Friday 5 July 2013

Call me old-fashioned

Call me old-fashioned but I do think there are certain traditional values, certain old-fashioned norms that are worthy of respect. For instance I believe we should show a little extra respect to senior citizens, guard our children and those of our neighbours and be generally courteous and respectful. Those are the sorts of traditions we should maintain.

Despite respecting some traditions I'm certainly not arguing against change and modernisation. I consider myself liberal and progressive and we all have to adopt, even embrace change no matter how uncomfortable it might make us. Certain attitudes and beliefs from the past should certainly be discarded. We now know enough to understand that racism in all its forms should be rejected. We know that underneath our skin colour, our hair and the shape of our noses we're all fundamentally the same. We also now know that any differences that might exist between men and women are, on average, so small as to be forgettable so there is no real reason to educate our daughters differently to our sons. We also now know, whether we and our spiritual advisors like it or not, that someone's sexual orientation isn't something they choose.

So we move on, we allow our thinking to evolve to keep up with the times.

But there are exceptions. Honesty is one of them. Honesty is as important today as it's ever been. While we all sometimes fail to be as honest as we know we should be, everyone with a conscience knows that honesty is something we should aspire to, both personally and professionally.

To put it simply, lying in business is bad. People who lie in their business dealings are liable to be judged by their colleagues and their customers. Customers in particular are perfectly entitled to make choices about who they buy things from based on the honesty demonstrated by the people they deal with.

To put it even more simply. Don't give your money to people who tell lies and break promises.

A few weeks ago we were approached by a consumer who had engaged a local beauty salon for some “treatments”. Let's call the salon "Mrs and Mr" to protect their identity (albeit not very well, just say it en francais).

As a result of a variety of mishaps, some innocent, some more careless, the consumer ended up only receiving one out of twelve of the planned treatments. Several times she was let down by the salon and things inevitably became a little heated. When she asked just to cancel the whole deal and get a refund the salon said no. Refunds weren't permitted by the franchise she was told.

Oh really? I think not. Refunds are a right when a deal is cancelled, subject to any conditions that have previously been agreed.

Then some letters changed hands and things became even more excited. That's when I suggested that both parties should calm down, come to our office, sit down and I'd try and help them come to an agreement that would satisfy everyone. And, to everyone's credit, that's exactly what happened. Even though both sides were unhappy, we eventually all agreed that a refund would be made, minus the cost of the one treatment that had been delivered. That was on a Wednesday, the refund was going to be made on the Friday. We shook hands on it.

But they lied.

There was no refund on the Friday, nor the Monday, nor the following Friday, nor even the Friday after that. Just a series of excuses and more lies. Texted lies like "Will have refund in cash friday morning" and later "I will give you a cheque in the morning", later still when I asked if a cheque would be delivered that day, I was told "Yes I will".

At one point we even got close, the manager turned up in my office claiming to have a cheque but because I wasn't there he refused to leave it. His latest demands were that he would only deliver the cheque if I was there to receive it.

Given his background of lying and breaking promises I think I'm within my rights to consider him as being untrustworthy, don't you think?

And don't forget this key fact. I'm not even his customer. I'm the one trying to help fix the situation. His customer, who he stills owes P1,800 is without her money and feels totally abused. Rightly so.

[Last minute update. A cheque was finally delivered to my office. Attached was a letter saying “We appologise for any inconvience. Further [Mrs X] will no longer be Welcome at our branch in Broadhurst.” I haven’t corrected their typing. It seems to be as good as their customer service.]

I think this, Ladies and Gentlemen, Bomme le Borre, Mesdames et Messieurs, is a very good example of when you can judge a company by the honesty and truthfulness of the people that own it. Don’t waste your money at places like this salon, take it instead somewhere they’re treat you with some respect and not lie to you. It’s your right.

So maybe in business we should be a little old-fashioned. While we buy our modern toys, our iPads, smartphones and fancy new cars we should stick to what our ancestors would have respected: Honesty, keeping our word and the value of a handshake to conclude a deal. Anyone who fails our ancestor test can be avoided and can hopefully learn the hard way that these old-fashioned values are just as important as they ever were.

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