From Our Legal Experts…

From Business Week’s SmallBiz magazine, February/March 2007:

The table of contents (print version only) features a small box titled Today’s Tip. This issue reads:

Today’s Tip
“Any sale should include a written statement to protect the interests of your business. In retail sales, even the wording on a sales receipt is important.”

—-from our legal experts.

Ah, where to begin, where to begin…

Let’s start by asking rhetorically, what does the world need more of?

a. businesses willing to take accountability for their actions, be customer-focused and deliver delight or,
b. businesses that let lawyers design sales slips so as to insure against lawsuits by disgruntled customers?

Another: do you think a customer can tell the difference between:

a. a company willing to take risks in pursuit of product and service excellence, and
b. a company focused on reducing risks from its customer base?

And another. Which company do you think employees prefer working for?

a. A company that believes in written statements surrounding every transaction, or
b. A company willing to honor the spirit more than the letter of its word?

Finally, which company do you think will be more successful?

a. One whose primary goal is to protect its own interests, or
b. One who sees its own interests as being fulfilled by serving its customers and employees’ interests?

Now, SmallBiz looks to be a good publication, with good thinking in it—as one would expect, given the BusinessWeek pedigree. And this is a tiny feature. But it’s what comes up in our unguarded moments that can be most revealing. Come on, now, BW—is this really what you want to be putting out?

0 replies
  1. Ann
    Ann says:

    Thank you for posting on this topic.  One of the reasons I left my last employer (consulting firm) to start my own business was that our client contract (required to begin any consulting project) had gone from barely 7 pages to over 14.  When I asked why, I was told it was because so many clients were suing us.  Our response was to better protect ourselves from our client base.  That said a lot to me about firm leadership and "strategy".

    Reply
  2. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    Ann, I couldn’t agree more.  This is mistaking cause and effect, among other things.

    I worked for two firms: one had no do-not-compete agreements, and never had an employee lawsuit in 20 years.  The other had and enforced such agreements, and got sued about twice a year. 

    The paradox of trust works in reverse—if you put out suspicion, you get back in kind.

    Reply
  3. Maureen Rogers
    Maureen Rogers says:

    Charlie – I can’t believe that retail outfits are now being advised to watch what’s written on their sales slips: CVS is not responsible for your sore nose if you use regular Kleenex vs. aloe-treated Puffs? Trader Joe’s will not be held liable if you drink too much 2-buck Chuck? I’m going to start looking at my sales slips and start avoiding the stores that provide too much fine print!

    Reply
  4. Shaula Evans
    Shaula Evans says:

    I just read about a customer shopping at Home Depot who had to sign a credit card receipt saying he had been given the opportunity to read ‘customer agreement #156326‘ in order to complete his purchase — and, of course, the agreement was nowhere in sight.

    I wonder if this is some kind of unfortunate new fad in the business legal world.

    Reply

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