Many have heard of Honest Abe, our 16th president of the United States who earned that nickname when he was a young store clerk. Realizing he’d accidentally short-changed a customer, Abraham Lincoln walked a long distance to return the few cents owed.
It’s a portrait of honesty and integrity.
But how many people have heard of Richard Kallsem? He isn’t found in school kids’ history books or been the subject of a headline, but Richard is a picture of honesty that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
This story begins a few weeks ago when Richard, a retiree, wandered into the As Seen on TV section of the Richland Fred Meyer store. Already his cart was filled with groceries, but with a little extra time to spend on “just looking,” a bright green garden hose caught his eye. The $12.99 price caught his attention too.
“I thought it would be nice to try out,” Richard says about the lightweight flexible hose advertised to fit in a pants pocket.
But Richard wasn’t into impulse buying. He walked a few more aisles and then made his decision. He’d buy that hose.
However, when he and his friend, Roberta Taylor, reached the checkout counter, they were both in for a surprise. It rang up at $19.99.
“No! It’s 12.99!!” Roberta remembers them chorusing, disbelief on their faces.
Puzzled, the cashier scanned the price code again. Still $19.99.
“We were adamant,” Roberta recalls about their insistence — and certainty — that the hose was mismarked.
“I’ll go check if you want me to,” Richard had kindly offered, “but she ran it through anyway at $12.99.”
Two days later, Richard decided to try out his new garden hose. But when he started to unwrap it, he noticed something very important — and disturbing. Instead of a 25-foot hose, he had picked up a 50-foot!
Without a moment’s hesitation, the senior citizen fired up his Dodge diesel 1-ton dual pickup for the trip across town. The high cost of gasoline wouldn’t detract him from doing the right thing.
“I’ve always had a certain principles to live by,” Richard says passionately, “and honesty is one of them. It would have bothered me until I got it done.”
Like Honest Abe, Richard wanted to set things right at Freddy’s customer service.
The difference he owed the store was only $7 and a little tax — something that could have been dismissed since it was in his favor and no one else knew. But to Richard, the amount of money wasn’t what mattered.
“From the time I was young, I wanted to be a good person,” the elderly man reminisces with feeling.
And at the close of this story, it seems Honest Richard has achieved his goal.