I'm moving into a new place tomorrow, which means I had to call and set up an appointment to have wireless internet installed. This seems like a simple thing for a person take care of, but no, it wasn't, and it actually turned out to be a process that taught me a great deal about never being the kind of organization that cheats people.
Here's what went down.
My dad and I jumped online on Saturday and started searching for the best prices and options for wireless internet. So, like most people, we ended up at a certain company's website that told us we could set up an appointment online, and that if we did, there would be no $29.95 installation charge for doing so.
Awesome, my dad and I thought, let's book an appointment online! So we tried, but the site repeatedly told us that there wasn't service provided in the area I will be living in, and to call the company's help line if we had any questions. So we called the company's helpline.
After waiting about 15 minutes on hold and listening to some awful muzak, I ended up talking to a customer service representative who told me that they can, in fact, set up wireless in the area I will be living in. Awesome, I thought, it must just be a glitch in the company's website, so I went ahead and booked an appointment to have it installed.
Just as I'm wrapping up the conversation, my dad—being the sharp guy he is—tells me to ask if there's an installation fee. So I do. And here's a basic transcription of the conversation that ensued:
Me: Wait... before I go—is there an installation fee?
Customer service representative: Yes, there is.
Me: How much would that be?
Customer service representative: $29.95
Me: Can that be waived?
Customer service representative: No, an installation fee is standard practice.
Me: Okay... but the website said I could have it installed for free if I booked an appointment online. But the site wouldn't let me.
Customer service representative: Because you mentioned that, sir, I'm going to go ahead and wave the installation fee.
Seriously? They would've taken the extra $29.95 if I hadn't pointed out the glaring inconsistency in their company's services?
Technically speaking, they wouldn't be stealing if they did take the extra money. But they would be cheating, and cheating is bad. Because when it's discovered, it erodes trust, and over time, destroys customer loyalty.
The lesson? Don't cheat. Tell the truth. Be generous. Always. Customer loyalty and trust is way more valuable than an extra $30. Yes, cheating may result in short term gain, but it will also produce long term losses that are generally impossible to recover from.
$30 dollars lost can be replaced fairly easily.
Trust and loyalty? They're much more difficult and expensive to rebuild.
This is a bridge. We trust the people who build bridges to build it right the first time and never cheat or cut corners. Because if they do cheat or cut corners, people get hurt.
So the next time you're in a position to cheat, envision you and your company as a bridge. If you choose to cheat, you and others are eventually going to get hurt. So don't cheat when you build the bridge.