The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers

Whether you work on the import or the domestic side of our business, it all comes down to your integrity. The truth, it turns out, is always the best choice.

My “space” in this publication is designated for dealing with the issues of selling import replacement parts and related topics. Could some of those issues not be about the parts and services themselves, but rather reflect some characteristics of human nature that affect all of us working in the aftermarket? Of course.

This evening, I am on a flight from Las Vegas to San Jose, CA. I am attending a product show, but I am also using the opportunity to visit my sister and her family in Pleasanton, CA. If you have never flown Southwest Airlines before, you know it’s a terrific experience in efficiency. Every detail of every flight is planned to the last minute and most of the time, everything goes smoothly.

Southwest does not assign seats to any passengers. Instead, they issue boarding passes for three separate boarding groups — A, B and C — and they are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. The very first person to check in gets the first of 30 “A” boarding passes and so on, until all of the boarding passes have been distributed and the plane is full. Arriving early assures passengers that they will get their pick of seats, depending on whether they are the first “A” or the last “C.” The system, referred to by people who don’t like it, as “herding cattle,” works really well. That is, until someone cheats.

This afternoon, the “A” line filled up quickly, but there were only a few folks in the “B” line. Someone (for the purpose of this story we’ll call him “Cheat”) walked up and took his place about fifth, or sixth in the “B” line. When “Cheat” thought no one was looking, he quietly slid into the fourth spot in the “A” line, assuring him a seat before the other 25 folks who had lined up in the “A” line well before he had arrived.

No one called him on what he did and from the precision with which he executed the move, you knew he had done it many times before. “Cheat” cheated, plain and simple. Was it a huge deal? Probably not, but the gentleman behind me turned to me and said, “I’ll bet he cheats at business too.”

“I’ll bet he does,” I responded. This really got me thinking about character and its place in business.
Whether you work on the import side of our business, or the domestic side, it all comes down to your character — your integrity in everything you do. Someone once told me that the definition of character is “what you do when you believe no one else is watching you.” That makes a lot of sense to me and it’s too bad “Cheat” didn’t understand it. How important could it have been to him to forfeit 20 seat choices in favor of his personal integrity?

Every day, each one of us has the opportunity to make similar choices. Telling your employer that you are not coming in because you are sick, when you really aren’t, is the same thing. More specifically in our industry, telling a customer that his part isn’t in because it was shorted by a vendor, when in fact, you forgot to order it, is just as irresponsible. People generally accept the truth, and usually the consequences of telling the truth are less devastating then lying. Really!

Like “Cheat,” who snuck his way into the “A” line for my flight today, everything you do is a picture of who you really are. If you are sneaking around and doing things that you would rather not explain to your mother, just stop it. Your character and your personal integrity are worth everything and you should never compromise them, because you never know when someone is looking.

That day, several people witnessed an individual sacrificing his character and integrity for the sake of a few rows of airplane seats. I don’t know about you, but if even one parts store customer, most times a total stranger, saw me cheating anyone out of anything, well, I don’t think I would be given the opportunities I have experienced in my career.

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