There is More to the Story

Of course, there is often more to the story.  And the story that I communicated just a couple of days ago – A Shoeshine – is no exception.

What I failed to include in the story was the final chapter.  The reason I chose not to include it was that I feel that the final chapter is so riveting that it deserves its own story.

Let me know if you agree.

As you will recall, I was in the Denver airport getting my shoes shined at a shoeshine stand for the first time in years.  Charlene was shining my shoes.  And she did a great job.  I was amazed at what went into a shoe shine, and I was surprised at how long it took.

All in all it was an amazing experience, one that I had to write about.  It was special for me.  and it was unusual.   Shoeshine stands are not as prevalent today as they have been in the past for a variety of reasons.

So, after almost 30 minutes in the chair, with my feet affixed on two stands, and after having Charlene work on my shoes for that period of time, using all kinds of brushes, applicators, cloths and torches, I somewhat awkwardly attempted to get out of my chair to descend to the floor of the concourse.  I do so, very proud of my newly polished, brand spanking, almost mirror like black shoes.

Yes, indeed.  I have something to be proud of.  Clean, polished shoes.

The next words out of my mouth were “how much do I owe you?”  To which Charlene replies “whatever you want.”

“No, seriously,” I said, “how much is it?”   she, just as rapidly, repeated back to me “it is whatever you want to pay.”

“Are you serious?” I said, looking at her quizzically.  I start to look around the shoeshine stand to see if there are any signs that say the price for a shoeshine.  The only sign I can find has no prices on it.

Charlene, always with a smile on her face, was dead serious.  She said that it was whatever I wanted to pay.

Holy cow! I am saying to myself.  when was the last time someone said to me “pay whatever you want.”  I try to think back when was the last time this has happened to me.  I honestly can’t remember such a time.

I can remember many times when someone said to me the tip is purely optional.  Letting me know that I can do whatever I want in the tip.  But I can’t remember ever having someone say to me that the price for the entire event, product, or service that I just received was totally optional.

Holy cow!  I am dumbfounded.  I have no idea what to do.

I know a couple of things, however.  One, that I received a great shoeshine.  No question about it.  I got A+ service.  And, two, I know that I want to do right by Charlene.  I definitely do not want to “underpay” her.  I want her to feel justly compensated for the work she did.

What to do?

Since I have not had my shoes shined in years, I have absolutely no idea what a shoeshine goes for in this day and age.  No idea.

Years ago, according to my research, it was 5 cents, sometimes a quarter.   Then in the late 20th century it rose to $2.50, and sometimes to $5.

Let me tell you what I did, and then let me tell you what I wish I had done.

My thought process at the time was that I guessed that a typical shoeshine was probably $5.  The other thought that went through my mind was that Charlene had spent 30 minutes working on my shoes.

My thinking was if $20 was a reasonable pay rate for an hour, then for half an hour $10 would be reasonable.  Also I thought that if I paid Charlene $10 that would constitute a 100% tip if the cost of a shoeshine was $5.   So, for both reasons I settled on giving Charlene $10 for my shoeshine.

The more I have thought about what I paid Charlene the more I wish I had given her $15 or $20.

What I wanted to do was pay whatever the cost of the shoeshine was (which I assumed to be $5).  Plus, I wanted to give her a really big tip for doing such a great job and to further encourage her entrepreneurial efforts. So, I thought I was giving her a 100% tip.

However, the more I have thought about it, the more I am concerned that my estimate of what is the going rate for professional shoeshine may be out of date.  Maybe today a shoeshine normally costs $10.  I just don’t know.

When I search the internet I am told that the cost of a professional shoeshine can vary today from $5 to $15, not counting any tip.

What have I learned from this experience; I ask myself.

When a person providing a service says “pay whatever you want,” here’s what you can do:

  1. Consider the Value Received: Reflect on the quality of the service provided. Did they meet or exceed your expectations? Consider factors like friendliness, thoroughness, and overall satisfaction.
  2. Assess Your Budget: Determine how much you’re willing and able to pay based on your budget and the perceived value of the service.
  3. Be Fair: Ensure that your payment reflects the effort and skill put into the service. While you have the freedom to pay what you want, it’s important to be fair and considerate of the provider’s livelihood.
  4. Tip Appropriately: If you’re satisfied with the service, consider tipping within the customary range for similar services in your area. This could be a percentage of the total cost or a flat amount.
  5. Communicate: If you’re unsure about what to pay or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask the service provider for guidance. They may offer suggestions based on typical payments they receive.
  6. Express Gratitude: Regardless of the amount you choose to pay, always express your appreciation for the service provided. A simple thank you goes a long way in showing gratitude for their efforts.

Next time this happens to me, I will be a little better prepared to follow the six steps I have just outlined.

Bottom line, next time I am in the Denver airport, I am going to search for Charlene so that I can get my shoes shined again, and so that I can pay her $20 for my shoeshine.


2 thoughts on “There is More to the Story”

  1. Exactly the same bewilderment happened to me when the chap finished my shine. Frankly I would have been happier if the shine had lasted several minutes less as I found the chair uncomfortable for that long.. But it was THE BEST shine ever.

  2. Hi Neil-
    Many of us locals in the Denver area still refer to the airport as “DIA” — which if you recall was the call sign for the airport when it was at Stapleton, even though it now is “DEN”. Anyway, the shoe shiners at the stands at DIA in Concourse B always were my “got-to” for shoe shines before I retired from consulting work at the end of last year. And I too had decided upon paying them $10.00.

    But I think now it probably should be a higher amount — assuming as Charlene did, they do a great job. If it were me I probably would land at $15.oo, but in an exceptional case, I too can see $20.

    Thanks for sharing. You notice things, even otherwise mundane seeming things, and by writing about them beautifully, they are NOT mundane!


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