I rented a tool from a local hardware store recently and by the time I had returned to the job site, I found that one of the volunteers happened to bring their own in. I didn’t need the one I rented, so I immediately returned to the hardware store to cancel the rental. I explained the situation to the guy at the rental counter – the guy I had seen just 16 minutes prior – who informed me: “Sorry, you signed the deal, so you’re responsible for the 4 hour minimum charge.”
I got the manager involved who granted my request for mercy while informing me that she must be in a good mood because she was being nice. She asked her cashier “I never do this, do I?” The cashier responded with a ready nod.
I’ll admit that I was absolutely bound by the contract that I had signed for the tool rental. That’s not in question. I was prepared to pay it, but it clearly didn’t make sense from a customer satisfaction perspective. At 16 minutes, I didn’t have time to do anything with the equipment other than find an outlet on the outside of the hardware store and fill my car’s tires. I can’t imagine that he had any shred of doubt on my story of “I got back to the site, found someone had brought their own, so I immediately drove back here.”
These are some of the values from the hardware chain’s website:
“We must go the extra mile to give our customers exceptional value…”
“Trust, honesty and integrity are the foundations of strong relationships. We demonstrate these principles when we listen and respond to the needs of our customers, associates, communities and vendors.”
“We strive to understand the impact of our decisions. We accept responsibility for our actions. We do not tolerate dishonest or unethical behavior. We do the right thing.”
If those are the some of the core values of the company, why the hassle?
I have no doubt the cashier knew exactly what the right thing to do would be, but, that would have created an anomaly on his register’s report. His boss’ boss’ boss would probably be questioned about the anomaly, and, given the boss’ boss’ boss distance from the situation, there would be no clue why the anomaly existed – just a directive to fix it. The directive would then translate down several levels as a policy change like: “Cashiers have zero authority.” The policy change has several implications: (1) Counter guy now hates his job of explaining the unexplainable as “it’s our policy.” and (2) Customers hate getting jerked around. And through it all, no one speaks up and calls “bullshit.”
How safe is it to speak up in your organization?