My Client Paid Me Twice For the Same Job. Should I Return the Money?

Should I declare all my income in my taxes? Should I tell my wife her gym friend is hot? Should I tell the cashier she didn’t charge me for the bread? Should I assume refills are free on the self-service soda machines? Should I be courteous to my neighbor, even though he’s on the sexual offenders list and I’m a parent? Should I keep my pirate beard, simply because I don’t like to shave? Should I switch stadium seats, because I know the better ones in front are empty? Should I share a new business opportunity with my partners or do it myself as a consultant and keep all the revenue?

Ahh… life’s little questions. Well I’m here to tell you that I have the answer. Well not so much the answer but a miraculous system that will help you find the answer to all of life’s ethical conundrums.

The Four-Way Test
It’s called the Four-Way Test. This simple four-question system helps guide your ethical compass to find your true north. The Four-Way Test was created by Herbert J. Taylor as a way to help guide the management decisions of an aluminum company that was bound for bankruptcy.

Hebert set policies for the company’s moral standards when it came to doing business. The test was then adopted by Rotary International to guide the things Rotarians think, say or do.

The Four Way Test asks:

1. Is it the truth?

2. Is it fair to all concerned?

3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Are you experiencing an ethical dilemma? Did your client pay you twice for the same job and you know he won’t find out? Should you keep the money as a settlement for all those extra unpaid hours spent on the last project? What to do?

Say no more. The Four-Way test is here to the rescue.

1. Is it the truth? – Well not really, we received payment already for the work. Unless it’s an understated bonus?

2. Is it fair to all concerned? I think it’s fair to me, since I do work extra, unpaid hours.

3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? If the client finds out I kept it, probably not and any excuse will sound like theft.

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Ahh, s*%t you’ve got me Four-Way Test. I’ll send the money back and say I know we are good, but there’s no need to pay us double. We’re happy to give you our best.

Insert your ethical enigma here and apply the Four-Way Test and see what you discover. It’s a business ethics cheat sheet. Get it? Cheat sheet? (Ok, not that funny.)

I really did get paid twice
In all seriousness, that case above happened to me a few years ago with a very large client and I sent the check back. It hurt, because we all need the money, but to this day they are one of my main clients. I’ll never know whether or not the client noticed my honest action, but I’d like to think they did and I can rest at night knowing it was the right thing to do.

The Four-Way Test provides a formula to guide the moral strength of decisions you make in business and in your personal life.

See the test in action
If you’d like to see the test in action, email me. I’ll invite you to lunch any Thursday at the Hard Rock Café in Bayside, were we, the Miami Rotarians, put it to good use. Want to get in the loop with the Rotary Club of Miami? Text ROTARYMIA to 65047 and get our event invites on your phone.

Want to know my answer to all the first 8 questions of the article? Especially the one about my wife’s hot gym friend? Text CONUNDRUM to 65047.

I’d love to hear it if the Four-Way Test worked for you. Tell me on Facebook, comment on our blog or email me at marcos@momares.com

What Do You Do? Answer Why Not What!

So what do you do? That’s pretty much the defacto opening line after meeting someone at a networking function or social gathering, even a kids’ birthday party, like the ones my wife has been forcing me to go to lately.

I go to the parties so my kids never accuse me later of having been an absent parent in an unhappy childhood. I’ll have video evidence so to speak.

Bored parents asking what
Those videos might also be evidence of the usual rituals we go through at these, unfortunately no-beer gatherings, where I get to field the “So what do you do?” line many times. We’re all just trying to gain relief from the boredom that’s interspersed with kid tantrums and bounce-house mishaps.

So now I’m using my parental sacrifices as a way to weave in the main topic of this article, which is how to answer when someone asks you what you do.

Advice from the Executive Safeguarding Your Future
I got good advice from my friend, professor and financial advisor Robert Bull, who’s title is Experienced International Executive Safeguarding Your Future (yes, that’s his real title). He said it’s not what you do that people care about, but why you do it.

The why engages others and helps them take an interest in what you do. In other words, answering what you do with why you do it is the best way to capture someone’s interest.

What’s the why?
“What do you do?” One answer might be, “I own a mattress store.” Ok, that says a lot and at the same time it doesn’t say much. But think about the “why” and you’ll get a much more interesting answer. One like, “I help people wake up feeling like a million bucks.” Now you’re thinking, “What? Tell me more!”

“What do you do?” The guy sitting next to you might say, “I sell insurance.” You might think “Ehh, not interested.” A better answer could be, “I help families protect themselves and their assets. So if something should happen to you, God forbid, I make sure your loved ones are taken care of financially.” You might get “Oh! How?”

“What do you do?” Instead of “I make mobile phone games,” a better and more business-oriented answer is, “I make games that kids can’t stop playing.” You might hear, “Wow, how do you do that and did you design Pong?”

“What do you do?” At one of the birthday parties, a guy wearing steel-toe boots answered, “I’m a contractor.” After inserting the “why,” the answer could have been “I build buildings that save electricity and are more eco-friendly.”

What’s your why?
My point is that what others care about is your value not your actual service. The value you bring to the relationship is what’s in it for your customers. That’s what they care about.

Answering the “why” and “what’s in it for them” applies to any situation, whether you’re meeting another bored parent at a mindless kid party or a prospective customer at an event. The “why” will guide the way.

For help with the “why,” I’ve found the Wow Pitch iPhone app from my friend and communications coach Anne Freedman to be a tremendous tool. It helped me find the “why” when presenting my mobile marketing services to others.

Do you have your “why”? I’d love to hear it. Comment below.

Ever Had Your Brother Held For Ransom? Mine Was

At 9:44 am on Friday, May 11, 2012, I got a call on my mobile. A voice said, “Your brother has been in an accident. He’s hurt.” “Where?” I asked. A male voice with a heavy Puerto-Rican accent said, “In a gas station and he is hurt pretty bad.” The voice went on to tell me, “He hit my brother’s motorcycle and damaged it and tried to run off.” I asked “Is your brother OK?” He responded, “We have your brother tied up and will not let him go.” “We can pay for the repairs!” I told him. He said, “I don’t know what is going on here, but I was called in to help. He’s tied up and beaten.” “We can repair the motorcycle,” I repeated. His voice was annoyed and aggravated: “Look, this is a kidnap and we want $1,500 now!”

I didn’t know what to think
My thoughts at this point were… My brother lives in Puerto Rico and these guys sound Puerto Rican. Do they know I’m in Miami? Are they physically in Puerto Rico? How am I to pay them? I was starting to get really nervous. My throat was drying up and my hands were shaking a bit. I kept trying to remember what I had heard about express kidnappings. It’s when they kidnap you and take you to an ATM for ransom. It usually happens in other countries.

The negotiation begins
“Are you going to help your brother?” he asked. I said yes and he responded, “Good. Go to an ATM and withdraw $1,500. Can you do that? Do you have that kind of money?” I thought, wait a minute, he wants to negotiate.

He was asking if I had the money, instead of assuming I had it. I said, “No, that’s a lot of money. I would need to transfer…” He cut me off and asked, “Transfer?” I said, “Yes, from one account to another. It can take 3 days.” The kidnapper said, “No, go to the ATM right now and take $600 out.” “The maximum is $500,” I said. His response was “No, its $600!” and he gave me delivery instructions. During all of this, I was frantically calling my brother’s cell phone number from my office line. He didn’t pick up. On my second attempt, I heard what sounded like a pickup, a pause, then a disconnect tone. I called again and it went straight to voice mail. The kidnappers have my brother’s cell phone I thought. I tried my brother’s wife and she didn’t pick up either. The voice said, “Get in your car now and drive to an ATM.” Does this guy know I’m in Miami, I wondered? I couldn’t get him the money physically. I took a bold step and said, “I’m not going anywhere until I speak to my brother.” He didn’t like that. “No. Do as I say!”

I was beyond nervous
“How do I know this isn’t a prank call from a radio station?” I asked. He started laughing condescendingly and told someone with him, “Rafi,” that I thought this was a radio station prank call. Rafi said, “That’s it, I’m going to kill him now.” The voice started shouting “Is this what you want, the death of your brother on your conscience?” At this point, I was beyond nervous, I was scared. I heard Rafi moving and I could hear faint background noise, like a crowd, but I couldn’t make it out. I started pleading, “No, no, no, I will help. Please!” And like in a movie, I braced to hear a gun shot. I told the voice, “Look why kill him, he is useless to you dead and then you’ll have to deal with that problem. I told you I will help.” The voice said, “Go to your car now and drive to an ATM.” All of a sudden, I got a second call on my mobile, from a phone number I didn’t recognize. I asked him “Someone is calling me, can I answer?” “No,” he said. “If you hang up, I will kill him.” As he explained what he wanted me to do, I tried to dial the number that just called, hoping it was my brother’s wife.

“Rafi, get the gun”
The voice then asked, “Who is Marcos Menendez?” I was freaking out by now. The kidnappers must have seen my caller ID on the other phone number and thought I was trying to call out for help. The voice again asked, “Who is Marcos Menendez? Huh? Answer me!” I said “Who? Mendez? I don’t know.” He asked, “Is someone calling you on the other line?” My mobile was flashing with another call, but I said “No, no one. Can’t you see I’m talking to you?” The voice said “I’m tired of playing games with you. I’m going to give the order to execute your brother. I’m done fantasmeando [playing around] with you. Rafi, get the gun.” I started begging, “No, please don’t shoot. I’m on my way to the car right now.” Trying to get a grip on the situation, I asked him, “How do I know you won’t kill me or my brother after I pay you?” His tone of voice changed, from slangy, reggaetonero to reassuring and comforting: “I know you might feel insecure about the exchange. That’s why we will do it at a public place like Winn-Dixie Supermarket.” I went dead cold. They knew I was in Miami. There are no Winn-Dixies in Puerto Rico. They kidnapped my brother in Puerto Rico, I thought, and knew I could pay them in Miami. “What are you doing now?” the voice asked. “Tell me!” I said, “I need to get dressed to go to the ATM.” At this moment, my mind was exactly where they wanted it – in compliance. I was broken, scared and worried about my brother. Fear got the best of me. I dismissed any fleeting, rational thoughts, gathered my keys and proceeded to my car, only to realize it wasn’t there. I forgot my wife needed my car for something that morning.

“We have a problem”
I didn’t know if I should tell the kidnapper I didn’t have a car. I asked, “Can someone else deliver the money?” “If it’s not you, we’ll kill him,” he said. “We have a problem,” I told him. “I don’t have a car.” He got irate, cursed me out and continued to threaten me. I told him not to worry. I could walk to an ATM. At that moment, my mobile phone flashed with another call. It was my brother. I couldn’t resist picking it up. “Is that you?” I asked. My brother answered: “What do you want?” My heart dropped. Oh man, was I relived.

My brother laughed
“You haven’t been kidnapped?” I asked. My brother started laughing. “You got called? It’s a hoax,” he told me. “They’re trying to extort money from you. I’m okay. I was busy with a client. That’s why I didn’t pick up when you called. Tell them to go to hell,” he said. “They tried that on me two years ago.” I heard the click of a disconnected line and remembered I left the kidnapper on hold. Then I got a text message, “Semurio.” Poorly spelled in Spanish: “He’s dead.”

It’s a scam
I later called the FBI to report what happened. They took my information, but the lady nonchalantly said it happens all the time. She would send the report to an agent and I might get a call. I guess it wasn’t of major importance, since no money was involved and no one was really kidnapped. But if the FBI isn’t going to move on this, at least I can let others know. What happened to me is a scam for money. It felt very real and scary to me, but fortunately, it was fabricated. I uncovered various forums and a news article about this scam. I also searched the phone numbers on caller ID from the “kidnappers.” Both numbers, 787-477-0979 and 787-624-4234, have Puerto Rican area codes. My advice is to save those numbers on your phone and if you get called, don’t pick up. I know this is a mobile marketing newsletter where I mostly talk about my business marketing experiences. But I thought this was especially important to share and this was the best way to get the word out to 8,000+ readers.

Ironically (and especially for me), the easiest way to have reached my brother would have been a text message. He would just have replied and the ruse would have been uncovered. Even the criminals thought a text message was a good way to communicate a powerful and direct message. And I can tell you from experience, it worked.

Has this happened to you? Comment below.

A $10 Mistake and a Lesson in Getting Instant Customer Loyalty

I hate getting my hair cut. I don’t like having to set up an appointment or waiting at the salon. I also don’t like having my arms locked in place by that thin plastic cape and sitting still under the threat of losing a piece of helix by razor-sharp scissors. Something else I hate… having to think about which cut fits my thinning hair and, worst of all, realizing that my hair is thinning and there’s nothing I can do about it.

So when it’s time to trim the hedges, I try to find the most efficient way to get my lame business-man’s cut. This usually involves Googling for the salon closest to my office.

Google search results: Orquidia Salon

Orquidia Salon seemed to fit my needs, so I called to see if they would take me as a walk-in within the next 10 minutes. To my surprise, they did.

A typical salon with atypical service

Orquidia’s is your typical Miami-Cuban, old-lady salon. There’s nothing avant-garde here, no faux feng-shui décor, snooty model-like receptionist or tattooed-up stylists with names like Extephan or Eriko.

No, none of that. As a matter of fact it’s just the opposite. The owner, Orquidia, is cutting hair and chatting while the rest of the staff, mostly older elegant ladies, are primping, dyeing, plucking, blow drying or spraying earth-unfriendly amounts of hair spray on their customers. Everyone’s talking simultaneously with everyone else, while maintaining a sometimes different conversation with the customer in the chair.

I’m told that Ms. Blanca will cut my hair, but since I didn’t arrive in precisely 10 minutes she had left for coffee. The wait is well worth it though since “going for coffee” means getting Cuban coffee for everyone at the salon. A quick shot of black-gold and I’m in the chair smothered in the gown and wondering how I’ll be able to read emails. What if someone calls? But I get past my mobile phone separation anxiety and Ms. Blanca asks me how I would like my hair cut.

I’m starting to like the lady; she asks me if I have a preference instead of just starting to cut. This is a good idea when it comes to meeting customer expectations. I say “A little off the sides and back. I like the length on top.” To my surprise she does exactly that. I get off the chair with exactly the same look I had when I came in, just shorter. But I’m completely satisfied, heck even happy with my cut because it’s exactly what I asked for.

I complement Ms. Blanca on the cut and she says “If there is something I’ve learned in all my years, it is to listen to the customer. It will be $25 for the cut.” I pay, tip and go on my merry way, satisfied and thinking that I may even come back.

The next morning, I receive a call from Ms. Blanca. She says, “I’m sorry but I overcharged you for the cut. It was supposed to be $15 instead of $25. I pressed the wrong key on the register. Would you like to come by and pick up the difference?”

I couldn’t believe it. The salon is offering to give me money back, knowing full well that I didn’t notice, nor would have noticed. They could have kept the difference, figuring “mistakes happen.” But no, they made an effort to call me to admit the mistake and refund the money. How many businesses do you know would have done that? Really, how many?

This was a unique opportunity for Orquidia Salon to provide excellent service by simply recognizing a mistake and providing an honest resolution before I noticed it. This is better than customer service; it’s taking care of your customer.

How do you handle these opportunities?

Think about the opportunities to take care of your customers. Your service or post-sale process can have small, but significant chances to do the unexpected. And I’m not talking about buying your clients lunch. It can involve going above and beyond or helping your customer find a better solution, even if it’s not your own. My favorite is the simple act of honest feedback, with a genuine desire to help. A simple act of true concern may or may not lead to immediate business, but the customer will notice and remember.

Orquidia Salon and Ms. Blanca may never know what that act meant to me, but she’ll be seeing me once every other month and I’ll be happy to wait. Has this happened to you?

Case Study: Pet Supply Chain Finds Value in SMS Advertising

Retailers and brands can quickly reach their most frequent customers using text-based advertising, however Lipof Advertising creative director Nathan Lowery says businesses that inundate their customers with meaningless marketing messages are actually doing more harm than good. In his experience handling advertising and marketing for Pet Supermarket, a regional pet store chain with 127 outlets in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, Lowery has noticed that customers are less likely to unsubscribe from SMS advertising lists when they’re sent messages that have actual value, like coupons and discount codes.

Tell me about Lipof Advertising’s relationship with Pet Supermarket. How have you helped manage their campaigns?

We have been their advertising agency for about 10 years. We provide all of the print, radio, TV, and digital marketing solutions for them. That includes media placement, and production; everything soup to nuts.

Given that you’ve been working with them for the last decade, what are some of the changes in advertising or media placement that you’ve noticed over that time?

We’re doing more customer retention, which would involve text messaging, Facebook, and direct mail to existing customers. In the past, it was more customer acquisition. We still do a lot of customer acquisition with consumer advertising, but we’re also able to do more targeted messages because we have more data to work with now. [We look at] geographical data, demographic data, and purchase history. [How we get this data] depends on what our objective is. For the purchase history, Pet Supermarket has that data. For the geographical data and household income data, we can buy that when we buy mailing lists. We’re also able to do things a little quicker now that Facebook is instantaneous and text messaging is pretty much instantaneous.

What are some of the challenges that Pet Supermarket has when it comes to customer retention or customer acquisition?

I think one of the main challenges is the competition, because there are a number of other pet supply retailers that carry very similar products or the same products. We try to inform customers that Pet Supermarket stores are a little bit smaller, but they also pride themselves in having much better customer service, which some of the other pet specialty stores don’t offer. So that’s one big challenge. Another challenge is that a lot of people still purchase their pet food from the grocery store or from stores like Target or Wal-Mart, which would be considered mass retail. We try to explain the benefits of feeding a premium pet food, so the customer buying their dog food at Publix [knows he] is not [getting] the same quality as a higher end food bought at a pet specialty store.

I know Pet Supermarket sends text-based coupons. How did you first get involved with that?

We knew Marcos [Menendez, CEO of Momares, a mobile coupon platform] because he was already working for us on an e-newsletter. His other company, Loop Consulting, was doing our e-newsletter, and he brought us the idea. He showed us some other companies that were doing [text-based promotions] and some case studies. We started advertising [the program] in the stores and on printed materials to get people involved, and it really took off. A lot of people were interested. Every month we [pick] a winner and give away free pet food for a year. So everyone who enters [their phone number] has a chance to win. Then, we also send out coupons and messages. We want to keep the messages fresh, and we want to not overdo it. We typically send out one or two messages a month. We don’t want to annoy people, and we pay [Momares] per text message.

We are able to see when people leave the group or want their numbers removed from the list, and we have found that as long as we’re sending messages that have value they are staying in and they love it. If we send messages that don’t have value, don’t have some sort of savings, or are very product-specific, then they will leave. We can actually see that happen. We try to have some sort of value with the messages — usually it’s a $1-off discount across any purchase. [That allows] dog food customers to take advantage of it, cat customers, bird customers, and fish customers. It’s not brand specific or anything like that. We send the same message to [customers] at all [Pet Supermarket] stores because we’re not able to see, or we don’t know, what stores the people shop at. All we know is their area code. Beyond that, we don’t know where they’re at.

What has the feedback been from customers since you started sending mobile coupons?

They seem to like it because we send out a lot of coupons by text. In today’s economy coupons are very big, so people see a lot of value in it. We have a lot of people joining and we have very few people opting out, so I think there’s a lot of interest. We are able to track the redemption rates on the coupons that we send out and the messages that we send out. We just send out a five-digit code and we say what the offer is. [Customers] just show the associate at the register that five-digit code, and they get the discount.

Looking forward, where do you see Pet Supermarket’s going in terms of marketing and advertising?

I think it’s going to get more and more specific, to where we can track customers’ spending habits and we can tailor messages directly to those customers. If someone is a Nutro dog food buyer, we’ll [be able to] send them messages that pertain to Nutro dog food. And, we’ll be able to group people by how often they shop. With smartphones, at some point we’re going to be able to send out coupons with an actual bar code or an actual graphic. I think that’s probably going to be happening sooner rather than later.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Source: Street Fight