Overselling Capabilities = Bad Business

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A Birthday and a VHS Tape

In 1988, in celebration of my daughter’s first birthday, we had a party at our house. Grandparents were in attendance along with several aunts & uncles and some dear family friends. We all gathered in my small 900 square foot house; I felt so lucky to live by family that could share in this special event. My first pregnancy had been perfect and my firstborn had just finished a perfect fist year. This celebration was real, for I felt so fortunate.

Jerry, one of the friend’s invited, had a video camera and he offered to film the event so that we might share it with a Grandpa and Grandma who lived far away. I was delighted by his sweet offer for video cameras were few and far between in those days. No such thing as a $100 Flip camera back then; Jerry’s camera had cost several thousand dollars. At twenty-four years old, I was still very naive about the world, but so very caught up in my wonderful little home life and precious little family.

A week or so later, Jerry showed up at my door, video camera in hand. He was filming as I answered the door, my little girl popped her head around from behind my leg and kept a shy distance. He was bringing me the tape from the party with this little extra added on at the end. As he finished up with a final edit and handed over a tape that would be watched over and over again for many years, I searched through the yellow pages to find a local business that could make a second copy of this precious tape – one we could keep and another we could send from our Indiana home to a California Grandpa. A camera shop close by advertised VHS copying capabilities and I stopped in with my tape that very day.

Bad Business

The shop owner assured me they could copy the tape in no time and that they would call when it was ready. I left my so-very valuable tape there and went on with my daily activities. At the end of week one, I called to inquire about the tapes, only to get an answering service. In the middle of week two, I called again, speaking with an employee who said he didn’t know anything about it. At the end of that week, I called once more, finally reaching the owner who claimed that it had been a difficult job and that it was not ready yet. The VHS tape was only 56 minutes long.

In the middle of week three, I showed up at the shop – the owner failed to remember me. I reminded him of my so-very valuable tape and he asked me to return at the end of the week, which I did. My anger and frustration at this point was very real. When I arrived at the end of the week, I was prepared to firmly share my disappointment after I received my two tapes. As he handed over the invoice and I recognized the charge to be three times what he had originally quoted, I was shocked. I declared my dismay at the time taking three times as long, and now the charge was three times as much. He just looked at me blankly and said, “This equipment is expensive, do you want the tapes or not?”

Of course, I paid, for the ransom had been set. As I left the store, I was so angry that I stated, loudly, that I would make sure that all of my friends and family would know about this – they would know that customer service and value were not offered at his camera shop. He just told me to please leave and never come back. “Gladly,” I fumed. Within a year, this shop had closed; it had been a family run business for many, many years. But video was new and in an effort to keep up with what the demands of customers were, this small camera shop had over sold their capabilities and under served their customers. They had taken the low road…

The High Road Must Be That Long and Winding Road

Overselling capabilities is a familiar lie to many of us.  Truth in advertising seems to be a myth these days.  We meet it daily in our work and often in our home lives.  I value what I offer – whether it is a pot roast for my family or a press release for my boss.  If we do not place real value in our offering, it must be very easy to oversell it.  The understanding of “true value” is lost.
And that is too bad, because the high road has a much better view and people always come back for more.


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