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Integrity - do we really have anything else?

I've had to refund some support pre-payments this week. No, not because of complaints - one was a request for support on SCO 6, which I just have no interest in learning, another needed support on Sunday afternoon and while that's not a complete impossibility, I wasn't available at that particular moment. The final one was someone looking for help with no disk space on a SCO 5.0.5 system. I explained to him that I couldn't offer anything more than is covered at my Out of Disk Space article here. So for all of those, I just issued a PayPal refund.

The guy with the disk space issue said "THANK YOU! I respect your integrity."

Well, gee, what else do any of us really have that's more important?

Yeah, I know there are people you can't trust. Heck, I've done business with a few. I like to think that most people are honest and trustworthy - I could be wrong, but that's OK: it's how I like to think. I expect people to be honest with me and I assume that they expect the same from me. So I issue refunds like this the very minute I see that I need to do so.

I'd hate to think that's unusual.

Of course there is a matter of judgment. If I have to point out four or five links to help answer a question, no, I'm not refunding anything. I consider that a reasonable charge for being too lazy to hunt around. In the case of the disk space article, I think it's just too hard to find: it doesn't come up high enough in the on-site search results. If it did come up at the top for a reasonable search effort, yeah, I would have kept the money.

Which leads us to the obvious idea that one party can feel they are being honest in a business transaction that leaves someone else unhappy. I'm pretty sure that's happened to me on both sides of the line. I'm sure the opposite happens often also - that person with the disk space issue may not have expected to get a refund. That's OK, because I'd rather err on the side of caution.

I had another example of integrity this week. A customer is implementing new software and it involves Dymo Label Writers. The guy putting in the software was setting these up as shared printers at work stations. I thought that was a bit inefficient and suggested a print server would be smarter and more useful. The app developer insisted that it wouldn't work. I couldn't imagine why, but he was adamant and said that his tech people had already been down that road.

I wasn't willing to accept that. I suppose it's possible that a particular print server might not work, but Dymo themselves makes a print server specifically for this. If there was any "gotcha", surely they would have worked around it. I convinced the customer that we ought to buy one and try it.

We did, and as I expected, it worked perfectly with the application software. I really would have been surprised if it had not, but I was surprised to get a call from the app vendor later that day. He said he wanted to thank me - apparently he'll be able to use this at other customers also, so knowing this works will help him elsewhere. Obviously he didn't need to thank me, but that's just the kind of person he is.

Next, my customer called wanting four more of these. I found them at my source, but when I said I needed them overnight, there was a problem. Not that they couldn't ship overnight, but that they couldn't ship overnight to Massachusetts. Why? Too complicated to explain, they said. Could they ship overnight to Rhode Island (which is where they'll be installed anyway)? Yes, no problem. Well, except then you get into the credit card companies not liking to approve orders being drop shipped. I could get around that, but it could cause delays - better to just have the customer order them himself - his Rhode Island credit card, his Rhode Island address. No markup for me, but that's OK - better to get the customer what they need.

Having integrity is just about doing what's right. It's really simple, and it shouldn't be unusual.



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