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It's a matter of trust

Keri Sutter

Keri Sutter
Executive Director

Trust. The world, no, the entire universe runs on trust.

We trust that the sun will rise each morning and set each evening, and would not live long if that were not true. We trust that water will flow downhill; what a mess if it didn’t! We trust that plants will grow, that lions will roar and dogs will wag their tails. We trust that the other driver will stop at the red light, and the drivers behind us trust that we will push the gas pedal when the light turns green. I trust that you are speaking honestly, and you trust that I am also speaking honestly.

So what’s the deal with written contracts?

That’s a question I face several times each year. Those of you who are clients know that I send a written confirmation of our agreement. It’s two pages long, and a lawyer would probably laugh at it. Some of you like it. Some of you don’t. Some of you ignore it (I know -- you’re really, really busy. I understand). Some don’t receive it at all, due to glitches in the U. S. Postal Service or the sharks that inhabit cyberspace and eat faxes. Some of you take offence. Some clients call and tell me, "We don’t sign contracts. Ever. Our word is our bond." (And it is.) A couple of times a year, a client will cancel, "because you sent a written contract." That always makes me say, "Huh?" because they knew I was going to send one. Why not back out right then, instead of waiting a couple of weeks?

So why do I send them?

First, and foremost, to keep my head on straight. Last year Surgite performed 255 commitments for 10,722 people. Some of them were multiple bookings for one client on the same day, but even they can have small changes between them. It gets confusing. And sometimes my head just gets screwy. A few weeks ago, I put the wrong date entirely on an agreement. Luckily, the client caught it right away and I was able to make all the necessary corrections. So I send you a confirmation so you can make sure I haven’t made a mistake on the day, time, price, or what not. Notice that I call it a "confirmation," not a "contract." The contract is verbal. The confirmation is written, just so we both have something to refer to later.

But there are a couple of other reasons.

First, once you’ve booked, I stop looking for a client for that time slot. Even if somebody begs me, or offers a lot more money, they won’t get your slot. I frequently turn potential clients away, because the day and time they want is taken. So if that client then cancels, everybody loses: they lose, the potential client who wanted that day and time, and Surgite. You can trust us to show up. We trust you to keep your end of the deal. So there’s a penalty clause to point that out.

Second, occasionally there are safety hazards (yes I had a client complaining about that clause a few weeks ago). You trust us to perform. We trust that we won’t break an ankle because the floor was missing tile or had a hole where there used to be a power outlet. We trust you to eliminate safety hazards, or let us do what we need to minimize them. (We’ve never backed out of a commitment because of safety issues.) Again, the clause points that out.

Third, if you don’t get a written confirmation, it’s harder for you to be sure you can trust us. Did we really commit? Did we find a better offer and back out on you? Are we just screwballs and might show up – but might not? The written confirmation gives you some assurance that we’ll follow through on our commitment. At least you know we won’t forget about it!

So that’s the straight scoop on those written agreements. The reality is that you can’t force us to keep our word any more than we can force you to keep yours. We have to trust each other. And trust doesn’t come from a piece of paper, but from our hearts. When our hearts are in agreement, the paper is only there to keep the details straight (and to catch those days when my brain goes all screwy).


August, 2009