Why You Shouldn't Major in Minor Things

If you’ve been reading my updates or newsletters for any length of time, you know the only thing I love more than a really good customer service story is a really bad one.

You can learn SO MUCH from the bad ones!

Here’s one that happened to me just a few weeks ago. I had to share:

I flew out to Arizona for a few days of R&R over New Year’s.

I stayed in a luxury hotel. The service was excellent. The staff was so nice! And the place was
REALLY expensive. $5.50 for toast expensive.

Honestly, I didn’t mind, because I was away and the hotel/resort was restful and nice!

I tipped generously. I always do.

After checking out, I was in a cab on the way to the airport.

I realized I had forgotten my flight information. I had left it in a little canvas folder back in the room.

I called the hotel from the cab.

“Hi, this is David Weiman … I’m sorry, but I think I left my flight information in a little black folder back in the room. I’m too far from the hotel to turn around – could you please have someone check the room to see if the portfolio is there?”

They happily complied, and called me back with the flight information I needed to re-confirm at the airport.

I asked them if they would mind mailing back the little portfolio. They said not at all.

What a friendly staff!

While I was checking in at the airport, the front desk clerk called me.

“I’m really sorry, Dr. Weiman, but how do you want to pay for us returning the portfolio to you?”

I thought maybe I heard her incorrectly. I spent a small fortune there, and they want to know how to charge me for sending back something that would cost a dollar to return it?

I was dumbstruck.

“Well,” I said, while retrieving my boarding pass from the kiosk and juggling my bags, “I left a package there to go out UPS, so why don’t you just send it UPS and bill it to my UPS account?”

She cheerfully agreed.

Five minutes later, as I was going through the security line, my phone rang again.

Guess who?

“Dr. Weiman, this is the front desk again, I’m so sorry. Your UPS package already went out. Do you have a credit card we could use to charge the postage to?”

I stopped.

I breathed in.

I breathed out.

I was in a state of disbelief. This couldn’t be real.

I took out my wallet and read her my credit card number.

She said they would send it out right away.

I went to the gate for my flight.

As I was boarding, my phone rang again.

I’m not making this up. I wish I were.

“Dr. Weiman, I’m SO, SO SORRY! But I forgot to get your zip code, and I’m at the UPS website now and I need to enter your zip code for the credit card number.”

I told her my zip code as I was walking down the jetway to my flight.

I will never return to that hotel again.



To be fair, it was my fault for leaving the portfolio in the room, and I didn’t mind paying to get it back.

What I minded was how they kept calling me over and over again to secure the payment, instead of just sending the item back as a courtesy.

To call me over and over again to try to get a few dollars out of me to send this item back left an amazingly bitter taste in my mouth.

Consider the opposite – what if they had cheerfully just sent it back?
I’d plan my next trip there, because I would have seen this small act of theirs as a nice and thoughtful gesture.

I would have told many people the story of how nice the staff was, and how kind it was of them to send back the forgotten item.

Instead they lost me for life.

Someone in the front office needs a math lesson – charging me a few dollars now cost them thousands of dollars.

An expensive lesson for them in customer service.

And a free one for you!

As Stephen Covey says, “Don’t major in minor things.”

In my situation above, the hotel spent more time in labor costs trying to get a small payment from me, a good client, than if they had just mailed it back.

It’s not that I objected to being charged. I didn’t. What I objected to was the way in which they kept pursuing it. It felt like they were majoring in a minor thing.

Whenever you have the chance to do a small thing for a customer or prospect that makes them feel good, do it.

It creates good will.

It shows them that you value the relationship.

It increases their comfort with you, and ensures that they will be more generous the next time, because you were generous this time.