Personal Development

What a Costly Mistake While Shopping Taught Me About Business (and Life!)

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Business Management, Flipping Houses, Personal Development
39 Articles Written

One of my favorite activities to do when I am not busy with our investing business is to go hunt for deals at a local consignment store. I go there first thing in the morning so I can avoid crowds. Last week was my birthday, and I love to do things that bring me joy on this day. So, while my mother-in-law was in town, we decided to take a trip to my favorite consignment store here in NJ. Along with my 2 ½ year old son, we left first thing in the morning. It is always an adventure trying to accomplish any shopping with my son since his attention span is about 15 minutes, and I know if I take too long in a store, he will melt down.

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So, I was ready for a quick trip to the consignment store. After 30 minutes of shopping, I placed a number of tops in the shopping cart. Although my son was beginning to MELT, I tried everything on in a hurry. I made two piles — one pile that I wanted to buy and one pile of clothes that I would pass on.

When we got to the register, I proceeded to give the cashier all the items I wanted to purchase. After that pile, I handed her the five pieces of clothing that I did NOT want to purchase. I told her that I did not want these items, and I thought she heard me loud and clear. While she was ringing me up, I was sort of paying attention, but I was mostly paying attention to my son who was about to have an enormous meltdown. I paid for my order quickly, and we left the store. As I left the store, I thought the amount I paid was high, but did not think much of it.


When my husband got home that afternoon, I was excited to show him all the items I purchased. I opened the bag, and to my surprise, I proceeded to take out the five pieces of clothing that were the same five items that I told the cashier that I did NOT want to buy.

I was LIVID. I am not only a fairly verbal person and can allow my emotions to get involved at times, but I am also 100 percent Italian. Let me repeat, I was livid! I recall stating in PLAIN ENGLISH to the cashier that I did not want to purchase these five items, and now they were sitting in my bag at home — paid for. I was super frustrated because as a frequent shopper, I was well aware of their store policy — there are no refunds or exchanges. It states this very clearly on the receipt and everywhere in the store.

As I share the rest of the story, I will share the learned lessons I got from this experience.

Stand up for what you think is right.

Although the receipt said “no refunds or exchanges,” that was not going to stop me from going back to the store to demand my money back. After all, this was not an exchange or refund. I told this cashier in PLAIN ENGLISH that I did not want these items. I felt cheated, so I was going to stand up for myself, and I was confident that I would get my money back.

Related: 5 Life Lessons From the Book I’m Writing & Passing Along to My Children

Sometimes it is just easier to not stand up for what you think it is right. There are lots of reasons for this. One reason that causes me to not stand up for what is right is wanting to avoid conflict with others. However, in this situation, I felt like it was my duty to stand up for myself. I felt wronged, and I was going to make this right.

You are 100 percent responsible for paying attention.

We walk into the store, and I found the cashier who waited on me and explained the situation to her. I said it very nicely. I explained to her that I told her that I did not want to purchase these five items, yet when I got home, I realized that I was charged for them. The cashier said that she did not hear me say anything about not wanting any items. She said that she would speak to the manager and let me know.

So, the cashier proceeded to speak with the manager. The manager then told us that she was going to review the camera and see what happened. Well, 20 minutes later and feeling more frustrated, the manager came back and told us that since I handed all the items to the cashier, there was nothing she could do, and then she kept repeating the same thing over and over again (there are no refunds or exchanges). We did NOT like this answer, so we demanded to see the recording ourselves.

In the back room of the store, we watched the video along with the manager. It was very clear that I gave the cashier two sets of clothes — the first batch (ones I wanted to purchase) and the second batch (the ones I did not want to purchase). Unfortunately, there is no volume on the recording, so it is my word against the cashier about what I said and what I did not say.

As I watched the video of this situation, I noticed something interesting. I noticed that after I gave the two sets of clothing to the woman, I stood there in front of the cashier and was paying attention to both my son and the cashier. I took a step back and said to myself, how could I stand there watching this cashier and be that clueless that I did not even realize she was ringing me up for items I did not want? I realized in that moment I was in the wrong. As hard as that is for me to admit this, I need to take 100 percent responsibility. I need to own the fact that I was not fully paying attention and that it is my responsibility to do so.

Be present and slow down.

If I had been more present to what was happening, and if I slowed down, I would have been more aware of what was going on and been able to catch this mistake as it happened (versus afterwards when I was home).
This was such an important reminder for me.

I find myself not always present in my life. As we all do, I wear a lot of hats — mom, wife, business partner, investor, sister, friend, volunteer, daughter — and I don’t always slow down enough to be 100 percent present to where and what I am doing. I find myself often thinking about my to-do lists wherever I go, whatever I am doing.


Admit you are wrong, put aside your ego, and move on.

Part of me wanted to keep arguing with the manager. Another part of me, after seeing the video, realized that I was ultimately the one wrong. Later in the evening, after I had time to cool off, I processed what happened further with my husband. We had a good laugh about it, too. I told him that if I was paying attention, this would have never happened regardless of what I said to the cashier.

Related: 3 Survival Lessons Real Estate Investors Can Take From Jason Bourne

After taking 100 percent responsibility for what happened, I was able to put my ego aside and move on. I felt more positive and peaceful with the situation. Yes, I lost money by purchasing clothes that did not even fit me. However, it was a cheap way to remind me of some very important lessons that will make me a better real estate investor and better person.

Isn’t that what life is all about? I think so. We are often so caught up in the busy-ness of life that we don’t stop to reflect and ask ourselves — what did I learn here?

I hope this story about a everyday situation helps remind you to stop, reflect, and learn something from all the good things that happen to you, as well as all the frustrating situations that are bound to occur.

I would love to hear from you. What everyday situations have happened recently that caused you to pause and learn something to improve yourself?

Thanks as always for reading and happy investing!

Liz Faircloth has been managing and investing in real estate since 2004, along with her husband, Matt. We have built our business from scratch and now own over five million dollars in residential...
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    Kim Banks Investor from Savannah, GA
    Replied over 4 years ago
    You were not in the wrong! The shop owner needs to read this:
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Hi Kim, Thanks for reading and commenting! While I agree with you, I also needed to take some responsibility for the situation as well. Afterall, I was standing right in front of the cashier and was clueless that she had rung me up for the unwanted items! Regardless, I was reminded of some important life and business lessons that I will take with me wherever I go! Thanks again! Liz
    Jerry W. Investor from Thermopolis, Wyoming
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Elizabeth, Thank you for your article. I admire the work you and Matt do, and the time you spend teaching others for free. I have watched many of Matt’s videos and read many of your articles. Despite owning real estate and being in an investment company, for over 25 years, I never got serious about investing until about 3 years ago. I realized that I needed to get educated about what i was doing and not do things off the cuff. I believe that has really paid off. The problem now is that I am frustrated at having to wait to go full time in real estate. My day job pays well and is important, but the stress is a killer. It doesn’t help that our local economy has been hard hit by dropping oil prices and I expect a negative impact on my investing. If I can hold things for the next 5 years I hope to buy more properties at the low of the market and escape the day job for good. People like you and your husband have helped a lot of folks like me change the level of professionalism in our real estate investing. Thank you.
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Jerry, Thanks for the kind note! I am so glad that Matt’s videos and my articles have been so helpful to you. I completely get where you are coming from with regards to leaving your job. Matt does a great exercise with folks to help them with this transition. Message me and I would be happy to share it with you. Keep up all the great work you are doing!! Liz
    Karen DeCelle Carter from Brooklyn, New York
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Jerry, I like your response. What I wanted to say to you that having a well paying stress filled job is not worth it. I understand stepping out of the familiar and leaving your comfort zone is scary. But I learned to do some things afraid! You NEVER know what you’re capable of until you’re forced to do it, I worked as a Home Furnishing Consultant for five years, commission based salary struggling, punching a clock dealing with petty office politics, all while wanting to pursue my passion as an Interior Designer. When I was laid off last year, it forced me to seek to do what i love full-time. I said all that to say it’s better to do what you love and love what you do, than to be well paid to STRESS! (I’m Just Saying) . Launch out you’ll be surprised how great being your OWN BOSS feels!
    Karen DeCelle Carter from Brooklyn, New York
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Thanks Elizabeth for sharing this. I jotted down your points of lessons we should learn from our everyday lives beyond our professions. While reading this my first reaction was LIVID like yours. YET what stood out to me the most was that you were distracted by your son the entire time which caused you to rush and not be as focused. I’m new to the Real Estate business, an Interior Designer by Trade. Therefore I have to slow down and pay attention. I have a tendency to want to step out and learn as I go???? That’s not wise to do. So I’m 100% responsible for paying attention and obtaining ALL the knowledge of this new endeavor in order to succeed. Thank you again!
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Karen: You are so incredibly welcome! I am very honored that I get to share insights, learnings, and lessons here on BP. Glad this was a good reminder for you. I find myself needing to remind myself the power of focus on a daily basis. But when I do focus and pay attention 100% to the task at hand, I am more effective and productive! Good luck with the transition and learning as much as you can in the real estate business! Liz
    Rapy Narruhn from Vancouver, Washington
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Definitely a good morning read and a great reminder! That’s so true that we, or at least I, come to always think of my to-do list and what I have to do next that I never put 100% into what I have to do in that moment! I have to go over “The One Thing” by Gary K. again. Thank you Elizabeth!
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Rapy: So glad to hear! Yes, I love “the one thing” by Gary Keller as well. Amazing book with great information. Take good care, and keep focused on your “one thing” today! Liz
    Kriss Pavik Wholesaler from Thief River Falls, Minnesota
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Elizabeth, Great article and great lessons learned. I no longer have young children, but I would have become LIVID like you and would have returned just as you did. Not sure how far I would have gone to prove my point, but I appreciate how you detailed everything you did and what the outcome was.
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Kriss, Thanks for commenting and reading this post. Something I have to work on daily and moment by moment basis with having my little guy is patience. I love to stand up for what I believe in, however, this lesson taught me to also know when you have to put your ego aside and move on. Not always easy to do but I am a work in progress! Take care! Liz
    Benjamin Cowles from Cape Coral, FL
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Oh no, that cashier should at least have paid for half. Besides, although “the customer is always right” may not be 100% literal, it means you give the customer the advantage when there’s room, and in this case there’s room. But good lesson otherwise. Pay attention at all times. Not easy!
    Jenine Kenna Real Estate Agent from Cape Coral, FL
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Hi Elizabeth! Thank you for the great article! It seems we have similar situations in our lives! I’m brand new to investing and trying to juggle it with being a wife, mom (8 year old son and one on the way), and my real estate career. I look forward to learning more about your journey and checking out your youtube channel! Would you tell me the consignment shop? I’m always looking for a great spot I don’t know of, and I live fairly close to you in Jackson NJ! Thanks!!!