From the Braver Institute
My good friend Wayne Genghis was telling about how he had to call a customer of his who owed him money for some work he had done. The customer informed him that he had forgotten to send Wayne a check due to the fact that he and his family had been on vacation in the South Seas, or some other exotic location on the globe that was much nicer than being at home, and in the hubbub of getting ready to leave, sending a check had simply slipped his mind. This, quite naturally, didn’t sit too well with Wayne since it is kind of an indirect way of saying that “I have enough money to do extravagant things, but I don’t have enough to pay you.”
Rest assured, I am sure that the next bill will have the “I hate you” fee tacked on it.
This little story reminded me of a handful of things in life that I have learned to never say. Telling someone that you couldn’t pay them because you were busy spending your money on a vacation might be near the top of that list. A simple apology and a promise to pay up right away will go over better.
For a short period of my life I helped deliver pizzas on the weekends for a friend who owned a pizza parlor. When people would call in an order it was standard procedure to tell them that their pie would be delivered in fortyfive minutes.
We never told them that it would be half-an-hour (which was usually the case) because if you tell the customer it will be delivered in thirty minutes and it takes thirty-five, the customer will be mad at you. If you tell them forty-five minutes and it takes only forty, they are happy that you are early.
The same thing was true when I worked in hardware. Frequently I would order small engine parts for customers. The supplier would promise us that we would have the parts in three to five days. I would never tell the customer that. I always said five to seven days. When you give a range of possibilities, people hear only the part of the range that best suits their needs. You say three to five and their selective hearing catches only the word “three.” On top of that other words are added to what they heard. You say “three to five days”, they hear “I personally promise that it will be here in three days at the latest and I will install it for you as well as provide a lifetime warranty and I’ll make you breakfast in bed when I deliver it to you.” You may think I’m joking, but I’m as serious as a heart attack that people twist these words around and the next thing you know you’re doing housework for them.
Back during the days when I worked with Wayne building log homes he had a rule that we were never allowed to say “oops” or any other word that would imply the same thing while on the jobsite when the homeowner was around. It didn’t matter if you said “oops” because you forgot that extra pack of breath mints you had meant to put in your pocket, you simply didn’t say it. People who are in the process of having a new home built develop a keen sense of distorted perception when it comes to anything that sounds like a mistake.
By the time the forgotten breath mints sentence reaches their ears, it has changed to “oops, I dropped my pencil and now the foundation is damaged and we have to take the whole building down and start over.” And if “oops, I dropped my pencil” was the limit of the distortion, the homeowner would fill in the rest by saying something like “that pencil put a mark on the floor and I am sure the damaged extends clear to the foundation. I want you to take the whole building down and start over.”
Never talk about vacations with people you owe money to. Never say the food will be ready in thirty minutes. Never give the true lowend of a time range. Never say oops.
That’s my short list. I’d love to hear more things that should never be said. Shoot me an email with yours.
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