3 Lessons in Business (Courtesy of an Angry Stranger!)

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3 Big Lessons in Business was recently brought to me, courtesy of an impulsively dowloaded $9.95 ebook and the subsequent (very unexpected) email battle with a stranger.

I will start with this- I can be impulsive. By “impulsive” I mean in an unremarkable, boring, and completely boundaried kind-of-way.
I was doing research for a project and lost within one of the articles, I clicked to buy an ebook on the topic.
Fine. I will admit I spent significantly less than 4.5 seconds reading the description of the book.
And, no it didn’t register the author of this ebook wasn’t in the article, nor did he write the article, he merely commented on the article and put a link to his site. In my clicking frenzy trying to get information/direction- this ebook author appeared to be a flicker of light.
And you know what they say, in a storm any flicker of light- however dim- could be mistaken for a lighthouse.
(Let’s be clear, even if I wasn’t in a clicking whirl, $9.95 wouldn’t warrant much reflection or analysis in my life, but perhaps that’s another article.)

But  that day I was ready for magic, and hope, and clarity so there was a quick click, a purchase, and an immediate confirmation email from my Lighthouse. 
We’re in business now- here comes the learning! What a relief.

Or not, because then it began.
And by “it” I mean an unexpected exercise in agitation.

The link with the secret password and user code didn’t work. 
I tried.
Over, and over, and over. 
After 12 attempts, I sent an email to my alleged Lighthouse.
The quick email reply (within 24 seconds) led me to believe he was sitting at his desk, somewhere across the country, just waiting for this moment.
He said there have been no problems, and reiterated the password and user name I had, and told me that will work. He said he “just checked” and said it “worked perfectly” and there were absolutely no issues and I would be successful in my efforts to download it.
I thanked him.
What great customer service!

I tried again.
And again, and again, and again.
I started losing interest in this purchase, and was pretty sure this $9.95 ebook wasn’t intended to derail my entire day or hijack my sanity.
I sent another email, explaining specifically what I was doing, and the reply I was getting on the screen.
He replied, again, that I should just do exactly as he said, and it would work.
Again, I noted his prompt reply and despite the frustration was impressed with his attention  around supporting a successful download.

I did it again. And again. And again.
I tried in another browser. I checked my caps lock. I cleared my cache. I tried saving the link and copying/pasting it. 
You know how you know you’ve reached your breaking point?
Yeah, well I reached mine, big time, as the insanity of this whole process became too much to work through.
I decided this wasn’t a good use of my time or energy, and there was a high likelihood the product from this person wasn’t going to be the beacon of clarity or help me get out of the mess I was in, so I emailed him.  
I said it still wasn’t working, I was done with the process, and I asked for a refund.
This request seemed reasonable, based on the circumstances, and I was happy to resolve this and move on in my day.
Feeling great about this decision,  I hit “send.”

Wow.
You know who did not feel better with my decision? The Lighthouse.
This infuriated him, because the reply I got back stated:
I do not offer refunds for online downloads under any circumstance, and Paypal does not refund for digital downloads. The link is working, and people have been purchasing this and downloading the book for a long time. I will send you the book in two emails following this, the Kindle Version and Epub versions attached.That’s doing more than is required. 
In the future, please get someone to show you how to correctly download materials from the Internet. You are obviously doing something wrong.

Oh. Boy.
Can we just go back for a second and soak all of that in…especially the part where the Lighthouse instructs me to have supervision when embarking on any future downloads?  Because that really deserves a second read.
Seriously?
Someone sat at a keyboard and thought that was a good idea to send out in to the world? 

I had so many thoughts as I read that email, but before I could even begin making a list of possible people  qualified to provide instruction and supervision for me during my future online downloads, I got another email from him:
I’m sorry about the confusion-  the passkey was changed from the download page passkey several weeks ago and I didn’t update the page, which has now been done.

Wait, what? 
He was wrong?
He had made a mistake? 
Was he saying I actually didn’t need to check on the going rates people charge  to provide supervision when someone is ill-equipped to be alone and downloading a product? I felt like I hit the lottery because I didn’t know how much an “internet chaperon” charges, but I have been known to download several things a day. That could have gotten very pricey!

As I was exhaling with relief, I then got another email from him: 
I’m sorry for the confusion.  Please select any online ebook download book from my web site (any book), and I’ll send it to you as a free gift.

Interesting.
No mention of me  needing supervision now.
It’s almost like that first email never happened in his world.
Well, it certainly happened in my world and I’m not as quick to move on.
Turns out, at this point I was all set with the Lighthouse and his ebooks.

Even though I was still in awe at his abysmal handling of what should have been a markedly benign exchange, I was already a little giddy with all of the examples he had just given me about people skills, business, and what doesn’t work.  He could have easily saved this and had a very happy customer (even though I was frustrated) if only he didn’t get so angry. He changed the game when he become inappropriate, condescending, and passive aggressive.  

I get that sometimes people mess up, and sometimes things don’t go right, and sometimes balls are dropped, and I can get beyond it.
So can other people. A sincere apology, in business and in life, can (almost) always smooth most of the ruffled feathers out there. 
What people can’t get beyond is being rude, lashing out, or inappropriate reactions and behavior.
That kind of stuff doesn’t get a pass.
You know what that gets? That gets a blog done about you.
So, to the angry Lighthouse, this one is for you.
Here are a few things to remember:

3 Rules in Business
1. Your people skills matter. A lot. Work on them!
Your people skills impact your product, whatever your product may be. How you handle relationships, connections, exchanges- it all matters. The positive may take time, but the negative happens fast. Whichever you build, will stick. Remember that.
2. You will get frustrated. Handle it.
You are will get frustrated in your work with the public, it is a given, so you need to figure out how you will handle it. Not ever day is filled with smiles, sunshine, and magic. Sometimes people annoy, agitate, or infuriate you. You can’t stop that, nor can you control it. Your only job is to handle your half of any exchange, and handle it well. Before you speak, or type, ask yourself, “What is my goal in this situation?” Often that helps people get some traction around what’s appropriate- or what could be very damaging.
3. You aren’t always right. Remember that.
You will think you are, you will hope you are, you will expect you are, but you won’t be. You aren’t always right, but that unlike the cliche, it doesn’t mean the customer is always right either.  The bottom line is, you are in business and your anger or indignation makes you look ridiculous- and when you’re wrong, you look even worse.

Final Update
1. Bad news: the ebook was terrible. It was as unimpressive as he was at handling the downloading debacle. In his defense, he would have had to have significantly overcompensated for his behavior with some off-the-charts brilliance, which he didn’t. If you have an obscenely amazing, unheard of, and globally unique product perhaps your people skills won’t matter. Since most do not, people skills are key.
2. Good news: I don’t need internet supervision! And, the point wasn’t for me to get this poorly written book, it was to have the overall experience, so for that I am grateful. Bad experiences may not be pleasant or enjoyable,  but they can be embraced and appreciated for being full of lessons, insights, and very cool learning!
3. Final verdict: All in all, that was $9.95 very well spent!
Huge thanks to the angry Lighthouse  for helping all of us remember what works in business- by showing us what to never to do!

 

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