Saturday, 18 February 2012

Saturday Story Time - Can't Please 'em All

Sometimes you just can’t win.  At one time in my career, I was an insurance claim specialist.  An insurance adjuster referred a U. of A. psychology professor (who I will refer to as “Dr. B”) regarding some stolen jewellery.  My quote was acceptable and the professor allowed me to replace, among other things, his lapis lazuli ring.  We managed to nail-down a setting that was quite close to his original ring, so all we needed was to have a piece of lapis cut to fit.

I sent the ring to a local lapidary shop to have the stone cut.  The finished product looked great and all parties were happy with the result.  A few weeks later, I received a call from the insurance company because Dr. B had lodged a complaint that I had defrauded him by supplying a dyed piece of lapis.  It wasn’t my intention to shave dollars off of my cost by requesting the lowest cost alternative.  I was quite mortified that my integrity was being called into question in the eyes of Dr. B, and in the eyes of my trusting insurance adjusters.

I called Dr. B, who explained that his friend in the geology department had examined the ring and concluded that the piece of lapis was dyed, and therefore quite worthless.  I apologized and asked for the ring back so that I could replace the stone.  I once again sent the ring to the same lapidary and requested a non-dyed piece of the best lapis lazuli he could get his hands on. 

The stone was replaced and the ring returned (not at all fast enough for Dr. B.)  When his friend in the geology department drew the same conclusion about the second piece of laps this upset Dr. B to no end.  I first complained to the lapidary that he had deceived me, but he assured me that when cut from a larger piece of lapis and polished, there’s no way any of the possible surface deep dyes could have remained.

What would you do at this point?  I know some of you would tell the good Dr. where to go and what to do when he got there. 

Keeping in mind I had already lost money on this ring, I called my contacts in the jewellery business and tracked-down the king of lapis lazuli:  an importer of only the finest lapis in the world.  I asked him for the best piece of un-dyed lapis that money could buy.  The color was deep and rich.  It cost a fraction more, but in reality this stuff is sold by the kilo, and the custom cutting is what cost the most.

As soon as I had the ring back from the cutter, I called Dr. B and offered to personally hand-deliver it to him.  I pulled-up in front of his stately home in Riverbend.  I knocked on the door.  When he answered, I proudly gave him his ring and humbly apologized for the difficulties.  He slammed the door in my face and that was the last I heard of him or the ring.

Thinking about this episode still upsets me some 15 years later.  Sadly, there remains a piece of me that feels defeated that I failed my client in this case.  I can honestly say that I tried to impress Dr. B so much with my product and service that I would gain his business for a lifetime, not just for one little insurance claim. 

I’ve learned that when you’ve lost both the battle and the war, you can still demonstrate unwavering commitment to your own integrity.  But when it comes down to this true story, I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone all the time.  If you can, don’t tell Steve, I don’t want to lose my job to you.

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