A craft project, a kitchen injury, mass school closings: three incidents with a surprising common theme.

Incident the First.

Not long ago, I indulged my wife by accompanying her to a fabric store, part of a national chain, in a strip mall a few miles from our home. She wanted to get some things to make a crafty gift for the baby that my sister is expecting. We live in a major city, so most of the time we patronize local businesses and can easily avoid big-box shopping, but this was an exception to our usual rule.

She had gotten half a yard of batting cut at the fabric-cutting counter. The employees at the counter were paying considerably more attention to their conversation with each other than to the customers. One was saying she hadn't even wanted to come in that day because her shift was so short. The other was remarking on the bad performance review she'd recently gotten. I could well believe it, given that they were talking about these things in front of customers. So we weren't surprised when we got to the front register and the total was all wrong.

We were about ready to ditch our purchases and leave; we were definitely not ready to get back in the fabric-cutting line. But the assistant-manager-like guy who was ringing us out was determined to see justice done, so he took us back to the counter (from which the first of the two employees from before had gone on break) and started explaining how the problem should be fixed. But here's where it got interesting: He was wrong. Totally wrong. The more he talked, the more obvious it became that the fabric cutters knew how to cut fabric, and he didn't. The other employee came back from her break, and the two together told him what he needed to do, and they fixed it. They didn't know the first thing about customer service, and he did, but he didn't know the first thing about cutting fabric, and they did.

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