I remember a story from years ago when I was a manager at my hometown’s local pharmacy. Yes, I was a pharmacy manager… In general, it was an uninteresting job. But like most things in life, there can be lessons to learn behind the scenes, if you’re willing to listen. This is one of those lessons…
I was helping the merchandising staff get some stock out to the floor and I was working in the painkillers and vitamins section with one of the pharmacy technicians. The pharmacy staff were always a little “holier than thou” with the front store staff as they believed that the dispensary was the only reason for the location’s existence. So, there would sometimes be a BIT of tension there. Especially since I technically had no direct authority over them as they fell under the umbrella of the Pharmacist/Owner.
Anyway, I was shelving painkillers (Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen) and the tech was shelving some vitamins. We had a plastic bin for damaged and expired goods on a wheeled cart between our two respective aisles. At one point, we took a break and I glanced down into the bin and noticed a coupled of expired items I had tossed. I also noticed a full, unopened box of multivitamins sitting in the bin. I picked them up and checked the expiration date. They were good until the following year.
I asked the tech why the vitamins were sitting in the throwaway bin. The tech took the box from my hand and showed me where the cardboard was slightly damaged on one end. That was it. The ends were still sealed and by proxy, the bottle of vitamins inside was still sealed tight and the vitamins were in perfectly good condition. I explained to the tech that we couldn’t throw out the box of vitamins based on a bit of scratched cardboard as there was nothing wrong with the bottle inside (part of my responsibility included shrinkage).
The tech pursed her lips and turned her nose up, explaining that she wouldn’t buy a damaged box and couldn’t see any customer doing so either. I asked her, “Why not? If the bottle and the vitamins are intact, there’s literally nothing wrong with it, why would you not still purchase it? Who cares if the box has some scratched up cardboard on it?” She simply shrugged and had no viable answer to give me. I was at a loss and a little bit confused, as my feeling was that the little bit of damage on the outside didn’t take away the value of what was contained within. Apparently, she didn’t agree…
This is an important lesson for the world in general, especially in today’s society of social media filters, photoshopped pictures and everybody’s immediate obsession with their outside appearance. Bullying is at an all-time high, and people’s ability to resist or stand up to it is at an all-time low. But the unfortunate reality is that the first thing people see when meeting us is what’s on the outside. And more often than not, their assessment of you is over before they get to know what’s inside the package.
The Buddhist in me thinks that this is a sad state for the world to be in. The loud, French martial artist with the attitude in me thinks that I don’t give a shit what other people think about me one way or another, but not everyone is as thick skinned. Either way, the important thing to remember is that first impressions are simply that: a first impression. Until you’ve taken the time to look beneath the surface and see what the second, third and fourth impressions may yield, judgements should be reserved and withheld. ☯