Carl Mays: In pursuit of a definitive answer

Jun. 06, 2013 @ 11:05 PM

Yesterday, I thought of the elderly lady who answered all but one of the questions the census taker asked. When she wouldn’t tell her age, the man said, “Everyone tells his or her age for the census.”

She glared at him and asked, “Did Miss Alma Hill tell you her age?” The man replied, “Yes she did.” The elderly lady then asked, “Did Miss Thelma Hill tell her age?” The census taker responded, “Yes, both at that house told me their ages.”

The woman then snapped, “Well, I’m as old as they are.” With this response, the man simply wrote on the form, “As old as the Hills.”

The story came to mind when I returned home after shopping for a particular item and told Jean, “Well, once again I had to deal with several company representatives to get a competent, knowledgeable answer.”

I’ve written several columns about how there needs to be consistency in the way company team members handle things. I wrote “Consistency on all levels is a key to success” after I had to talk with five insurance company employees prior to getting an answer.

I wrote “Consider the consistency” when a company employee told me how the consistent, positive attitude of her company’s leader had an uplifting effect on her and other employees, inspiring them to maintain consistency in their attitudes and work. “Let’s talk about consistency again” followed my experience in dealing with several inefficient employees of a cable TV/Internet company before an outstanding employee helped resolve things.

Yesterday, I went to as a big-box store in search of a Havahart Live Animal Cage Trap for a raccoon-problem. I had been on the Internet, saw the traps available online and decided that when I was in the vicinity of one of the company’s stores I would stop by to see if any were in stock and, hopefully, on sale.

When I entered the store, an employee asked if she could help. I asked about the trap. She got a quizzical look on her face and said, “I don’t know, but I don’t think so.”

She then asked another employee behind a computer at a merchandise return desk. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “If we do, they would be over in that section,” pointing to a nearby location.

Just about that time, another employee walked by and the first employee asked him. He responded, “I don’t know. I don’t think so. But if we do, they would be on aisle 21.” He led me to aisle 21, where we quickly looked for the item and he quickly shook his head, saying, “No, if we had any they would be here.”

He then went on his way.

So I looked for a couple of other items I wanted to check on while I was in the store, which eventually led me to the store’s far side. Another employee asked if he could help with anything. I said, “Do you have or ever had any live animal cage traps?” He asked another employee. She didn’t know, but didn’t think they stocked them.

I tried one more employee before I left the store. He said, “Let me get on the computer and see if it’s in stock. If it is, the data will also tell us exactly where it is located.”

He keyed in the information and said, “Yes, we do have it. It’s on aisle 22 on the other side of the store. Let’s go over there and I’ll help you find it.”

It was there. It was on sale. I bought it. As a result of continuing to pursue a definitive answer to my question while going through several employees, I was finally able to get a satisfying answer.

Several employees could have made it easier.

— © 2013 by Carl Mays, speaker and author whose mentoring site,, is based on his book and program, “A Strategy For Winning.” E-mail to, call 436-7478 or visit