Absolutely relatively deviant

This Saturday morning I went out to grab some breakfast with a friend of mine down the street from my apartment. Usually, the norm for any customer at a store or dinner would be to order what they want, pay for it, probably thank the cashier and leave. This time, I decided to break the pattern of that expected behavior by giving each cashier lady a small gift/remuneration for her hard work.

The first place I went to grab a bite and to perform my positive deviant act was Panera. I had the right to a free pastry for my birthday there and I knew I wasn’t going to take it before it expired. So I decided to give it to the cashier lady at Panera. I came by to claim my treat and when she brought me a cinnamon scone in a bag, I said: “Well now you keep it. It’s my positive thing of the day”.

That’s where the violation of the norm was: giving the Panera employee something I was actually purchasing from Panera wasn’t part of the “ritual” customers usually go through in this situation. The lady, who didn’t seem to be in the best mood while I was in line, was pleased with the unexpected gift. Her reaction was a little awkward, though. It seemed as, as soon as she perceived the violation of the norm, she tried to finish that moment of breach of expectation as soon as possible. People waiting on the line behind me didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to the event.

The second positive deviant act was at a convenience store right next to Panera. I always go there and know most of the employees. This time, a lady that I had never seen before was working at the cashier. We were talking a bit while I got my stuff together. I was apologizing for being kind of out of it today ‘cause I had taken a bad exam. When I gave her a tip, she started laughing and said: “Oh, really? Is that because you failed the exam?” I couldn’t help it but laugh it off myself. She seemed to be entertained by this norm violation. Her reaction was funny and a lot more spontaneous and less contained than the lady at Panera. It honestly made me want to do this kind of positive deviance more often. Again people around didn’t have any significant reactions to what was happening. I also found it interesting that she was looking for a reason behind the positive deviant act while the lady at Panera just took the gift and didn’t seem to question the situation at all.

I’d say my positive deviance of the day would be relatively deviant because it’s something that is not too out of context. At the cashier, I was paying for what I had purchased and decided to give the lady a gratuity for her job. Waiters get tips, taxi drivers get tips, why shouldn’t cashiers? Same thing with the pastry: I wasn’t going to take it anyway, why not give it to a hard working lady to brighten her day? It breaks the norms, but it isn’t s big deal. My concept of absolute deviance, considering the positive aspect of it, would be and action that causes a much stronger reaction to the other person and that is a lot more out of context. If I started serenating the cashier lady out as a gift… Now THAT would be absolute deviance.

VIDEO for the adventurous positive deviant acts! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5KROd2ZIeo