Not My Responsibility!


Every so often, I like to spend an hour or so at my local Barnes and Nobles orBorders bookstore. I can be seen enjoying a mocha or caramel Frappacino while typing away at my laptop.

As I come inside one fine afternoon, I see some papers flying around on the sidewalk just in front of the bookstore. I look to the right and there’s a trash can overflowing with trash. A bit of wind is blowing the trash off of the top and onto the sidewalk. Two other customers on their way inside notice the trash and are not all that thrilled with trash blowing around them while they enter the store.

I head inside and find the Information Desk to let someone know. There are three staff there at this time. I mention the problem and the first response comes from one of the guys: “It’s not our problem. The complex handles it.”

A few seconds later, one of the other staff says: “No way our problem!”

I look at both of them to see if they are kidding me.

They aren’t.

Yes, I understand “THE COMPLEX” is responsible for taking care of the trash just outside of the bookstore. I get that. But when two staff tell me (both fairly assertively) that it’s NOT their problem that trash is blowing around right at the entrance to their establishment, they are essentially telling me that it’s not their problem if customers are presented with an immediately negative experience just as they enter the bookstore.

If you’re thinking that this incident wouldn’t even have made it into Customer Service 101, you’re right. This is just simple common sense.

People have two choices in this town: Barnes and Nobles and Borders. They are very similar bookstores, with slightly different “rewards” programs and different brands of coffee in their cafes. With all things pretty equal, some people just may not like to have trash flying around on their way into a store.

To be completely fair, one of the staff did also say: “I guess I could go out there and pick up the trash.” So, let me go and check. Hmm. The trash can is still overflowing.

Okay, here’s the bottom line on this: If this was a store with the owner on the premises, and I had made it known to the owner that trash was flying around the entrance to his store, he very well might be upset that “THE COMPLEX” wasn’t doing their job, but he also would’ve said to me: “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll take care of it.” And he most likely would’ve taken care of it in five minutes or less.

The difference? One response displays a missing “care factor” and the other response includes caring what people are experiencing, REGARDLESS OF WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY IT IS.

What IS the responsibility of everyone working in a business is HOW the business is perceived and doing whatever can be done to improve the experience of every prospect and customer. When that level of care is present throughout a business, all kinds of good things happen.

About Stan Dubin

2 Responses to “Not My Responsibility!”

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  1. This is fine as far as it goes; and it’s a sign of the times that it even needs to be said.

    Taking a little further, you and two others, felt ok walking past the trash without picking it up yourselves. Sure, it’s not your responsibility, but…

    (I know there are many factors that could impact a decision to stop and pick it up yourself, but you didn’t even mention the option.)

    Your point is well taken but expand the thinking to the local community and to the not-so-local community. What’s the message? “This is the kind of place (store, complex, area of town, town, country) where trash on the ground will lie around and get blown around until the guy who gets paid to clean it up cleans it up – and know one else.”

    This line of thought can get ridiculous, I know, but I just wanted to expand it a bit for context.



  2. Stan Dubin says:

    Thanks, Dennis. You make a good point.

    This was a place of business and the folks responsible for this business had an extraordinary view of what they were responsible for.

    Should I have stopped and picked up the trash? Yes and no. I do pick up trash around town from time to time; I do stop my car and take sharp objects off of the road so folks won’t drive over them.

    At this particular moment in time, I observed a situation that I thought the staff inside would WANT to know was happening so they could take the steps to remedy and thereby improve their business appearance.

    I was more commenting from a business perspective in this post, but your point about overall responsibility is well taken.

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