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The blueberry pie approach to dealing with problems

I’ve been reading Got What It Takes? by Bill Boggs. In this book, he interviewed dozens of successful people about their secrets of success. But it is a story that he told about himself and his family that has made the greatest impact on me. It was about a piece of blueberry pie.
When Bill Boggs was 12, his family ate at the Lincoln Hotel in Ocean City, New Jersey. His father got up from his chair to find that his new pair of slacks were stained by a piece of blueberry pie that hadn’t been cleaned from the chair. As Bill described it, “People swarmed around him, but Dad, ever the gentleman, didn’t want to make a big deal of it and get someone in trouble, so we left the restaurant quickly.”

But the owners of the restaurant were aware of what happened. The next time Bill’s family came in, “we were greeted with apologies and especially warm hospitality from the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Cope, who had hears what happened and how my dad hadn’t made a fuss. From the day on, they gave us VIP treatment every time we returned. – which always included free pie.”

The kind treatment continued years after the incident. The owners would later give Bill a job while he was in college. And from that job at the hotel, Bill made a number of connections that would start his career in broadcasting.

I wonder how things would have turned out if Bill’s father did what people usually do when there is a problem with a business – yelling at the owners, threatening legal action if they didn’t pay for the slacks and give them a free meal for their trouble, or storming out while shouting to the gathered crowd, “I’ll never come back to this @#$?*%! place again!” What missed opportunities! What embarrassment.

By choosing to deal with the problem calmly and maturely, Bill’s father was compensated for his loss far more than if he attacked it angrily. He maintained his dignity, built goodwill with the owners that made him and his family valued customers, and set an indelible example of good behavior for his son (as well as his son’s future readers).

This is not to say that we should meekly accept bad service or not complain when products don’t meet our expectations. But by treating managers and store owners with respect and courtesy, we are more likely to get the results we need. We might even get a piece of pie.

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