Welcome to Ask an Expert Business Series with Misty Lambrecht, the owner of Webfoot Marketing and Design, sharing valuable insights based on her extensive 15 years of experience in business startups and advising in Lincoln County. Recently, I had a client who had a typo on their website. They were trying to run a promotion for a special day, but instead of offering a 20% discount, the computer program defaulted to $20 off. As a result, the ad correctly stated that it was 20% off, but when customers calculated the final price on the website, it came up as $20 off. In just one day, she received over 100 sales, all of which were calculated with a $20 discount instead of 20% off.
Only one of those hundred customers called her to notify her about the website's calculation error. When she reviewed the sales that had come in, it was very interesting to see that a few
people had genuinely tried to take advantage of the fact that her website was not
calculating correctly. They placed multiple orders to the same address, ensuring they
received a $20 discount on each product. Some placed up to 10 orders for different
products, each with a $20 discount. It's astonishing to me that someone would be so
willing to exploit a small business in this way.
She corrected the mistake and canceled all of the orders that were clearly attempts to
take advantage of her. For the people who ordered a lot of products and received $20
discounts, she assessed her financial situation on those orders and honored some of
them, while others were informed that there had been a mistake, and their order was
canceled but they were given a 25% coupon for a future order. Many of those
customers did reorder, but one of them complained and criticized her for what they
considered terrible customer service. The ad clearly stated 20%, and the $20 off was
obviously a website mistake.
I often think about how, when a business makes a mistake that benefits the customer,
the customers tend to quietly take advantage of it. Products aren't rung up correctly, or
they receive a larger discount than intended. However, when the mistake benefits the
business, customers are quick to demand a correction. Few people seem to realize the impact of these mistakes on small businesses. Perhaps an employee didn't ring up an item correctly in quantity and only paid for one pair of gloves instead of two. Unfortunately, we've reached a stage in our society where people are less trustworthy and honest, feeling comfortable walking away from a mistake when it benefits them.
I once had to give a eulogy for a family member who had passed away, and I went back
to read his journals to learn more about him and the things I might not have known. One
of the things that amazed me was a post about him needing to return $0.10 that he had
been overpaid on a job. I thought it was interesting how concerned he was about returning this $0.10 to his employer. It made me realize that his conscience and his integrity were worth $0.10 to him.
I often reflect on the value of my own honesty and trustworthiness. Am I willing to be
dishonest and walk away when I'm undercharged if it is only a little bit of money, does it
have to be a big amount? Or can I feel good about correcting a mistake when I know a
product wasn't rung up correctly regardless of whose favor the mistake benefited or the
money involved? What price tag do I place on my integrity?