(originally published July 28th, 2005)

I love taking surveys. For some reason, I get a rush out of being asked my opinion on things and then giving it. Maybe it’s because, most of the time, I go out of my way when it comes to giving my opinion on how some of my friends live their life when I’m asked.

Anyway, one of the ads that I saw pop up on my page was a survey company saying you could make big money by taking surveys. If you go to the page, you read all this copy that tells you how you can make big money by taking surveys, sometimes as much as $150 an hour. I mean, it sounds intriguing, doesn’t it, being able to sit at home, take surveys, make as much money as you feel like and work whenever you want to, right?

Well, if it’s such a lucrative business, why do you have to pay these people $34.95 for the right to do it? How many jobs do you have where you actually have to pay someone else money in order to work for, or with, them? I do remember back in the early 80’s where, sometimes, you had to pay the employment company if they found you a permanent job, but those days are long gone.

I’m not saying this is a scam, but there is a point to this conversation. There are times when something of possible value smacks of ludicrous because something just doesn’t sound right. Kind of like all the flyers you see on poles telling you how much money you can make by sending out letters just by calling ‘this number’. If the gig was so great, why does someone have to go around posting pieces of paper on poles? Or what about those things on TV that cook meals, and they tell you if you buy now they’ll throw in, ‘absolutely free’, some gadget that probably cost them 50 cents to make? Do you really believe you didn’t pay for that in the $300 dollars you just paid for this item you’re only going to use once or twice, then relegate it to your next garage sale?

In your business whether you’re a business owner, or a manager of a department, do you constantly promise things that you can’t deliver on? Do you make it sound so enticing that the person would feel like a fool not to sign up for it, but not allow them time to think about it because you know they’ll figure out just how stupid what you’ve told them is? Do you really believe that’s good business practice or sense, or that it won’t impact, in some way, what will happen down the line? Or do you care?

I’ll answer that last one with this little story. Back in college I worked in what we called the rec center; it was a combination bowling alley and pool hall. It only had 8 lanes, but we maintained them and they were pretty nice. One night, this guy comes in with his girlfriend and says he wants to bowl. I told him all the lanes were taken, but one would free up in maybe 10 or 15 minutes. He got belligerant, and I knew he was acting out for his girlfriend; maybe it was a relatively new relationship. I took a sheet and tore it off the pad, gave it to him, and told him to go up to the second floor, where we had our second set of lanes, and tell the guy up there that I sent him, and he could also get his shoes up there. With that, the guy was satisfied, and left. Of course there was no second set of lanes, and I never saw this guy or his girlfriend again.

In his case, he had promised his girlfriend a bill of goods he couldn’t deliver, and ended up with egg on his face. In my case, I had solved an immediate problem, would have been prepared to deal with him had he come back, and didn’t care one way or another if he did because I was willing to make happen for him what he wanted, without having the means to do so. He took the risk and lost; I might have lost if I was worried about losing his business, but I wasn’t.

We don’t always need every person’s business; we do, however, want to continue getting business from those people we do want business for. And we want to keep a good reputation by delivering on promises we may make when we’re working in business with others, or for others. Sometimes, those memories will last a very long time.