#97: A Question of Character
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Recently, a neighbor had a mild dispute with a landscaper. The neighbor had been complaining about how much time it was taking him to care for his yards. Then, one day, he waved down a landscaper who did business in the neighborhood, told him he was tired of cutting his grass and asked the landscaper to start doing it for him. The man, Joe, of Joe's Professional Landscaping Services, agreed to add the neighbor to his route.
The next week Joe and his crew appeared and in no time had the tall grass under control. He presented his bill to the neighbor who complained that his bushes hadn't been trimmed, that the front yard hadn't been edged and that neither the front nor the rear yard had been weed whacked.
Joe answered that he had been been hired only to cut the grass and repeated the complaint the neighbor had given him, that he was tired of mowing his yards.
Sounds like a classic case out of contract law in law school, and may be.
The neighbor claimed that Joe advertised his company as a professional landscaping business and as a professional Joe should have explained what was and what was not included in his services and the cost for each option. Joe countered by saying he was professional and did exactly what he was emphatically hired to do -- cut the grass.
It was a situation ripe for becoming nasty. But it didn't. Both men began laughing and agreed it was not a big deal, simply a misunderstanding. Joe's crew edged and trimmed the yards and the bushes and carted away the trimmings. In return, he was paid in full for all of his services. Both men agreed on what the client expected and what the landscaper would provide, shook hands and went about their lives.
Joe is now in his third year of handling my neighbor's yard care and has benefited from the neighbor's referral of other homeowners.
What this story reminds me of is how important a person's word used to be and how frequently disputes could easily be resolved when both sides were people of character and peacefully agreed on a solution.
Today, I see and experience many examples of people, even close friends, who fail to demonstrate the old saying that a person's word is their bond. From minor things such as failing to call when promised to not answering a business email in a timely manner. Minor irritations perhaps, but when they cost another person wasted time and effort and make others feel unappreciated, they soon become major problems.
So, to end this long tale, let's ask ourselves what others say about us. Are their observations positive? When they think of us and talk about us and see us, is there any question in their minds that we are people of character?