Business


It’s easier to blame others than accept responsibility

SUNDAY, APRIL 4, 2010

The letter started as follows: “I want to file a complaint against (blank) Bar. Here is what they did to me. I was there last weekend and they served me too much to drink, and made me write them a check to pay for my drinks. I did not have enough money in my account, so the check bounced. Then the bank charged me fees that plunged my account deeper into the hole and more checks bounced. I don’t know why the bank charged me, it was not my fault, and it was the bar’s fault, they made me drink too much! But my real problem is now I don’t have enough money to pay my rent, but part of the problem there is my boss does not pay me enough so it is always hard to pay my rent. But those people at the bar made it impossible, them and the bank. I want the bar to pay my rent this month and send a letter to the bank admitting they made this happen so the bank gives me back all those charges they took from my money.”

Wow, amazing, huh? When one of my staff members shared this complaint, which I have altered to protect the privacy of the parties involved, I could hardly believe it was not a joke. This is a radical example of shirking responsibility, but this “nothing is my fault” mentality is becoming too common. Somewhere along the line, the link between actions and consequences has broken apart. Here are four examples:

I’m not accountable. Accountability is not popular. Look at what political, religious and corporate leaders get away with. No wonder individuals feel like they can blame away bad decisions on their part. We seem to back away from consequences that situations deserve.

Everybody is a winner. Mediocrity is an odd thing to strive for — while we suggest that hard work and integrity pay off, this mindset implies that a halfway job and shortcuts will get you somewhere, also. But celebrating mediocrity encourages excuses and reasons for less-than-winning performances.

Somebody will bail me out. Years of having assorted people follow us around and rescue us from sticky situations teaches us that no matter what we do, the cleanup crew is always just a few steps behind.

You’ve got to look out for No. 1. Too many people believe “I am the only person on the face of the earth. What my actions do to those around me, my community and my future really does not matter. I can only see what I want and what I want right now.”

When you take these four attitudes and discharge them into a marketplace dispute, resolution becomes challenging at best. The thin safety net offered to businesses and consumers in this economy, plus short tempers and a lack of trust, only compound the problem.

The BBB’s role is to hold both sides accountable. We are not a consumer watchdog, nor are we business advocates. We are champions of an ethical marketplace. And we carry this out from a position of neutrality, which means we do not take sides.

But we increasingly find ourselves declining to open a complaint against a business when it is clear that the other party is taking no responsibility for their actions.

And when one side takes all the power and stops payment on a check or puts a credit card charge in dispute, we have started requesting escrowed funds. We find in a growing number of these cases that the person who stopped payment is looking for a way to get out of paying for a product or service, and we are not going to be part of that conspiracy.

If the person making the complaint really wants resolution, they will escrow the funds with the BBB without hesitation. That is fair to both sides and assures everyone that once a mediated or arbitrated settlement is reached, all parties will be made whole.

When a business does not live up to its side of a transaction, that will affect the letter grade the business earns and the review displayed at www.bbb.org. Unfortunately, there is no Better Customer Bureau yet.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. Her e-mail is jquintrall@spokane.bbb.org.


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