Archive for the 'good will' Category


January 31, 2016

I’ve been to a number of antique stores over the years, and I am aware that in some, the policy is “You break it, you bought it.”  Some high-end dealers don’t use that policy, some low-end dealers don’t — I haven’t noticed a pattern with regard to the financial part of the issue about who insists on compensation and who doesn’t.  (And no antique dealer I have ever known supported themselves from selling antiques, there has always been another source of income for every one.)

So what goes into the decision of how to handle breakage?  I don’t know.  Personality of the dealer?  As I said, I don’t know.

But I think the fact that there are different approaches to this issue in the context of something so tangible and concrete is interesting:  who bears the burden of the cost of damage?

Well, first issue is agreeing there is damage.  That’s why I started with the title “Convincing”: some people will try to convince you the antique was always cracked, that they did nothing to cause it or even contribute to its creation.  I suspect they convince themselves, but the usual Achilles heel of their argument is that their perspective is the only point of view.  In some cases, it is an assumption that everybody agrees that the norm is whatever it is they are claiming, say, that it’s okay to pull what you see as weeds out of stranger’s garden.  Never seems to occur to them that a gardener might prefer to have their space invaded by weeds rather than by other people, or that they might actually want that plant in there where it is.  This is why looking for internal guidance that does not come from the ego is so helpful — the content of such guidance provides neutral space for our behaviors to intersect with each other with less friction and damage.  With a cracked antique, this assumption might be expressed by saying it’s a cost of doing business that “stuff happens.”

Once there is damage — uprooted plant, cracked antique, bills unpaid when the income check bounced — who absorbs it?  I am wondering about how people decide this as a social matter, not as a matter of law.

I think it was in Maureen Dowd’s column this weekend about Donald Trump that suggested to me that rich and powerful people may feel they can get away with never having to absorb the damage at their end:  “’I’m really rich and successful,’ he replied. ‘I don’t have to make up with everyone.’”

On the other hand, some rich and successful people will want to buy that cracked antique, not just as a gesture to the dealer or in acknowledgement that the value of the item has been diminished by the damage, but because they will feel better about themselves in the long run, they feel the mishap brought the item to their attention and are curious to see how it might enhance their life, they feel that’s what is called for, perhaps through their internal guidance,etc.

An antiques dealer may just write the expense off like the expense of having paid too much for a piece that won’t sell in their area.  A browser may apologize profusely and buy a lesser item they can afford if they can’t afford what they damaged.  A dealer may not care about the money at all or may eventually close their business.

What I think is actually most important in determining the bearing of the cost of damage is the process of working it out to a mutually acceptable arrangement.  I suspect there are no “one size fits all” remedies.  But I think the problem is made worse by a unilateral attempt to leave the other person with the onus of absorbing the costs.  And I can see in this context too the lesson of the blind men needing to pool their respective experiences of the different parts of the elephant — the lesson may be about communication, not about the underlying damage.



Taking something back, or sharing?

March 19, 2014

There’s this spiritual story about an adolescent who really feels strongly that a grown man has stolen from her her jewels.  He feels equally convinced she has robbed him of something equally valuable, namely, something required to maintain his stature and status in the community.

So how to restore equilibrium?

There’s an attempt, which doesn’t succeed, in which he returns something and she returns something, but they both accuse the other of returning a false approximation of what was stolen.

There are attempts at partial returns, there are empty promises, there are claims nothing was stolen — lots of adversarial attempts to restore without actually completely participating.

In the meantime, they are each using some “ill-gotten gain” from the other to try to maintain themselves.  They each end up in situations in which they are ill-equipped in some way, and this does not serve the greater good, either.

A lot of the trouble reconciling was probably a trust issue — “If I give to you, will you really give to me or will it just be throwing good money after bad, as they say?”

So here’s how it got resolved:  they both were agreeable with sharing with a disinterested third party, and through something like the mathematical transitive principle or something like a concept of mixing cooking ingredients, eventually they both ended up with a portion of what they felt they were missing.  What they shared with the intermediary included the “stolen good,” and through sharing with the intermediary, they had access again to what they considered the good stolen by the other.

Footnote:  disinterested third party did not have an easy time of it, as they were often treated as if they were actually the other person in the dispute.

(Not) helping

March 11, 2013

I had a situation recently in which somebody admittedly made a mistake in a transaction.  They took some steps to rectify the mistake, but I could see that they actually easily could have done more, so that the rectification would occur sooner.

They didn’t.  They won’t.  They do what they do, which apparently includes a process for rectification that is skewed towards their interests.

What struck me, because I’ve encountered this before in much more loaded situations, is my incredulity that a person would not do what they could but would just shrug and say, in effect, “What I feel like doing, without regard for meeting the actual need or legitimate expectation I created, should be enough.  I am okay with letting the other person be not okay, even though I could help.  I can just look on and not help.  Not my problem.”  Because in some cases, the issue is not so much the timing of the rectification, but whether it is adequate to actually rectify the problem.

How do people do that?  I get when there really is nothing, or nothing more, the person could do, I don’t get it when there is something and they choose not to do it.  (I’m talking about when this happens within a preexisting relationship of some sort, not when a potential Samaritan happens by.)  I also get that that’s their prerogative, but I do then see their previous behavior differently after that happens.  I see, for example, a person who is available when they benefit, but not when the roles are reversed.  Maybe they are confused that for me, reciprocity involves meeting actual needs reciprocally, not a tit-for-tat same-kind exchange, that for me a relationship produces a pool of goodwill, not shelves of particular favors to be returned.  If a baby I’m caring for needs a diaper change, that’s what I do, I don’t just smile back at them or feed them a bottle.

Anyway, with the recent, fairly innocuous situation that arose for me, I could finally see my own incredulity that someone would just choose not to do what they could.  I guess it’s my version of not being able to take “no” for an answer in certain situations.  The kicker is when the person then has a negative reaction to my having a negative reaction to their “no.”

Morale, and morals, in the workplace

August 9, 2011

Two recent stories I was told that seem to me to point to part of what’s wrong with our economic and social fabric:

One was from a woman who manages and clerks in what I guess I could characterize as a high-end home furnishings store, the other from the father of a young adult working in an inexpensive restaurant.

In the first story, the current employee is being required to train her replacement who will be paid 50% more than she has been paid, in the second, the son helped a friend find a job in the same establishment, the friend is being paid 75 cents an hour less, and the son got released from his employment.

The theme in both tellings was how demoralizing for the original employees such treatment has been.

I admit these are only two anecdotes, but they make me wonder about factors that contribute to the weakness of our job market and economy — it seems to me penny wise but pound foolish to treat employees in this way.  A demoralized workforce is not good for even employers who think their short-term advantage lies in such treatment of current employees.  Business owners talk about the need to have good will with respect to their customers in order to sustain their commerce — it seems to me that good will with respect to employees is also necessary to sustaining a business  — bleeding (labor) resources dry (of morale) will leave one eventually without resources, period.