This weekend, I had one of those rare moments in parenting: the opportunity to teach my son about one of the values I hold deepest. A situation arose wherein my sixth-grader came face-to-face with a scourge in American society. Here was my chance to pass on my hard-won wisdom in this area to the next generation! 

The scourge, of course, was poor customer service. The answer? Well, that's what I had a chance to impart to my boy. 

There are many fine, fine concepts that constitute moral teaching: Do unto others. Forgive and forget. Don't look in other people's medicine cabinets at cocktail parties. You know, all the lessons that fit under the Golden Rule umbrella.

And then there is a whole other set of values that constitute your own personal code of conduct. As you raise kids, this personal code of conduct becomes your family values. There are no ancient tablets for this set of values. You can make 'em up! You can set the priority!

Here's our list of family values:

  • Always return your shopping cart at the grocery store.
  • Don't leave the empty milk carton in the fridge.
  • Be nice to little kids and animals.
  • Every once in a while, be a sport and pick up the check.
  • Don't make your mother take out the garbage.
  • And, finally...good customer service is right, not a privilege.
That is why this weekend, my son and I found ourselves at the mall. Not to buy anything, but simply to express our disappointment at a customer service situation that had arisen when my son spent his holiday money on a special purchase, only to find himself in back-order purgatory. You know back-order purgatory: You jauntily hand over your credit card, expecting your purchase to be in the mail in days, only to be informed after-the-fact that oh, it won't be in for another two months! Oops! Now, you're stuck. The company has your money and your item. And, in my son's case, his hopes and dreams.

That's why, after nine long weeks of waiting for his Star Wars–related item, he lost it when an email informed him it was going to be four more days until The Battle of Endor arrived at our door. He had waited patiently for so long, but he could wait no longer. Tears, frustration, complete disillusionment in the American system of commerce. It was more than mother could take. And, it was my moment to share with him what I knew to be true.

Good customer service is right, not a privilege. 

I'm happy to report that my teachable moment had a happy ending. My son learned that sometimes you have to speak up, in a firm but polite voice, to get the service you deserve. We walked out of the store without The Battle of Endor, set to arrive via delivery today, but with our heads held high.

And with a $30 gift certificate! Woo-hoo!

What are some of your family values? Comment below.

Lian Dolan is a mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, writer and talk show host. She writes and talks about her adventures in modern motherhood for her website,, and her weekly podcast, The Chaos Chronicles.


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