Who’s the Boss?

By Jim Whitt

I like heavy starch in my jeans. Not my everyday jeans but my Sunday-go-to-meeting jeans. The ones I wear for important occasions like funerals and speaking engagements. When I pick up my jeans at the cleaners I have a simple test to determine whether or not they have enough starch in them. I try to stick my hand up a pants leg. If it has enough starch in it, I have to peel it apart. If they pass that test they are starch-worthy.

The place that does my jeans now has two employees at the location I patronize. Charlotte works afternoons. It bothers me to even refer to Charlotte as an employee because she treats the job as if she were the owner. Charlotte is the model for customer service I would use for any business. She goes above and beyond the call of duty. I’ve finally broken her from calling me Mr. Whitt and she now calls me Jim. But that’s just how Charlotte is. She is the ultimate professional. I just enjoy visiting with her. One day when I picked up my jeans I slid my hand easily up the pants leg and found them to be un-starch-worthy. Charlotte apologized and said, “We’ll send them back.”

But something happened between the time I talked with Charlotte and when I went back to pick up my re-starched jeans a couple of mornings later when the other person was on duty. I gave the jeans the starch test and found them to still be un-starch-worthy. After close inspection I realized they had not been redone. I explained that I had spoken with Charlotte about my un-starch-worthy jeans and asked what had happened. Her response shocked me, “My boss says that is heavy starch.” I gave her a quick demonstration of the starch test and explained that was not heavy starch. She stuck to her story, “My boss says it is.” I stared at her disbelievingly and, as tactfully as I could muster, pointed out, “But I’m the customer.” To which she replied, “And we appreciate you very much!” I don’t think so. I asked if she was going to send them back and have them redone. Her answer? “If you pay for it.” I realized any further discussion was futile. I walked out, carrying my disgustingly limp-starched jeans, determined I would only deal with Charlotte from that day on.

Charlotte understands who the boss really is. It’s the customer! If the customer likes heavy starch you’d better give the customer heavy starch. Why? Because the customer will take their business somewhere else where someone will give them heavy starch. Repeat this scenario with enough customers and pretty soon no one has to wonder who the boss is. There won’t be a business. There won’t be a boss. And there won’t be any employees. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

If you are still confused about who the boss is let me give you a visual to help settle the question. Whenever a customer is writing a check to pay for the product or service provided by your business, imagine they are signing your paycheck. Money isn’t deposited magically in the business’s account by the tooth fairy. Those are customers’ checks listed on the deposit slip. Without the customers’ checks there are no paychecks.

I still have those un-starch-worthy jeans hanging in the closet. I’ve never worn them again or taken them back to have redone. I keep them to remind me of who’s the boss.

Copyright ©2010 Jim Whitt Purpose Unlimited

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