She came in flustered. She exclaimed that she needed a loan and that our competitor, whom she had been going to for ten years, no longer carried that product. She continued to explain that after an hour and half interview with the other tax company, it was revealed they would not be able to offer a Refund Anticipation Loan. She revealed her son had cancer and with all the medical bills they had, they were going to lose their house if they did not receive some money by Friday. She continued to explain that her son and husband were in the car waiting, and her husband was very aggravated. I explained to her we could help them, while I could not guarantee they would qualify for the loan but we would do all we could to help their family.
My dear sweet mother, who is my office manager, has spent her entire life as a volunteer working with terminally ill children. I had spent the previous 12 years as a fundraiser for non profits prior to being a Liberty Franchisee. Mom immediately began gathering up give-aways around the office to give to the child. She filled a bag with t shirts, crayons, flashlights and candy. The couple came in and it was obvious the husband was upset. My mother and I sat and played with their son while the couple started their return. Her husband asked several times if we could be certain they would get their money fast, and unfortunately we could not. They had to qualify for the loan and that is a process we have no control over. As they worked on their return, I leaned over the desk and said in a soft voice, so not to embarrass them, "we realize you've had a tough year and it would be my pleasure to prepare your taxes for free this year." They looked at me with blank expressions and nodded. I was a little taken aback because I did expect a thank you, but I know stress can cause you to be unresponsive at times.
The couple finished their return and left anxiously clutching their give aways, paperwork and child. We practically followed them to their car thanking them for coming in and promising to call as soon as we heard about their loan. Thanks to John Hewitt's reputation and relationship with the IRS, that year, not only did we have a loan product but also we were testing a program with the IRS called MEF that enabled returns to be acknowledged faster. This also meant loans could be issued faster. We of course did not tell the family that as we didn't want to get their hopes up.
An hour later, my mother bursts into tears at the processing computer. I ran to see what was wrong and she yelled, "WE HAVE THE CHECK ALREADY FOR THAT SWEET FAMILY!" We immediately picked up the phone and through our tears told them to come get their check! They were not losing their house!
She came running in almost as frazzled as the first time. She asked if we were certain it was theirs. We held out the check and she clutched it and started to cry. She thanked us profusely. She also apologized. She said the reason they had not reacted when I first offered to do their return that they were worried that I was trying to trick them. She said it had been so long since anyone had shown any compassion to their situation, that it must be a lie to get them to leave our competitor, who told them no one had a loan anymore. She hugged us and we all cried. Even her stoic husband shed tears as he gave us a heartfelt gratitude. We prayed with her for her child and family and she left. I don't believe there was not a dry eye in the office when she left.
The hard part about only seeing your clients once or twice a year is that you miss them when its not tax time. This is especially the case with this family. My mom always tells our clients when they leave our office, "You are our family now. We have a family reunion once a year at this time, and I hope you will join us again next year!" This could not be more true with this family. There are always hugs and stories when they come in. Jerrod calls my mom "Memaw" and he brings her pictures from school as he is growing up and is now a very healthy young boy. For the past four years, they have been one of our best customers, referring everyone they know, telling them we saved their house, but more importantly that we cared about them when no one else did.
At this past season's reunion we were saddened to hear that the mother was having some health issues that had put more burden on their family. When we explained that we would like to do their return for free because they were receiving less of a refund then they originally thought, she explained she would like to still pay us to receive the $50 cash gift we offer customers. I whispered to my preparer to go ahead and do the return for free and still give them the $50 cash. She cried once again and smiled at her husband and exclaimed, "now we can get groceries." My employee asked me why I went ahead and gave them the $50 when they weren't able to pay. I explained that we were family and that it was the right thing to do and the way of Liberty. I can't put a number on what their friendship means to me and that it is an honor to have them as clients and to serve them.