I was reared on the edge of the Jesse James country outin Missouri, and I visited the James farm at Kearney,Missouri, where the son of Jesse James was thenliving.
His wife told me stories of how Jesse robbed trainsand held up banks and then gave money to the neighboringfarmers to pay off their mortgages.
Jesse James probably regarded himself as an idealistat heart, just as Dutch Schultz, "Two Gun” Crowley, AlCapone and many other organized crime “godfathers”did generations later. The fact is that all people you meethave a high regard for themselves and like to be fine andunselfish in their own estimation.
J. Pierpont Morgan observed, in one of his analyticalinterludes, that a person usually has two reasons fordoing a thing: one that sounds good and a real one.
The person himself will think of the real reason. Youdon’t need to emphasize that. But all of us, being idealistsat heart, like to think of motives that sound good.So, in order to change people, appeal to the noblermotives.
Is that too idealistic to work in business? Let’s see.Let’s take the case of Hamilton J. Farrell of the Farrell-MitchellCompany of Glenolden, Pennsylvania. Mr. Farrellhad a disgruntled tenant who threatened to move.The tenant’s lease still had four months to run; nevertheless, he served notice that he was vacating immediately,regardless of lease.
"These people had lived in my house all winter - themost expensive part of the year,” Mr. Farrell said as hetold the story to the class, “and I knew it would be difficultto rent the apartment again before fall. I could seeall that rent income going over the hill and believe me,I saw red.
“Now, ordinarily, I would have waded into that tenantand advised him to read his lease again. I would havepointed out that if he moved, the full balance of his rentwould fall due at once - and that I could, and would,move to collect.
“However, instead of flying off the handle and makinga scene, I decided to try other tactics. So I started likethis: ‘Mr. Doe,’ I said, ‘I have listened to your story,and I still don’t believe you intend to move. Years inthe renting business have taught me something abouthuman nature, and I sized you up in the first place asbeing a man of your word. In fact, I’m so sure of it thatI’m willing to take a gamble.
" ‘Now, here’s my proposition. Lav your decision onthe table for a few days and think it over. If you comeback to me between now and the first of the month,when your rent is due, and tell me you still intend tomove, I give you my word I will accept your decision asfinal. I will privilege you to move and admit to myselfI’ve been wrong in my judgment. But I still believeyou’re a man of your word and will live up to your contract.For after all, we are either men or monkeys - andthe choice usually lies with ourselves!’
“Well, when the new month came around, this gentlemancame to see me and paid his rent in person. He andhis wife had talked it over, he said - and decided to stay.They had concluded that the only honorable thing to dowas to live up to their lease.”
When the late Lord Northcliffe found a newspaperusing a picture of him which he didn’t wantpublished,he wrote the editor a letter. But did he say, “Please do not publish that picture of me any more; I don’t like it”?No, he appealed to a nobler motive. He appealed to therespect and love that all of us have for motherhood. Hewrote, “Please do not publish that picture of me anymore. My mother doesn’t like it.”
When John D. Rockefeller, Jr., wished to stop newspaperphotographers from snapping pictures of his children,he too appealed to the nobler motives. He didn’t,say: “I don’t want their pictures published.” No, he appealedto the desire, deep in all of us, to refrain fromharming children. He said: “You know how it is, boys.You’ve got children yourselves, some of you. And youknow it’s not good for youngsters to get too much publicity.”
When Cyrus H. K. Curtis, the poor boy from Maine,was starting on his meteoric career, which was destinedto make him millions as owner of The Saturday EveningPost and the Ladies’ Home Journal, he couldn’t afford topay his contributors the prices that other magazinespaid. He couldn’t afford to hire first-class authors towrite for money alone. So he appealed to their noblermotives. For example, he persuaded even Louisa MayAlcott, the immortal author of Little Women, to write forhim when she was at the flood tide of her fame; and hedid it by offering to send a check for a hundred dollars,not to her, but to her favorite charity.
Right here the skeptic may say: “Oh, that stuff is allright for Northcliffe and Rockefeller or a sentimentalnovelist. But, I’d like to see you make it work with thetough babies I have to collect bills from!”
You may be right. Nothing will work in all cases - andnothing will work with all people. If you are satisfiedwith the results you are now getting, why change? If youare not satisfied, why not experiment?
At any rate, I think you will enjoy reading thistrue story told by James L. Thomas, a former student ofmine:
Six customers of a certain automobile company refusedto pay their bills for servicing. None of the customersprotested the entire bill, but each claimed that someone charge was wrong. In each case, the customer had signed for the work done, so the company knew it wasright - and said so. That was the first mistake.
Here are the steps the men in the credit departmenttook to collect these overdue bills. Do you suppose theysucceeded?
1. They called on each customer and told himbluntly that they had come to collect a bill that waslong past due.
2. They made it very plain that the company wasabsolutely and unconditionally right; therefore he,the customer, was absolutely and unconditionallywrong.
3. They intimated that they, the company, knewmore about automobiles than he could ever hope toknow. So what was the argument about?
4. Result: They argued.
Did any of these methods reconcile the customer andsettle the account? You can answer that one yourself.
At this stage of affairs, the credit manager was about toopen fire with a battery of legal talent, when fortunatelythe matter came to the attention of the general manager.The manager investigated these defaulting clients anddiscovered that they all had the reputation of payingtheir bills promptly, Something was wrong here - somethingwas drastically wrong about the method of collection.So he called in James L. Thomas and told him tocollect these “uncollectible” accounts.
Here, in his words, are the steps Mr. Thrrmastook:
1. My visit to each customer was likewise to collect a billlong past due - a bill that we knew was absolutely right.But I didn’t say a word about that. I explained I had calledto find out what it was the company had done, or failed todo.
2. I made it clear that, until I had heard the customer’sstory, I had no opinion to offer. I told him the company made no claims to being infallible.
3. I told him I was interested only in his car, and that heknew more about his car than anyone else in the world; thathe was the authority on the subject.
4. I let him talk, and I listened to him with all the interestand sympathy that he wanted - and had expected.
5. Finally, when the customer was in a reasonable mood,I put the whole thing up to his sense of fair play. I appealedto the nobler motives. “First,” I said, "I want you to knowI also feel this matter has been badly mishandled. You’vebeen inconvenienced and annoyed and irritated by one ofour representatives. That should never have happened. I’msorry and, as a representative of the company, I apologize.As I sat here and listened to your side of the story, I couldnot help being impressed by your fairness and patience.And now, because you are fair - minded and patient, I amgoing to ask you to do something for me. It’s something thatyou can do better than anyone else, something you knowmore about than anyone else. Here is your bill; I know it issafe for me to ask you to adjust it, just as you would do ifyou were the president of my company. I am going to leaveit all up to you. Whatever you say goes.”
Did he adjust the bill? He certainly did, and got quite akick out of it, The bills ranged from $150 to $400 - but didthe customer give himself the best of it? Yes, one of themdid! One of them refused to pay a penny of the disputedcharge; but the other five all gave the company the best ofit! And here’s the cream of the whole thing: we deliverednew cars to all six of these customers within the next twoyears!
“Experience has taught me,” says Mr. Thomas, "thatwhen no information can be secured about the customer,the only sound basis on which to proceed is to assumethat he or she is sincere, honest, truthful and willing andanxious to pay the charges, once convinced they are correct.To put it differently and perhaps mare clearly, peopleare honest and want to discharge their obligations.The exceptions to that rule are comparatively few, and Iam convinced that the individuals who are inclined tochisel will in most cases react favorably if you makethem feel that you consider them honest, upright and fair."
PRINCIPLE 10 Appeal to the nobler motives.