Debt

Seth Godin’s post today about the concept of debt is a good one. Citing this book, he points out that debt is, in fact, older than money. This makes a certain sense – it’s easier to make exchanges based on promises.

When I bought a bag of coffee this morning at Dunkin Donuts, the deal at the register was – I promise to give you this green paper if you promise to hand over the coffee. This happens every day without flaw because we live in a stable economy.

But what happens if that promise is broken? How tied are we to it? What if after I handed over my money, the Dunkin Donuts cashier said, “No, we changed our mind. No coffee for you, next customer.”

In this unlikely event, I would have reasonable grounds to say, “Hey, that’s not fair. You are indebted to me. I did my half of the bargain and you are failing on yours. Give me the coffee.” And everyone else in line would see this and say, “Yeah, give him the coffee or we’ll all leave.”

That would be very bad for Dunkin Donuts and it’s part of the reason you hear things like “The customer is king” at so many stores. The entire premise of a business is they uphold their end of deals.

This is understandable when you are dealing with small sums but it gets tricky, as Godin notes, when you start talking big numbers. John Paul Getty said it best, “If I owe you $100, I’ve got a problem. If I owe you $100 million, you’ve got a problem.”

And so it is with Greece and the student loan crisis.

Call me an idealist but I think people are intrinsically good and want to pay off their debts. It is an awful, nagging feeling to be indebted to someone and I loathe it. I cut up all my credit cards years ago.

But if I lend money to someone who I know is spending recklessly, I shouldn’t be surprised if I don’t get my money back. In that situation I am partly to blame for making a dumb loan.

Dejargonator Revived

Nandini Jammi’s post about bad writing at Medium inspired me to revive The DeJargonator™ – my personal crusade against bad writing. The excerpt she received from a freelance writer made me wince:

You try your best to deliver great service to your customers, but the bigger your company gets, the easier it is to make mistakes, especially as our technology gets complicated. One simple mistake in a line your engineers’ code easily leads to negative experiences that can destroy relationships. Handle that situation wrong and you can lose even your most valuable and loyal customers. With social media it doesn’t take many loud complaints for your company’s otherwise sterling reputation will be gone.

So what can you do to quickly cool down a hot situation before it erupts into a disaster?

Ouch. You can almost hear the person mouthing the words breathlessly as they type them. They tumble out there with no real plan or slavish obedience to making sense.

The first sentence catches our attention with its vicious comma abuse. The second forces readers to stumble with its omission of the word “of” in “line your engineers’.” The last sentence, oh man. How fast did this person type this? It reads like he typed it while trying to catch a plane.

Alright, enough beating up on this person. Here’s how I rewrote it:

As a company grows, it becomes more difficult to deliver outstanding customer service. A bug in the code or a tech support call that goes awry can now be amplified and broadcast to thousands over social media.

What can you do to prevent a bad customer service incident from escalating into the next “United Breaks Guitars“?

Last sentence is good in that it uses a funny example but I don’t know the audience so my reference might sail over their heads. It’s hard to write when you don’t know the context of the larger article – am I writing for a product or a service or is this a general “How to Avoid Social Media Disasters” piece?

Anyway, thank you Nandini Jammi for inspiring me to revive this project. That’s the official DeJargonator™ revision – use it if you want.