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A Zoo-prise Visit

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Header photo: Torrie busy buying zoo tickets during a team meeting.

They’d been on the road for six hours and had two-and-half more to go. There were five of them in the car; Christina Lau, her 3-year-old, her 11-year-old, and her mom and dad.

“We were tired, and my hair was a mess,” Christina said.

A few more hours of driving, and they would arrive at their vacation destination in Winnipeg. Nevertheless, Christina knew there was something she wanted to do first.

Christina is a Senior Deposit Services Specialist who recently joined Choice Bank during the merger of Venture and Choice Bank. She knew she had new co-workers at the Choice Bank Grand Forks location. Since they were passing through, she wanted to stop, say hello, and introduce herself.

The five of them filed out into the parking lot as Christina tried to fix her hair before meeting her new coworkers. But as soon as she walked in, she felt instantly at ease.

“Hi!” she was welcomed by the Grand Forks crew. When she introduced herself, everyone instantly expressed how great it was to meet. They talked about the road trip, shared laments over kids, and laughed at the similarities between them all.

“I’ve never felt so comfortable and so welcome, right off the bat,” Christina said. “While talking, we all felt the same thing: ‘we’re all going to get along just fine.’”

“I’ve never felt so comfortable and so welcome, right off the bat,” Christina said. “While talking, we all felt the same thing: ‘we’re all going to get along just fine.’”

“Everyone clicked so well,” Torrie said. “It was a really great feeling!”

Christina shared their plans for the weekend, how they were en route to Winnipeg for a weekend of adventure. They hoped to see some museums, go to the zoo, and enjoy a weekend out of town.

Unbeknownst to Christina, it was at this instant that the wheels in Torrie’s head started spinning. She already knew she wanted to do something special for Christina, and when she mentioned the zoo, her eyes lit up. Trying to be subtle, she started to ask Christina for more information on where they were staying.

“What hotel are you staying at?” she asked, innocently.

Christina told them, and Torrie secretly wrote it down.

“I was trying not to be too awkward or obvious,” she remembers, laughing. “I just knew they were all key points that I couldn’t forget.”

They chatted with Christina for a while longer before she said goodbye and got back on the road. Now, the clock was ticking.

“I knew we only had two hours to get this all sorted,” Torrie said.

She turned and explained her idea to her team. Christina and her family were planning to go to the zoo, right? What if, on behalf of Choice, they called and had tickets to the zoo waiting for them at the hotel?

“Think we could make it happen?” she asked. The team was immediately excited.

“Torrie had no hesitation, she knew what she was going to do. She had a vision,” said Jess Lupkes “It’s just how she is. She always pays attention to the details.”

“Torrie had no hesitation, she knew what she was going to do. She had a vision,” said Jess Lupkes “It’s just how she is. She always pays attention to the details.”

First things first, Torrie needed to contact the hotel and ask if it was possible. However, when she tried to call using her phone, the Canadian number wouldn’t go through. They asked around and used another teammate’s phone that had international access.

With the hotel on the line and Christina and the kids on the road, Torrie explained the plan. Turns out the hotel already had a partnership with the zoo and was able to get the tickets easily! They even put them in an envelope and wrote a personal note from Torrie and the Choice team. Everything was falling into place.

Meanwhile, Christina, the kids, and her parents were nearing their destination. When they finally pulled into the lot, everyone was eager to stretch. The kids took off running into the lobby, and as Christina checked in, she paid little attention to the front desk.

“Kids, slow down, let’s go,” she said, not noticing as the hotel clerk handed her an envelope along with the room keys.

In fact, it wasn’t until they got to their rooms and dropped the bags off that she took a second glance. The front said, “To Christina.” Curious, she opened the envelope and found five zoo tickets, one for each of them. Inside, a small slip of paper said,

“Christina — Enjoy the visit and welcome to the Choice Bank family.”

“I had tears in my eyes,” Christina said. “It’s funny how a little pick me up, like those zoo tickets, can turn someone’s day into a blessed, beautiful day.”

She showed her parents, who were equally surprised; especially because Christina had just met this new team at Choice Bank. On top of that, they had just been there two hours earlier!

“I had to let that marinate and think, how did they do it?” Christina said. “I just couldn’t believe it. It was a true ‘wow’ moment.”

Back at the Choice location, Torrie was giddy with excitement knowing the surprise was waiting. She knew how much it meant to be celebrated; especially after a long trip.

“I have three kids, and sometimes driving is a disaster. You just want to get there. The fact that Christina took the time to stop and see us, it meant so much. We had to recognize that,” she said.

Torrie’s ability to notice an opportunity for celebration is a gift her coworkers see over and over. She’s always paying attention to detail and doing thoughtful gestures for others. For her, it’s about living out the Choice core values.

“Everyone has the opportunity”, she said. “You just have to listen. And there are so many ways that one tiny little detail can trickle down and expand to such a bigger, better thing that will change someone’s day.”

Back in Winnipeg, it was a hot, sunny day as Christina and her family headed to the zoo. Their favorite exhibit, she said, was the polar bears. In a one-of-a-kind experience, visitors can walk in a tunnel beneath the bears’ swimming pool and watch them swim over you. Her three-year-old stood there, eyes wide, watching as the bear passed by.

“Seeing her eyes light up… it’s all about precious moments like that,” Christina said.