a mule

a mule (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m at my bank. The teller and I complete a simple transaction related to my personal account. She asks me if there’s anything else and I say, “Yes and I apologize in advanced because this one’s much more complicated.”

Despite the fact that she’s been perfectly polite up to this point, this, for whatever reason, sets her off. She laughs and not in a friendly way and says, very sarcastically, “Whatever it is is, lady, I’m sure I can handle it.” It was so rude and so out of the blue that I was taken aback. The teller was a middle aged woman and I guess she was offended that I thought she couldn’t handle any and everything even though that’s not even remotely what I said? I decided to ignore it and move on.

I handed over the two checks and deposit slip as I explained that one was in GBP and the other in Euros and that I needed to deposit them in my business account as USD. Then I waited and waited as she turned a deeper and deeper shade of red, clicking furiously around on her computer. She made me wait a full 15 minutes and shot down my attempts at small talk and then, finally, questions about the status. It became pretty apparent that the issue was that, despite her rude insistence otherwise, this was an issue she couldn’t handle but she was didn’t want to admit that by calling over her manager.

Finally, the manager herself noticed how long I was standing there and came over to find out what was going on. The teller had to admit that she didn’t know how to do the transaction and she did it in such a small whisper that the manager asked her to repeat it twice. Then the manager was annoyed, giving the teller a chewing out for not just calling her over in the first place. I’m still standing there awkwardly as this is going on and I’m really getting annoyed it’s now been 20+ minutes and I’m not getting any younger.

Finally, they deposited my checks. The manager left the original teller to finish up the transaction and I was insanely mature and at no point did I say something like, “See? I told you it was complicated!” But the entire time, she wouldn’t even look me in the eye and was very cold to me. No apology for the fact that I was standing there for just over half an hour total let alone one for her rudeness.

Ideally, the teller wouldn’t make a rude comment at all but, even if she’d still did, how hard would it have been to say something like, “Huh, this is more complicated than I thought. Let me get so and so” or even make a self-depreciating joke about it? It would have diffused the situation right away and, from the customer’s standpoint, all would have been forgiven. 

Instead, she just kept doubling down rather than admit that she was wrong making the situation worse and worse for everyone involved. What good did it do her? She wasted everyone’s time, got in trouble with her manager and the bank lost me as a customer  after that which probably reflected poorly back on her as well. All so that she didn’t have to apologize to a complete stranger, someone she literally would never see again in her entire life.

It’s human nature to want to be right and admitting that you’re wrong is often embarrassing, so we resist it. We’ll often double down, digging ourselves deeper and deeper into a mess, as this woman did, when, really, what would it cost us to just own up to our goof?

As sellers, it’s so tempting to battle your buyers, to prove that you were right (even when you weren’t). But what good does that do? Even if you “win” that argument, you usually lose a customer in the process. Just the simplicity of owning up to your mistakes, be they slight or large, can often erase all sorts of ill.

So, next time you feel yourself digging your heels in for a good old stubborn fight, stop. What would you lose, really, but just saying an professional equivalent of “My bad!”, owning the mistake and moving on? For that matter, what would you gain? Chances are, it’s a customers so that means it’s always worth a try.