Not too long ago I used this space to write an obituary for customer service. It may have been premature.
Because in this, the season of miracles, I recently witnessed one. I was helped thoroughly and professionally by a person who was only too glad to do it. And I left a business feeling satisfied and cared for, like I was important to the company.
All it took was a 16-year-old kid with a great disposition and enough energy to run a power plant. Maybe there is hope.
I met Devin Lavin at the Lawrenceville Target store. I could tell right away he was nice, but being nice and handling work situations are very different things. But on a night when there was a dearth of employees on call, Lavin managed to make the best of what could have been a bad situation.
He deftly acknowledged me while finishing up with someone else, then returned as promised. To be honest, he couldn't help me with my major problem - my lack of mechanical aptitude is my own cross to bear.
But he tried. And as he did, I could tell he was a good kid. Calls I made to verify that supported my theory as he lived up to the reputation I imagined for him.
"He interacts well with people of all ages, that's what's really neat about him," said Lindsey Meyer, executive team leader for human resources at the Lawrenceville store. "Devin has been (selected) one of our top performers two months in a row."
That isn't surprising. As we talked in the store, he told me about his affinity for working hard and staying out of trouble. He said he was usually either at school - he's a sophomore at Collins Hill - the gym or one of his two jobs.
When I called a couple of days later, he was with his dad, Rick, who owns New World Image Home Design. It was his father who inspired Lavin's work ethic, taking him to job sites since he was a young boy. Asked about his son, Rick Lavin was happy to offer references.
"I can give you numbers for a bunch of people I've worked for and they can tell you," the elder Lavin said. "They've seen him grow up.
"He looks out for other people. He's got a heart."
One time, while working on a project, the elder Lavin said he looked up to see his 8-year-old son at a house across the street. The young boy had seen an elderly lady planting flowers and gone over to help. Only natural he'd help folks at Target the same way.
"I'm a real hard worker," he said. "I've never called out (sick) for Target, not once. I'm always there.
"If I'm not at school, I'm working at Target. And if I'm not there, I'm working with my dad or I'm at the gym. I'm never sitting around doing nothing. I'm not a slacker."
The kid has goals, too. He will go to the Maxwell High School of Technology next year to study plumbing and electricity and wants to attend Gwinnett Tech after high school with hopes of one day taking over his father's business. As for the money he earns?
"I'm saving up," he said. "I don't want to rent. I want to buy my house while I'm young."
In addition to his gung-ho attitude, diplomacy is another attribute that will serve Lavin. I came to him at first thinking I was missing a piece and asking for a replacement. Through much effort on his part, we discovered that wasn't the case.
It was just that I wasn't using the parts I had correctly. I questioned my own intelligence on the matter, but he assured me I wasn't an idiot. "I just work on a lot of bikes," he said reassuringly.
Good kid, that Devin Lavin. Good example, too.
E-mail Todd Cline at email@example.com. His column appears on Tuesdays.