It’s Free Because I Say It’s Free
Here’s a diner story for you, because…well, it was time to eat. It was quiet when I got there, just one other guy at the counter, but word got out that “Rabushka’s in the house” and suddenly everyone wanted a piece of the action. Behind me sits a couple, one of whom suggested to the server that she should be allowed to swap out her fries for a chef salad at no extra charge.
Server says, basically, no. “We can leave off the fries but we have to charge you for the salad.”
Outrage! Oh no you didn’t! “I’m not getting the fries, but you’re still telling me I have to pay for the salad?” Such are the things that go viral, with everyone on the internet having an irksome and unwelcome opinion. Finally, her dining partner offered to scarf down the fries if only she’d quiet up and pay for the salad. I can see saying “can I swap the fries for slaw,” because who doesn’t love diner slaw, but can I swap my side for an entrée? No.
“If you don’t paint my bedroom, can you paint my neighbor’s foyer for no extra charge?”
“I decided I don’t want the door painted, so what if you do the deck instead?”
“I haven’t finished my pancakes, so can I have a dollar back?”
I went into the diner deciding I was going to pay for what I wanted, rather than trying to find it all on a special. I spent three extra dollars to do it my way. Sometimes it’s worth paying for what you want.
So my gripe of the month is people who expect me to read their mind. You’ve been through this: “Can you get me a chocolate bar at the store?” So you do exactly that and get greeted with “Why didn’t you get me a crunch bar?”
Why didn’t you ask for it? What would have been so hard about saying “Get me a chocolate crunch bar,” if you know that’s that you want? With a chef salad on the side. Just ask for it.
You can avoid such issues on the job by being specific. If you say “Go paint that downspout,” then later you notice he’s brushing it and you’re all up in his teeth with, “Why didn’t you use the four-inch roller, don’t you have any sense?”
Seriously, why didn’t you have the sense to say “please paint that downspout with the four-inch roller,” if that’s what you wanted him to do?
It can happen on both sides—it’s also important that your customer doesn’t think you can read their mind. “I thought you were going to paint the deck,” they say when you ask for payment. You might not have had any idea that was on the table, so find out what “paint the house” includes. The outhouse? The garage? Their sister’s carport in Poughkeepsie? If you can spell Poughkeepsie on the first try, you should be paid extra.
Years ago, say 1994, a company exec told me he was getting ready to put out a new product. I dutifully printed it—after all, in our paint industry a new paint product is…imagine that…news! Suddenly Chris Mugler, our founder, got a very strongly worded letter—stronger than the UN words a letter when Russia invades a former Soviet republic—that I, me, all by myself, ruined their marketing strategy because no one was supposed to know. I can assure everyone in this industry that we’re not in business to ruin your marketing strategy. We’re The Paint Dealer, not The Paint Squealer. If only he’d said, “we have a new product coming out but please don’t print it yet,” well…you still wouldn’t know about it.
We’re both in the business of giving people what they want, but it helps to find out what it is first. Also, state your own boundaries in running your business: what’s free, what’s negotiable, if you really need odor free paint in the outhouse, and whether they get fries or salad with that. Slaw’s extra.