Jerry’s Bait and Tackle is a watering hole near my lakefront home. It is an old-fashioned, all-purpose grocery store that sells everything from gasoline to fish bait to lottery tickets. Jerry’s know where the fish are biting, the latest community gossip, and where to buy anything your heart desires. They have been an institution at Lake Oconee for many, many years. Practically everyone within fifty miles of the lake knows Jerry’s. So, it is not surprising they would be customer-centric in challenging times.

Hurricane Irma came ashore in South Florida, barreled across the state into Florida and Georgia with Lake Oconee in its crosshairs. It knocked out power for a couple of days. But, it did not deter Jerry’s from serving customers. The store was dark as I pulled in…but the front door was still open. They were out of ice after giving it all away (first come; first serve) when the power went. But, it gets better.

Since the power was out, their credit card machine was imperative. This is not a Square enterprise!!  So, it was cash only (just a ballpark charge)! For those who looked like a regular, it was “write your name and the amount on the clipboard and pay me next time you are in here” kind of approach. I gave a total stranger a dollar who was a little short at the check-out counter. Jerry’s neighbor-serving-neighbor attitude was clearly infectious.

We have all witnessed the very best of people during emergencies like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. What if customer service could be like Jerry’s all the time? What if organizations’ default was to act on behalf of the customer, not what the rules say or the lawyers say or the comptroller says. Jerry’s is an institution at Lake Oconee, not because of their vast product offerings or their rock-bottom prices. They endure because they consider every single person who crosses their threshold to be critical to their survival.