."
"I don't know," said Ted Marketer, who was on his way to A Very Important Meeting. "Good concept, but it's a tough sell. The public is concerned mainly with self-gratification -- making themselves feel better, not other people. However, if we could position the Compliment Clubs as making the target audience thinner, more popular, more successful at work and play, it could work. And if we could get a celebrity spokesperson, say Charlie Sheen -- Oops! That's my beeper! Gotta run!"
"A compliment club -- that's a good idea," said Emma Martin, who was walking home from school. "Today at recess Richard Davis called my friend Anita a cow, and I said, 'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it' -- that's what my Mom always tells me when I pick on my brother Zack. So I guess the opposite is true, too. Like, if you have something nice to say, do say it."
Personally, I think the Compliment Clubs of America – or International -- is a wonderful idea, and I told the lady so. "And just think," I said, "when you're rich and famous from having founded Compliment Clubs International, you'll put Anytown on the map, because the entire, groundbreaking movement will have started right here in little ol' Anytown, USA. Whoever said that nothing good can come out of Anytown?”
The lady said she would think about starting up Compliment Clubs International, but what with her fall canning and the church rummage sale coming up, she didn't think she'd have much time to devote to it.
"It's too late," I said. "You've already started it by filling out the comment card at Ames. The question is, do you want to keep it going?"
She said she'd think about it.
Mr. Newton, the high school physics teacher, tells me that an object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest stays at rest. I thinks that's good news and bad news for Compliment Clubs International. On the one hand, we've got an awful lot of inertia to overcome to get the ball rolling, but once in motion, kindness runs on its own energy and gathers its own momentum.
Well, that's how it's been this week in Anytown, where Elmer wants people to keep compliments to themselves, Jennifer is interested only in the money, and the compliment lady just might recruit other complimenters and put Anytown on the map.