Sunday, January 14, 2024

Should she give business another chance?

Should you do business again with a business that disappointed you?

A reader we’re calling Sylvia ordered a gift from a company online for her partner, who we’re calling Ian. According to Sylvia, she placed the order in plenty of time for it to arrive for a holiday gift based on the estimated arrival date given her by the company’s website.

As the holiday grew nearer and no package arrived, Sylvia grew concerned so she contacted the company. The response from the company was that the package had been delivered and that she should check with her local post office. Sylvia dutifully did as instructed and consulted both her postal carrier and her local post office, each of whom told her there was no record of a package having been delivered to her residence.

Sylvia again emailed the company – repeatedly after it did not respond to her initial follow-up email. She still has heard nothing from the company.

The bad news is that Ian never got the gift. The good news is that Sylvia’s credit card company investigated the report of unreceived goods and credited her account so Sylvia did not end up paying for something she didn’t receive.

“I should have done this before ordering, but I went online and Googled the company and found that others had similar issues with it,” wrote Sylvia, who originally found the item from an advertisement that popped up when she was searching for possible gifts. Others reported ordering and paying for items that never arrived and subsequent customer service silence. Had she known the company had a bit of a spotty reputation, Sylvia believes she would have moved on and ordered something else from somewhere else.

But a few days ago, Sylvia received an email from the same company offering her a coupon for a significant percentage off the price of any item plus free shipping.

“The thing is, I like a lot of the items the company offers,” Sylvia wrote, indicating she remains burned by her last experience. Still, she asks: “Would it be wrong to give the company another try?”

What? Huh? There is absolutely no reason for Sylvia to feel obligated to forgive the past behavior of the company. It would be more foolish than wrong to engage again with a company that didn’t deliver the goods ordered, didn’t offer a credit until the credit card company got involved and did nothing to make good on Sylvia’s initial purchase.

Had the company stepped up and tried to help Sylvia when her initial order didn’t arrive, it might be more tempting to give the company another try. But the company did nothing, zilch, nada, leaving Sylvia high and dry and searching for a last-minute gift replacement for her beloved Ian.

The right thing is for Sylvia to trust her experience and that reported by others and to find another source of gifts for Ian and others. To paraphrase Maya Angelou: If a company shows you who it is, believe it the first time.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy, emeritus, at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues.

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

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin


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