So the other day I went to pick up some shoes that I had given in for repair. I go to a shop nearby that I’ve been frequenting for some time. It’s a nicely-run shop by an older, hard-working gentleman who is very obviously passionate about his job and dedicated to making his customers happy.
Anytime I would come in, he would greet me with a friendly smile and assure me that my shoes were in good hands. And sure enough, they always were well taken care of , looking as good as new, every time.
But this most recent visit was a bit different.
I went in to pick up my shoes and they weren’t ready yet. It was the first time this had happened in all the years I’d been going to him. I didn’t mind at all considering how busy the man was. He just needed to shine them up so it was really just an extra five minutes wait.
But in those five minutes (and being quite the observant person I am), I noticed a slew of shoes on the back racks that had pick-up dates for months ago, some even a year or more old.
Now most people would probably notice that, forget about it, pick up their own shoes and be on their way, but curiosity got the best of me.
So as he was preparing my order, I asked him if all of those shoes were orders that hadn’t been fulfilled yet, and immediately his expression became slightly grim. He nodded and said that yes, these were shoes already done and worked on from a very long time ago that simply never got picked up. He would call and no one would answer, or the number given to him would not be in service. At this point, I must have opened up a small can of worms because he became a bit emotional, and went on to say something to the affect of not understanding why people would bring their items in the first place, if they had no intentions of coming back for them – or paying for the service.
It’s like when you give your clothing in at the dry-cleaners and then leave them there for six months – why? What is the point?
You gave in your shoes for a reason, you clearly want them fixed so that you can continue wearing them, so how does it make sense to just abandon them, essentially? If you truly didn’t care for them all that much, then why not just get rid of them or donate them as is?
The Dark Side to the Honour System
Anyway, in getting to the point, this is where the whole ‘honour’ payment system comes into question. What made the shoe repair man’s story more disappointing was the fact that he only asks you to pay when you come and pick up your shoes. He wants his customers to be satisfied and happy with the work, obviously. So you can imagine, just how much his business may have suffered financially by the sheer fact that so many people simply haven’t bothered to come back – and don’t end up paying for the service in the process.
Overall, I just felt so bad for him. I mean, this man has to be in his late ’70s with a business to run, and you’ve got people just taking his kindness and trust for granted, in a way. Anytime I’ve gone in there, he’s always coming out of the back with those ‘workman’s” hands full of black grime indicating authenticity (kind of like a true mechanic’s hands).
As a business owner, you would like to think that your exuding a level of customer satisfaction by not asking for payment upfront and then you have people that simply take that for granted. I’m sure most of these people are not intentionally trying to undermine his business, of course, but to be honest, if I was the business owner, then I would expect the same level of trust and honesty from my customers and they are putting into my business services. It’s about the relationship.
Before leaving, I asked him to consider changing his business model and maybe start asking for an upfront deposit at the very least, just to protect his business going forward. I’m sure his regular customers would totally understand and not mind. Hopefully that would entice those people that become MIA to actually return in a timely manner.
So yes, just a reminder to ourselves that we know life can easily get in the way. We have good intentions and don’t mean to neglect these errands; but try to put yourself in their shoes (no pun intended, I swear) and think about the effect your prolonged tardiness may have on their business and ultimately their livlihood. These are real people too, with their own families and their own need to put food on the table. Let’s all have that mutual respect for each other.