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The Grand Forks crew trying to pay Steven’s phone bill.

“This story gives me chills,” says Erica Schierholz, the Director of Frontline Learning & Recruitment at Choice Financial. This is how she begins recounting the story of what happened one afternoon at Choice Financial Grand Forks; an interaction with a customer that she will never forget.

In order to understand this interaction, we must backtrack to when Frontline Specialist Gina Peroutka first met their customer, Steven. Steven first came into Choice Financial with a woman, presumably his girlfriend, and a little boy. They set up an account and he mentioned he’d recently moved to Grand Forks. Gina gave them a warm welcome. Over the course of a few months, they’d stop by the bank now and then and Gina would help them with their account.

“He was always cheery and happy,” she said. “He was always very chatty.”

Then one day, Steven came in alone. Something was different.

“His demeanor had changed,” Gina said. “He seemed sad.”

A few weeks later, they found Steven’s account was covered with fraud. He mentioned his ex-girlfriend still had his old account information, so they closed the account and ordered him a new debit card. He needed it in time to pay his phone bill, he said. “You’ll have it in 7-10 days,” Allysia replied.

Unfortunately, Allysia and her team got notice that the debit card had been lost in the mail. Steven called in to check on the status, and when they told him the news, he panicked.

Allysia and her team got notice that the debit card had been lost in the mail.

“I need it to pay my phone bill,” he said again. “It’s almost due!”

Allysia felt terrible. She assured Steven that they would get him the debit card as soon as possible. When she got off the phone, she explained the situation to her coworker, Chris Danielson. She told him the story and the glimpses into Steven’s life — how he seemed to be in a tough spot.

“Wow,” Chris said. “This guy needs a win. Let’s try and pay his phone bill.”

The whole team agreed it was a great idea. They knew his phone provider was Cricket Wireless, so they decided to head to one of their stores and pay his phone bill using cashier’s checks.

However, when they called ahead of time, they were informed it wouldn’t work.

“I’m sorry, we only accept card,” the representative said. “And if you’re not with the customer, you would need his code and his account number.”

“I’m sorry, we only accept card,” the representative said. “And if you’re not with the customer, you would need his code and his account number.”

The team felt defeated. Of course, they didn’t have Steven’s account information, and they couldn’t call and ask him without ruining the surprise. So they called a different location, hoping to get a different response. Same answer. They called a third location; same answer. At this point, all three frontline team members were involved; Gina, Chris, and their coworker Allysia Gapp.

“We were hoping someone would answer the phone and try to help us make it work,” Allysia said. “We just needed to get the right person.”

At last, a representative mentioned that they could try to pay using prepaid Cricket Wireless cards. Clinging to that bit of hope, they jumped into action. Gina drove to the location on her lunch break, and picked up three prepaid cards for Steven.

When she got back, the three of them called Cricket to pay over the phone. Call after call came back with an error.

“We were back there for almost 20 minutes,” Allysia said. “We could not get it to go through.”

Meanwhile, Erica, their manager, had arrived with a group of new team members in training.

“While they’re in the back, I’m training, and we could tell something was going on. We could tell they were frustrated,” she said. “But we didn’t know why.”

It was at that moment that the unthinkable happened.

The team was in the back on the phone, punching in numbers to no avail. Already they had begun to brainstorm other solutions — they knew Steven worked half-an-hour away on a farm, perhaps one of them could drive the cards out to him?

Then, they heard the drive-thru bell. Allysia went to the window. It was Steven.

Chris Danielson helping a customer.

Allysia took his information then came to the back room with a huge grin.

“You guys, he’s here!” she whispered excitedly.

“It was almost magical,” Chris said. “We’re thinking all day long about how to get these cards to him. And here he comes to us. It all fell into place.”

Steven took out a withdrawal, so Chris slipped the Cricket Wireless cards inside of the envelope. When he handed them to Steven, he smiled.

“Here you go,” Chris said. “And by the way, we know your debit card still isn’t here. So Choice Financial took care of your phone bill. You’ll find $70 worth of Cricket Wireless cards in there.”

Steven’s eyes grew wide.

“Man, are you serious?!” he said. “That’s so much more than I could’ve expected!”

Chris smiled and nodded.

“… Thank you!” Steven said. He seemed shaken by the event.

They chatted for a few moments, said goodbye, and clicked off the mic. The rest of the team quietly celebrated in the back, while Erica and the new team members watched in surprise and awe.

Erica noticed, however, that Steven didn’t leave. For a few minutes he stayed in the drive-thru, resting his head on his steering wheel.

Then, they heard the drive-thru buzzer ring again. Chris switched on the mic. Steven was there, still clutching the envelope in his hand.

“You have no idea how much this means to me,” he said, fervently.

“You have no idea how much this means to me,” he said, fervently.

The team was quiet as Steven drove away. Tears welled up in Erica’s eyes, and she could see the new team members feeling the same.

“I’m so proud of them for coming together like that,” Erica, who spent time training in this team not too long ago, said. “You could tell what these three did had a big impact on him.”

Chris hopes that a moment like this one can lead to many more.

“He was in a bad situation, and it seemed to be snowballing down,” he said. “We wanted to give him a win, so we could get that ball rolling the other way.”

Gina, Chris and Allysia displayed Choice’s core value, commit to your customers with undivided attention, and it may have changed a life.

Our People First values are at the heart of everything we do. Learn more about our passion for putting People First here.