WOW Word-Of-the-Week #379: Principle

November 9, 2011 by  

Principle – personal disciplined value.

Did your parents ever tell you that you should do something because of “the principle of it?” Have you ever been unyielding in a situation because of “the principle of it?” Have you ever been expected to do something that clearly was against your principles?

I have been in situations where I was not willing to budge and flat out said, “It’s the principle.” A perfect example is when I am over charged by a retailer. Even if it’s less than a dollar I let them know. My friends always have me check the addition on the dinner check to make sure there aren’t any mistakes. And by the way, even when I have not been charged enough, I make a point to let them know. Because “it’s the principle.”

We had an experience on our last trip in Europe that put us in a very uncomfortable situation. The last portion of our trip was a week in Belgium. We went there because my niece Mary’s husband took a 3-year job transfer. They live in a small town in a very rural area. The bigger city nearby is where the Caterpillar plant and Master Card Worldwide are located. They employ people from all over the world.

My brother and sister-in-law had flown in the same week. We met for dinner at one of the local restaurants and had a great meal and great wine. When it came time to pay we pulled out our Visa cards and ask them to split the bill. When they brought the credit card processing machine to the table they told us, “We can only take cards that have the chip in it.”

In Europe all credit cards have chips and in the US we “swipe” our cards.  The restaurant had signs that said they accepted Visa and that’s what we told our server. She said, “We can’t take your Visa. You’ll have to go across the street to the ATM to get money.”  Well, that just didn’t sit well with us. Being “the principle” and all. So my brother said, “It’s not my problem that your machine doesn’t take swipe cards. To which the server said, ” “It’s not my problem.” Next came the owner who explained that their bank was the problem because they only allow cards with chips. Why should we as customers be inconvenienced and have to pay ATM extra fees?

What would you have done in that same situation? It actually surprised us when the owner came back to our table with his bank account number and trusted us to make a deposit.

This week’s focus is on “the principle of it.” Do you have policies that inconvenience or penalize your customers, guests, clients or members? Do you charge for items that others give away for free? Do you add value by including extras and making people feel good about doing business with you?

Reader Responses

“This makes perfect sense to me because as an “active” youngster” attending a parochial school I would often find myself being disciplined by the “principal.”  –  John

“Based on recent events at Penn State, your word is incredibly apropos. As to your situation with the “chip” credit card, there should probably be some sign in the front door that explains the policy. Because most people in the world pay with credit cards when on vacation. Short of that, the waiter himself should have explained the policy so there would be no confusion. Unfortunately, there are many operations that do not communicate well, and situations like yours are the result. At Penn State, Coach Paterno covered himself legally by letting the athletic director know what was reported to him. But as far as we know the coach did not follow up by calling the authorities. We don’t know if the coach was made aware of the campus police investigation of his former assistant coach. If he wasn’t, he should have known; so should the university president. So, on principle, Coach Paterno should have called the authorities. On principle, based on what he knew of the specific incident, he should not have allowed the coach back on campus. He did not, and unfortunately he wiped away 60 plus years of trust with a moral lapse. It is too bad. Now, he can’t finish an otherwise distinguished career with dignity, he has to live with how his moral lapse affected other children who were molested by his former coach. Disappointment is the main word that comes to mind. Standing up for principle is a lesson for all of us. Thanks, Susan. Continued success. P.S. Al McGuire told me once: “In coaching, there’s always something in the shade.” – “Warrior” Joe