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


13 thoughts on “Absolutely relatively deviant

  1. First let me say Happy Birthday! The video was great thanks for doing that, it is nice to see the positive act and capture the reaction. You definitely broke the norm with your positive attitude and gifts, I am sure most people just place their order and pay for their items.

    • Thanks Tim! It was fun breaking the norms in a positive way. I wanted to film it essentially to capture their reactions. I think that sometimes we get so caught up in the moment trying to notice everything that it all kind of becomes a blur. So I’m glad you enjoyed the video! 🙂

  2. Laura, I wonder if you could elaborate on the Panera cashiers reaction. I am curious because I am wondering if it was a violation of the norm in that she received a gift in general, or because she received a gift for something that you had received for free, but something she may also be able to get for free since she works there. Just curious. I agree that the gift for the cashier at the convenience store was most certainly a deviant act, as I have never seen anyone leave a tip or gratuity more than a few coins which get placed into the ‘need a penny take a penny’ tray.

    • Thanks Mark! The Panera cashier had a very quick reaction, but she seemed to be happy with the positive deviance! I didn’t know she could get the treats for free. Maybe that’s why her reaction was more of a “this isn’t a big deal” type of thing. The other cashier had a more exciting reaction. I wonder, if I had tipped the Panera cashier, if her reaction would be any different from getting a free pastry.

  3. Laura-
    I loved how you asked (in your video) what kind of dessert the cashier felt would be best. This definitely made the situation more personal. I imagine that the shortness of the cashier at Panera possibly had somewhat to do with the presence of a supervisor or other workers from whom she feared judgement. At many places, this violation of the norm could get employees in trouble, or, if expectations never have been laid out regarding this scenario, fear of consequences could arise. I can remember helping an elderly woman to her car while working at a grocery store when I was 14 years old and feeling forced to accept a $10 “tip”. I had never encountered expectations regarding this situation, so I feared I would get in trouble, and, thus, it was awkward.

    • Hey Conor! That’s interesting, I never really thought she could get in trouble for this, but I guess that anything that could possibly distract an employee from doing their jobs can! That’s a good point. I thought it was funny that you could get into trouble for getting tipped for doing such a nice thing! I understand it was awkward though, since you had never encountered that type of situation… Maybe that was an act of positive deviance on the elderly women’s part as well?

  4. I liked how you had the first cashier unknowingly pick out her own gift; also the street sigh with your name was a nice touch. Being offered a tip when it’s out of the norm can definitely gives you a sense of happiness; I find the awkward part is when you have to say no. I’ve been offered tips from the family of patients before, the gesture made me feel good for the rest of the day but it also left me with a bittersweet feeling after having to decline their offer. I would have to agree that your acts were relatively deviant as you said they didn’t evoke a deep rooted emotional response.

    • Hey Joshua! I usually ask the cashiers for suggestions on what to order, so when I was about to perform the deviant act, I thought “well this is just perfect!”. I’m happy you agree with the fact that it was relatively deviant because these good deeds definitely did not have strong emotional reactions, and I’m glad they didn’t! I’d be worried about living in a society where getting a free cinnamon scone can make you have a strong emotional reactIon.

    • And regarding the sign, I got it as a gift on the same day and decided to just walk around with it for a while instead of leaving it at home. People stared and I think carrying it around might be considered a positive deviant act just because it made a few people laugh… What do you think?

  5. And regarding the sign, I got it as a gift on the same day and decided to just walk around with it for a while instead of leaving it at home. People stared and I think carrying it around might be considered a positive deviant act just because it made a few people laugh… What do you think?

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