File Under “What Not To Do, Lesson #1”

I emailed a company with a question about their product.

I didn’t receive a response.

I emailed a second time, in case the first email opted for a Sunday stroll instead of delivery.

Still no response.

I tried to contact them on Facebook.

Their response?

They posted a reply saying someone would be in contact—then my comment and their reply were deleted, and I was blocked from commenting on their Facebook page.

I tried to contact them on Twitter.

No response.

I went back to their Twitter page. They had blocked me.

I have a valid question as well as documentation that led me to be concerned.

I’m not calling them names or trolling or anything of the like. I’m simply trying to obtain answers to questions about one of their products.

Their response? Delete, block, avoid.

If you make a mistake or are in error, or someone questions you or your product, don’t hide.

The greatest relationships are forged in the fire of errors/mistakes/misunderstandings and so on.

I learned this from Bob Danzig, whom I’ve written about before on this blog (see “Thank You Bob Danzig” “Endless Possibilities“).

When Bob was a young salesman at the Albany Times-Union, desperately trying to increase advertising, and decrease ad dollars going to the rival paper, Bob managed to convince the head of a large supermarket that was opening in the area to take out a full page ad in the Sunday edition, for the weekend the store was opening.

On the day the ad was supposed to run, Bob opened his own paper with glee, looking forward to seeing the ad himself.

It wasn’t there.

Bob rushed down to the paper’s office and pulled out the order for the ad, only to find that the ad was scheduled for the next Sunday—and that the handwriting for that order was his own. He’d messed up the date for the opening of a major supermarket and messed up his paper’s opportunity to dominate the ad dollars made available by the supermarket.

Bob could have started looking for a new job that moment, but instead he raced to the home of the head of the supermarket. The gentleman was just returning from church and had not yet seen the paper. Bob told him what had happened and then shared a plan for how his paper would run an advertising campaign, what it would look like, the number of pages, and dates, and so on, at no cost to the supermarket.

Bob kept his job and later became publisher of that paper. However, on that particular day, Bob received a thank you from the head of the supermarket, for acting like a partner and showing that he cared about doing the right thing and taking care of customers.

Bob ran toward instead of away from the problem, and in return saved his career and helped his paper turn a corner. Not too many years later, his paper had taken so many ad dollars from its rival that the rival shut down.

Failing to return e-mails and blocking individuals on Facebook and Twitter isn’t an answer. It’s a delay tactic. At some point we all have to face errors/mistakes/misunderstandings/etc. Better to run toward them than to let them fester. The toxic cleanup that comes with festering isn’t worth it.

Side note: This practice applies to your work with an editor or critic, or anyone else in your industry of choice. Your editor sees a problem with your manuscript and suggests cuts? You can hide and fight all the way or you can face the problems and work with the editor to sort them out. The critic? You don’t have to address them or even listen to them, but . . . The good ones (I’m not talking the Amazon reviewer still living in his parent’s basement), the ones who know the industry, often have insights worth paying attention to, even if they sting. Learn from them.

The faster—and sooner—you run toward the problem, the faster—and sooner—it will be behind you.

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  1. Joe Jansen on October 19, 2018 at 5:56 am

    I can always count on having meat for breakfast on Fridays.

  2. Mary Doyle on October 19, 2018 at 6:01 am

    What Joe said! This post really resonated with me after spending two days trying to navigate the so-called customer service maze of my internet/phone provider. Thanks Callie!

  3. Anonymous on October 19, 2018 at 6:10 am

    I know first hand Callie Oettinger does this herself.

    • Beth Lynn Andersen on October 19, 2018 at 6:11 am

      Does the right thing and runs toward the problem, that is! Good on her that she practices what she preaches. Cheers!

  4. Ben May on October 19, 2018 at 6:10 am

    I think this applies to every problem, not just business. Running toward problems reminds me of that quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “ You must do the thing you fear.” “You must.”
    Try that and see how you grow. I have. It’s scary, spooky and something I’ve done kicking and screaming. But, in the end it works.

  5. Regina Holt on October 19, 2018 at 6:11 am

    “The greatest relationships are forged in the fire of errors/mistakes/misunderstandings and so on.” – That’s in my notebook now! Thanks Callie! How true this is regardless of industry!

  6. Mia Sherwood Landau on October 19, 2018 at 6:12 am

    Running toward a problem means there IS a problem. Of course I don’t know your details, but what you wrote sounds more like normal customer service. I find myself wondering if AI bots are managing their social media accounts. Seriously! Bots trained to seek and destroy…

  7. Evelyn Starr on October 19, 2018 at 6:21 am

    A point dear to me as a marketing consultant Callie! Being accountable for both the accolades and the aggravations is what brands need to do to build relationships with customers and prospects. On an individual level I have found that taking responsibility and facing fears not only brings growth but it also removes the power the mistake and fear might otherwise have over me.

  8. William Edmund Evans on October 19, 2018 at 6:38 am

    I recently asked a well known indie review to review a book of poems I’d written. They had reviewed 3 previous books, and the reviewer had become someone I admired for her clarity, honesty (and kindness), but when I asked if she would review the fourth book, I was told “She’s on another project, but don’t worry, we’ll have an expert review your book” or words to that effect. Well, no, in fact, they didn’t have that expert. The person a) didn’t know poetry, and b) hadn’t given the book much more than a cursory look. It was a worthless review, but when I complained, they would only agree to correct a few outlier mistakes. So, they lost a loyal customer of several years. This wasn’t a case of “I’m right and you’re wrong”. It’s how you handle your clients – politely and not dismissively. If I ever run into this particular editor face to face, we will have that discussion. Good post!

  9. Cheryl Lord Aschbrenner on October 20, 2018 at 2:42 am

    Sounds like a bull running towards, well, running. Way to head on the situation. Have you spent anytime in the Amazon’s. Not a nice place. That being said I love the concept of the way you think and I do agree unless of course you get bit by a tiny black dinosaur which many don’t until they do. I don’t care if you are white or latino and have color like a sister they all sting in some form or another. That bite on the other hand was, well out of the right hand.

  10. Bethany Reid on October 20, 2018 at 4:00 am

    Brilliant. “Teach the conflict” was the classroom version of this. Avoidance only makes things more awkward and weird.

  11. Jerry Ellis on October 20, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Love the spirit and wisdom of your pieces, Callie! Of course, sometimes, in very rare cases, running away from a problem is the near-perfect solution. When I was 17, my very first love proved to be unfaithful. I was so hurt that I ran away from home, hitchhiking 1,000 miles from Alabama to New York, to see my older sister living there, who had been my mentor. She certainly couldn’t change human Nature, that life was ripe with deception, but that first trip to NYC led me to a life of adventure that included becoming an author.

  12. Jeff Korhan on October 20, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Amazing that a business would behave like that these days. There’s always a trail.

    Digital karma gonna getcha!

  13. Daniel Stutzman on October 26, 2018 at 10:34 am

    Loved it, thank you Callie.

  14. Oludascribe on November 3, 2018 at 4:30 am

    Something like this happened recently with a TV show i write on. I wrote the wrong episode by mistake and only noticed seconds after hitting send on the email the morning of the deadline.

    I immediately had to let the Head Writer and Script Editor know about the error(of course they knew) but i had to acknowledge it and apologize, because i was delaying my actual episode.

    I had to write my own assigned episode and get it in on time. But i think they appreciate me owning my mistake , instead of trying to find a way wriggle out of it or blame how the email was written.

  15. Jack N on January 4, 2022 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks for such an interesting article which made me think more about my lifestyle. I have even made research on this matter and discovered this resource which helped me to go deeper into the subject and complete a perfect paper that met all the teacher requirements. I appreciate you giving the inspiration for people who feel lack of motivation.

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