January 14, 2004
both sides beware (Practice your professionalism)
If a small business owner discovers that
a former, current, or potential customer has a history
of dishonoring work contracts and failing to pay for services
rendered, does that business owner have an ethical responsibility
to alert other merchants who may be vulnerable? If so,
how does the business owner do so in a professional, dignified
and ethical way that doesn't reflect poorly on him/her?
of all, all parties involved need to toughen up and accept
that some customers and clients simply cannot be satisfied.
Their negative energy drags down others, in all kinds
of situations. Chances are that slow payers and complainers
will be buddies with similarly motivated gougers and cheats.
Get rid of them. Understand their operating habits and
avoid future associations with them. In contrast, good
clients often attract other high-quality clients. These
are the relationships to nurture and the customers to
dignity and graciousness (and the law) are sometimes able
to discourage dishonest and hateful behaviors. Dishonest
actions – whether from the customer or the supplier
– create climates of mistrust and can slide into
animosity that can be costly, in many ways. Hateful behaviors
are corrosive and can lead to the destruction of relationships
and sometimes even to litigation.
immediate advice is to be prudent. In a phrase, "Do
not get into a spraying contest with a skunk." There
are unpleasant and unsavory characters who operate just
enough within the law that they can inflict harm without
risking any obvious damage to themselves. When these people
develop a pattern of inappropriate behavior, thoughtful
and responsible citizens know them for what they are.
The sooner and the farther you are able to distance yourself
from them, the better.
you determine that scurrilous and slanderous language
is being used by unhappy or dissatisfied customers about
you and your work, consider protecting yourself with the
advice and counsel of your attorney.
long time ago our society accepted a principle in commerce
that the buyer alone is responsible for assessing the
quality of a purchase before buying.
Latin phrase caveat emptor translates, "let the
buyer beware". Given the situation you are describing,
about a terrible customer, there may be a need for another
we need a new phrase that suggests modern society "let
the seller beware." However, until a new law is
passed, make sure you remain aware! Fool me once, shame
on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
the meantime, practice your own profession with dignity
and let the chips fall where they may.
your own behavior. And when asked about you perceptions
of such cruel people, consider the advice my father gave
me a long time ago: "If you cannot say something
good about someone, then say nothing."
the case of these naughty clients you describe, should
anyone ask you about them, practice my father's
wisdom with the introduction that you were once told that
you shouldn't say anything if you had nothing good
listeners will get the message. Further, you will seldom
need to apologize for what you did not say.
the long run, integrity pays great dividends by providing
a foundation for strong relationships and creating a track
record of honesty and graciousness. Remember: Integrity