Reprinted from May 1993
An enraged customer leaves the jewelry store in a huff. As he slides into his car at the curb, he mutters to himself, “I’ll get even with that so-and-so if it’s the last thing I do!”
Anger has excited him to such an insane degree that he almost strips the gears of his car as he “peels off” in wild, reckless fury.
This man’s foolhardy action was touched off by a tactless, though insignificant, remark that the jeweler made, but it was the climax of the resentment toward the store owner that had been smoldering in the customer’s mind for a long time. The jeweler’s curt remark only fanned the customer’s dormant anger into flame.
Phrases like “You’ll be sorry,” “You’ll pay for that” or “I’ll get even with you” are all results of resentment that has been allowed to grow and take shape in the minds of customers, friends, employees or family. Each person with whom you come in contact is capable of harboring resentment. Once resentment is implanted in one’s mind, sooner or later the emotion will lead to retaliation.
“Ah, sweet revenge!” But is revenge really sweet? Evidently some people think it is.
Let’s take, for example, Wally, owner of Wally’s Watch Service. Wally is a watchmaker himself, but he also employs two other watchmakers. Wally’s business is based on mostly repairing watches for many of the downtown jewelry stores. The two men, Jake and Sam, do most of the actual repair work, and Wally, for the most part, does the pick-ups and deliveries, maintains the books, orders supplies, etc. Apparently, everyone is happy. Jake and Sam are paid on a percentage scale, and normally, there is lots of work, so Jake and Sam make a better than average income.
One month, though, business was very slow. Only about a half dozen watches a day were coming in, hardly enough to keep two or three men busy. Wally, the owner, picked up two of the higher priced jobs and started to work on them himself. Jake and Sam exchanged angry glances.
Unknowingly, Wally had planted seeds of resentment in the minds of Sam and Jake. They didn’t say anything out loud, but they were thinking, “Those jobs should have been ours. Our commissions are low enough already without the boss cutting in.”
Words were never exchanged. However, the temporary slump continued for several weeks, and Jake and Sam nursed their feelings of resentment towards Wally.
Finally, Jake had enough. What had started with just a few drops of resentment splashing his mental reservoir was now a pond full of ill feeling lapping with angry waves and spilling over the brim.
Jake wanted revenge! He felt he had been cheated out of what was rightfully his, and to regain his dignity he had to “get even” with Wally by hitting him in the pocketbook.
So, quietly, Jake set up his own trade shop in his home. He visited the jewelers downtown, asking them for work.
“I’ll do it cheaper,” Jake promised, and he added, “after all, I’m doing most of your work anyway, so why not give me a try?” He knew full well how to bid for their work because he was familiar with the charging scale Wally had used for years. Jake’s appeal had merit, and some of the jewelers arranged to give them their work.
Jake felt justified and somewhat happy over the loss he would cause Wally, and Wally does indeed suffer a severe financial blow. His reaction turns from bewilderment to rage at Jake’s actions. He ponders the situation and cannot understand why Jake, who had always been so loyal, set out to undermine his business.
Wally will probably never understand the reasons behind Jake’s way of thinking, but if the problem had been discussed freely when it first arose, perhaps all the unpleasantness might have been avoided.
Wally could have covered the subject like this:
“Fellows, I’m experiencing a sort of business slump right now. I’m sure that’s not news to you, because you’ve probably noticed. As you know, I have a family to support, same as you do, plus there are fixed expenses on this business.
“Now, I don’t want to cheat you guys out of any commissions, no sir! You’re both good workers, but you could help me a lot during the next few weeks if you would understand why I’ll have to do some of the jobs myself, jobs that would ordinarily be turned over to you. Just as soon as business picks up, you’ll be back on your old pay scale and the two of you will be doing most of the work again. In the meantime, though, I’ll need your cooperation, and I’ll sure enough appreciate your help.”
Probably the most valuable weapon against resentment is open communication between two parties. It’s impossible for resentment to flourish when there is a clear understanding of one another’s needs and thoughts. Resentment is the cancer of the mind which, if allowed to thrive, will eat away at a person until he his compelled to strike back to reliever his inner turmoil and tensions. The one rule to remember in dealing with others is that the injured party will always find some solace in some form of retaliation. It may take months or years for you to become aware of the brunt of his actions, but retaliation will surely come!
A jeweler might be entirely justified in his handling of a certain unpleasant situation, but unless he can acquaint the customer with the reasons for his policy, that customer will immediately start to build resentment. If resentment is allowed to grow, in time it will dwarf the actual transaction. The customer will tell everyone about the injustice – imagined or otherwise – and the store’s image suffers a consequence.
If communication and understanding is the panacea for blocking resentment, then the application of this secret is hinged to the ability to communicate with others. In order to communicate, however, your mind and the mind of your customer must be open and receptive. Your customer needs to know why you took certain steps or made special decisions. In return you need to understand your customers’ feelings and point of view. It is clearly impossible to penetrate or influence a closed mind.
Let’s assume a customer has purchased a wristwatch from a jewelry store. Within a month, she is back spewing verbal abuse because the watch has stopped. Checking it out, the jeweler finds a broken staff.
He ponders the situation. If he doesn’t repair the watch, this customer will depart angry and probably never return. On the other hand, if he does repair it, he feels it will be tantamount to an admission of incompetence for selling an inferior article in the first place.
The jeweler reasons that he should repair the watch, but, to squelch the resentment building in the customer, the wise jeweler precedes to convey to her the facts of the situation. He manages to open her mind with an emotional appeal.
“I’m going to repair your timepiece at no charge,” he says, and then pauses.
The customer’s mind snaps open and her resentful feelings begin to fade rapidly.
The jeweler then continues with, “However, I do want to take this opportunity to show you exactly why the watch has stopped, so you’ll understand the problem. Now, this little part here is broken, probably caused by a sharp blow or being dropped. Please understand that if this watch comes back in this condition again, there will definitely be a charge.”
The jeweler will face minimal resentment by his tactful way of handling an awkward situation.
There’s an old saying which goes something like, “He won the battle, but lost the war.” The same applies to dealing with persons harboring pent up resentment. You may feel you’ve won the first round, and perhaps you have, but in time some form of retaliation will be encountered and you’ll realize you’ve been a loser all along.
A tale is told about an old Chinese cook, Chang. He worked for a Texas rancher preparing meals for the bunkhouse crew. He was easily excited and the wranglers thought it hilarious fun to plant dead rattlesnakes in his kettles and to perform other seemingly harmless pranks on the unfortunate fellow.
They would double up with gales of laughter at old Chang’s antics when he discovered he had once again been the victim of some ill devised prank. Chang would lash out with loud phrases in his native tongue and shake a threatening finger at them. The men ignored his protests with chuckles of glee. After all, they were superior in size and Chang offered no threat to their well-being.
Eventually, old Chang was seemingly subdued, because his protests dropped to nothing more than ill-tempered mutterings. However, the truth of the matter was that Chang had found his own way of retaliation. Finally, all the fun had gone out of the pranks, and one day the ringleader approached Chang to inform him of their decision.
“Chang,” he said, “you’ve been a pretty good sport, so you’ll be happy to know we aren’t going to play any more tricks on you!” He smiled, thinking he was the absolute victor. “Okay, okay,” agreed Chang readily. “No more play tricks on Chang. Chang no more spit in coffee.”
So remember, Mr. Jeweler, don’t ever make the mistake of accepting silence as a victory token. Resentment will build inside your associates and cut in to your profit picture. Don’t let its evil tentacles touch your life. Keep your dealings open, honest and above board and you’ll put an end to resentment and retaliation.
And don’t forget the words of the Good Book, “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord!”