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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Good deeds, ethical behavior are the best kind of business

Jan Quintrall

Recently I was speaking to a group of business people, and one of them asked, “Does the BBB accept compliments?”

Yes! Please call us with compliments. We love calling businesses to tell them a customer has taken time to praise their product or service. It’s a pleasant change to call on anyone with good news. So my Easter gift to readers this week is a basket of three good stories.

Looks can deceive: The first takes us back to the December snowstorms. I don’t think I need to remind anyone just how long you had to wait for nearly any kind of service. Even if they had the staff to get the job done, getting to your house might be such an adventure, they never showed up.

A woman called a towing company to get her car out of her driveway. The tow company arrived, and this rather gruff fellow began to hook her car to the truck. She observed that raising her car might cause its roof to get scratched by tree branches, but she hesitated saying anything, knowing he had 200 more calls after her and had been working 12-hour days. She decided to speak up. “He was such a gruff and grizzly guy, I thought he would just growl at me,” she reported. “I could not have been more wrong. He smiled, asked if I had a saw and proceeded to cut the branches off the tree, and hooked my car up.”

On the house: The second involves four young adults at a local restaurant. They were seated promptly, and the server took their order. The two couples had lots of catching up to do and were enjoying talking about recent events. None of them noticed the 20 minutes that passed since their order was taken. A rather embarrassed and humble manager approached, apologized repeatedly for how long the food was taking, explained that their order had not been turned in, and said the entire dinner would be on the house. When the woman related the story to me, she said what was most impressive was they had not noticed the delay and never mentioned anything; the restaurant was the first to notice they did not live up to their standards and made it right. Wow.

Lost and found: I was part of the last story. My husband and I had a party recently at the Spokane Club to celebrate our anniversary. One of our guests arrived flustered. She and her sister had been at a downtown sports bar watching the NCAA tournament. Before they got to our party, she realized she had lost her purse. They went back but didn’t find it.

I asked her if her cell phone was in the purse and turned on. It was, so I suggested we call it and see what happened. I grabbed my husband’s phone and dialed her cell. A young man’s voice answered, “Hello, is this Betty?” I was surprised to get an answer, and said “Yes! Do you have my purse?!” He did and went on to tell me they were walking around downtown and saw the little purse in the street. As they waited for the light to change, a city bus ran over it. They picked it up and headed home. I got directions, and Betty took off up the hill to get her purse.

It gets better. She had more than $500 cash in her purse. This young man had every opportunity to take the cash and remain quiet, but he didn’t. The shape of her cell phone was a sad sight; I’m amazed it even worked. You can imagine what her lipstick looked like.

When the BBB does ethics training in high schools, one of the lessons we teach is that ethical decisions are ones you make when nobody is watching; decisions that would not change if you were being filmed. This guy exhibited that kind of behavior, as did all the heroes in these stories. Doing the right thing when nobody knows is one of the most basic measures of character.

I once watched a man and his son stuff their small dog into a carry-on bag just down the street from a “no dogs” hotel. I followed them in, watched them pass the front desk and go to the elevator and get on, with the dog hidden in the case. I let the front desk know, but my bigger concern was, what in the world did that man think he was teaching his son?

What are you teaching your kids? Your staff? Your customers? Your vendors? We love to tell stories – about good and bad behavior. If the stories they tell about you involve ethical behavior, the BBB would like to compliment you.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at or (509) 232-0530.
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