College Central®

Ask around. The Network works.®

The Million Dollar Chair

Madeline Frank -- Careerists, take note: Make the right first impression...and you may make history, as well.

What is the most important rule of customer service? What should every sales clerk do for their customers?

On a rainy day in the mid-1800s, an elderly lady strolled into a Pittsburgh department store to get out of the rain.

All of the salesmen on the floor assumed that she was just looking around and had no intention of buying anything. They even ignored her when she stopped at their counter.

Finally, the elderly lady approached a young clerk who, smiled at her, and asked, "May I serve you?"

She replied, "No, I'm just killing time waiting for the rain to stop so I can go home."

The young clerk replied smiling at her, "Very well Madame. May I bring out a chair for you?" Without waiting for a reply, he brought out an armchair for her to sit in.

After the rain had stopped, the young clerk, took the lady by the arm and escorted her to the street and bade her goodbye.

As she left, she asked him for his card.

A few months later, the owner of the store received a letter asking that this young man be sent to Scotland to order furnishings for a home.

The store owner wrote back "I'm sorry but that young man does not work in the home furnishing department. However, if you would like, we could send an 'experienced man' to do the job."

Not long after he sent the reply, he received a letter from none other than one of the wealthiest men in the world at the time, Andrew Carnegie. "No one else will do but this particular young man."

The letter was signed by Andrew Carnegie and the house he wanted furnished was Ski Bo Castle. The elderly lady was Andrew Carnegie's mother, Margaret Carnegie."

The young man (clerk) was sent to Scotland and he received an order for several hundred thousand dollars worth of furnishings (worth several million dollars in today's currency).

Later, the young man became the owner with a half interest in the store because of the size of the order. (From Napoleon Hill's book Your Magic Power to Be Rich.)

What lessons about customer service did you learn from this young Pittsburgh store clerk?

1. Make everyone feel like an honored guest, or a VIP.

2. Every conversation, every interaction is like planting seeds. Some may never sprout, but many will grow.

3. You never know when an opportunity will arise! Always put your best foot forward and go the extra mile. Smile, bow, ask how you can help your customer? And take that next step to help them feel important, like an honored and welcomed guest at your business.

First impressions do count! Make a good one!


Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an Best Selling Author, speaker, business owner, teacher, John Maxwell Team Member, conductor, and concert artist. She helps businesses and organizations "Tune Up their Business". Her observations show you the blue prints necessary to improve and keep your business successful. Her latest book Leadership On A Shoestring Budget is available everywhere books are sold. If you need a speaker contact Madeline at:

© 2019 Madeline Frank

Return to top

The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.