When Is Enough Enough?

There are times when I really wonder what I should do. Like the time that a window was broken by a friend who installed it as a favor to a customer. Do I have a responsibility because I knew them? Where does my involvement start and end? I mean, I want to be a good guy, but I'm also in business to make a profit, not to lose money.

To resolve the issue in my own mind, I think about the way that Randy Meitler, a metal artist responds when things go wrong (www.meitlermetalworks.com). Randy bends over backwards to satisfy the client. He often goes and does work for a client when he had little or nothing to do with a problem. I have seen him lose money time after time, fixing problems that others caused. When he installed a gate according to the instructions that the firm who hired him keep him, it did not work right. Those guys did not engineer the project properly. Really, Randy was not at fault, but he came out and re-hung different hinges which had less friction in them and the gate worked fine. By rights, he should have been able to charge for the extra work, since it was the other guys fault, but he did not. When I asked him about it, he explained that he would rather feel good about the job than to haggle over right and wrong and have the client have bad feelings.

He believes that what goes around, comes back in some form. If you give good service, you'll get repeat business. If you give poor service, people will know.

There was a mechanic in the town where we lived in Missouri. He was an excellent mechanic, but he always had to cut himself a little better deal. When you took your car in for a tune-up or inspection, he always recommended that you get a new starter because that old one was going bad. If you happened to need a new starter, he was sure to find that your battery was bad as well. He padded every job with as much as he could and as a result, over the years, individuals quit coming to him. He was still an excellent mechanic, but he had milked so many jobs that his reputation kept up with him and he lost more business that he gained.

So what am I going to do when asked to make good on a deal that has already cost me dearly? I'm going to remember what my son told me in a recent conversation. "It's not that the customer is always right, they're wrong as often as not, but we treat them with the same respect and care as IF THEY WERE RIGHT."


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