Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cake incident leaves bad taste

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a representative from a small PC repair business who assisted me when I called frantically looking for help in getting my seemingly dead laptop working. The fellow walked me through a few procedures on the phone, helped me get things up and going, and refused to take any payment for his phone advice.

Many readers took me to task for not mentioning the PC business by name.

"I applaud you for even mentioning the customer service things that we small businesses do to keep customers loyal," writes Ken Elie, president of Outdoor Pro Shop Inc., in Cotati, Calif. "You would have been my hero if you had mentioned the man and his business."

Jim Armstrong of Potter Valley, Calif., notes that while the PC repair guy might revel in his newfound business relationship, "I'll betcha he would rather you had made finding him possible for others in your situation."

And Paul Klonsky of Rohnert Park, Calif., writes that the way he rewards a company "that acts ethically like they did with your situation," is to write a review of it using social media, whether it's a tweet, a post on Facebook, or a review on Yelp or Google Places. "More and more, I check these social media sites to verify if a business is worth its salt," he writes. "Yours certainly was!"

They make excellent points. The right thing would have been to mention Cape Coastal Computers of Falmouth, Mass., by name when I wrote about them. Good works deserve notice.

More often than not, however, customers don't take the time to report good news online. When something bad happens, that's a whole other story.

After a recent incident with a bakery just outside of Minneapolis, a customer took to the Web with a vengeance. She detailed how she had ordered a $300 cake for her daughter's wedding. Initially, she was told there would be a $20 delivery fee. But when she went to the bakery to make the final payment, she was informed that all deliveries cost $40.

The customer insisted she had been promised the lower rate and wanted it honored. The clerk insisted policy was policy. The customer was told she could pick up the cake for free or pay the extra $20. Those were the only options, she was told. Ultimately, the owner of the bakery apologized that whoever quoted them the $20 fee was incorrect. The discussion continued and grew increasingly heated. Ultimately, the customer canceled her cake order.

"She lost a $300 sale over $20," the customer says, "and lost a lot of potential great referrals."

The right thing would have been for the bakery to honor the original delivery price. A commitment is a commitment. Honoring the price would have indicated that the bakery stood by its word and it would have built good faith.

So will I name the bakery? No. Good deeds deserve a good mention, as my readers have wisely pointed out. No good deeds were engaged in by the bakery in this particular case which may or may not be an aberration. Be advised, however, to check your local online review sites if you are in the market for a wedding cake.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business, is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to

(c) 2011 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.


Anonymous said...

There's one thing missing here. The customer clearly showed her true colors by "insisting" that an employee of the company break the company's standing delivery charge of $40. The missing thing here is that it is possible that the customer had exhibited a bullying tactic to the employee, and for all we know, the tactics used by the customer may not have truthfully been brought to the attention of the owner. Pretty clearly, the customer, once the employee had refused to honor what she claimed was a $20 charge promise and been told it was twice that, should have immediately asked the employee to let her speak to the boss. We've all dealt with people who "demand" things in a deal that had the customer been reasonable, the boss might have honored the supposed $20charge, or at worst, perhaps offered to deliver it at $30. When customers think they are right, they can sometimes be overbearing, even nasty in their dealings with the company.

Charlie Seng
Lancaster, SC

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to offer something that you might wish to consider as it seems to apply to any number of situations:

Think about love. Think about the kindness of love, the comfort of love, the acceptance and warmth of love, the simplicity and generosity and forgiveness of love. Think about the gentleness of love, the patience of love, the compassion of love. Think about the refuge and relief of love. Think about love.

That, I believe, is God. Love itself, perfect, eternal and infinite, flowing among all of us, shared as our birthright, our love uniting us and living on within God. There is nothing to fear. It's love itself that is the God we seek, here within all of us and living on forever. Love has always been here.

The rest, I believe, is nature. Our bodies and our minds, the self we identify as soul, heredity and upbringing, all part of nature. There is no evil, only nature, a broad scape from marvels of beauty to tragic aberrations, all nature, all fleeting. All of nature shares the same preoccupations at its own level...we seek food, continuation of our species, pleasure, safety, status and territory. Those are the things of nature and the joys they give us are the gifts of nature.

But our greatest days are made of love, in hours of unbearable loss, it's love that comforts us. We thrive on it, we long for it. With love, we do what we would have thought impossible, through love we make the miracles that others are praying for. It's through our own love that God comes into the world.

Our prayers have already been answered. We have been given love, it is already here for us. Hunger and sickness, sadness and loneliness, fear and cruelty...what we can't overcome with love, we can comfort with love so that none suffer alone and abandoned.

This, I believe, is our purpose. To free our love from the fearful cautions of nature, to let love dissolve the divisions that separate us, to look for love in every other being and find God. With love, we live as in heaven.

Think about love often, nurture love within yourself, give over some time of your days to meditate on love, to pray that we will have more love. Think about love and pray that one day we will all have the love we need for all the world.

This is not a religion and there is no need for money, preachers, books, or buildings. The truth is in love itself and the only outward sign of love is love. This is for you, offered in hope that it will help. The person who wrote this is an ordinary person of unexceptional virtue who will say nothing further.

Chris Hayes said...

A belated thanks for your story about the computer being miraculously fixed with the advice from a techie. I've had a "broken" laptop sitting on my shelf for about eight months. I thought the power supply was malfunctioning as the computer was completely dead. I brought it in to Best Buy & another shop for advice. After trying a couple things, both suggested to leave the computer & the costs to fix it might be significant. After your story, I tried your fix, & the computer booted right up & has been working fine ever since.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeff for the Kind words.
Believe it or not, A customer came in today with that story. One of the things we try to do at my shop,
"DON'T OVERLOOK THE SIMPLE THINGS FIRST" These box store have no clue on how to fix computers. and finding a good tech is hard. Thank You Again.

Chris Alves
Owner/Senior Tech
Cape Coastal Computers
Falmouth, Cape Cod, MA

Matt Geary
Senior Tech

Amy Trotto
Office Manager

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