Picture this: An adorable seaside village. The Bike Stop, a bike rental
shop that rents super cool, old school-style bicycles. A beautiful summer day.
A ferry. An island. Got it? So there we were with our super cool, old
school-style bikes taking the ferry from Greenport, N.Y., to Shelter Island.
Ride the bikes off the ferry and start up the hill and BAM! — the bike
chain comes off the bike. Major bummer.
Tom gets the chain back on, but it is making a weird noise and
we’re kind of iffy about riding around the island all day; it may be an
island, but it’s a pretty big island, courting a potential disaster. Well,
what do we happen upon? The only bike rental place on the island is the place
we had every intention of renting from when we got to the island until we
stumbled across the super cool, old school-style bikes over at the place in
Greenport. There is the bike rental guy just hanging out in his shop, not a
customer in sight (did I mention the clouds were rolling in?). Of course, we go
in and ask if we can borrow a wrench or if he can take a look at it.
He laughs so loudly that I, on the “good” bike, almost fall
off. And then he says, “No,” to the wrench and says, “No, I will
not,” to taking a look.
‘Buying’ positive word of mouth
At this point, you may be thinking, “Of course he said no.
It’s not his bike. You’re a dummy for not renting there in the first
place. You might sue him if he fixes it and you fall or get hurt. Blah, blah,
blah.” You would be absolutely correct, and I understand all that.
But he is in business — in business to make money, right? He’s
in a tourism-based business. One that is seasonal. One that is existing. In the
days of amplified word of mouth, the Internet can make you or break you —
just ask Justin Bieber or Anthony Weiner. And let’s face it —
he’s not renting do-it-yourself brain surgery kits. He’s renting
That day, the weather wasn’t that great and he wasn’t renting
any bikes at all. What would it have “cost” him to help us out?
Nothing, really. What would he have “bought”? A ton of goodwill and
probably a whole lot of positive — key word being positive — word of
mouth. Instead, he “bought” a whole lot of negative word of mouth and
a couple of sworn noncustomers for life.
Why not just be helpful?
Let’s bring it back around to orthotics and prosthetics. When I was
in patient care, pre-Internet, people used to call the office looking for
information that I would have been perfectly justified not giving them. A
competitor’s phone number or address would be a perfect example.
I could very well have said, “No,” or laughed loudly like the
bike guy, but why? Why not just be helpful? If they did call my competitor and
the person who answered the phone was rude, short or unhelpful — hey, it
happens — they might just come back. At the very least, they wouldn’t
have any reason to bad mouth us all over town.
Pay it forward. It works. Sure beats the alternative.