Why Being a Jerk Can Hurt Your Brand and Your Business

Bad News Chimney

Bad news travels fast.

It's true. Sadly, our society is quicker to shout, email or post a rant about something or someone, quicker than it is to compliment or thank someone. And in today's mobile world of instant, worldwide communication, you'd better be careful who you tick off, especially if you own a business or work for one, because if you're a jerk, there's a 99.9% chance that someone else (and a thousand (plus or minus) of his/her friends) are going to hear about it.

Do you think that will negatively impact your brand? You betcha.

After recently moving and buying a fixer-upper, I had the misfortune of having a couple of contractors who fell into the "jerk" category. In fact, I could seriously write a script about the whole experience. I think Lifetime would pick it up in a heartbeat! But today I'll focus on one such incident.

To set the stage, the story I'm about to tell you took place very recently and several months after the major renovations had been completed. I had already had my fill of jerks and I guess, was now better prepared to identify them before I engaged them.

Here's how it went down (after he showed up at Noon for a 9-11am appointment window):

Jerk: "Bang. Bang."

I quickly put my shoes on to greet him, ran outside, still hobbling to put a shoe on but couldn't find him. He wasn't in the driveway so I started to walk toward the front of the house.

Jerk: "This your house?" (hollaring)

Me: "Yeeees." (Thinking to myself, no, I'm loitering. Of course it's my house!)

The jerk then beckons me over to him with one of those "come here" sort of waves that you got from your parents when you were little after you had broken something. I reluctantly and slowly walk toward him with a look on my face like, "really?" He never really acknowledges me or shakes my hand.

Jerk: You see up there (pointing to my chimney), whoever you had out here working on your chimney didn' t know what they were doing.

Already annoyed by him I say...

Me: Yes, you're not the first person to tell me that, that's why I'm looking to hire someone to fix it.

Jerk: Well, if you're smart, you'd let me inspect the whole thing and give you a free estimate.

Seriously..."if I'm smart?"

Me: As a matter of fact, I am really smart, and my smarts are telling me that you and I aren't going to get along, so I thank you for your time, but we're done here.

Jerk: What do mean?

Me: You're arrogant and this (pointing to him and then me), isn't going to work.

Jerk: I might be arrogant but it's only because I'm really good at my job. I've been doing this for x number of years and have plenty of work so blah, blah.. (I tuned out at that point).

Me: Well, it sounds like you don't need my business and I'm really good at my job too, but I'm not a jerk so, it's time for you to go.

Jerk: Have a nice day! (sarcastically)

Me: I will! (sarcastically)

Now, this could have played out VERY differently. He could have walked toward me and greeted me properly. He could have even still called me over but said, "Ma'am, would you mind coming here, I'd like to show you something." And you don't make the customer feel like an idiot by pointing out the obvious without first saying, "You probably already know this but you have some issues with your chimney." And to suggest that your customer isn't smart or that the smart move is to hire you to do something, is likely going to have the opposite effect, just like it did for me.

So while the obvious lesson here is clearly, "Don't be a jerk", there is more to the story.

Not only did I come into my house fuming and recount the entire scene (the above is just a snippet of the whole thing), I called my family, I texted my realtor, and I told my friends this story over cocktails last weekend. And what was their consistent reaction? "That's horrible. Who was it? I'll be sure not to ever use them!"

While I did restrain from blasting him on social media (because I'm not a jerk and don't want to ruin someone's business over it), I did use the powerful weapon of traditional word-of-mouth marketing to my closest family and friends so they wouldn't waste their time with his arrogance.

My hope is that the "jerk", also took some time to reflect on his actions and my responses to him and realized that he needs to work on his customer service skills. If he doesn't it, it's going to negatively impact his brand. It's bound to catch up with him at some point and when it does, it's going to be bad for business.

I know everyone has a bad day, I have them too. But it's important that we all respect each other. To me, that's what it really boils down to. Even if you don't agree, respect the other person, especially when they have invited you into their home or office. You're on sacred ground. Don't blow it.

Stay tuned for my next blog, where I share with you a positive story about one of the good guys in this home renovation journey, that is a marketing model we can all learn from.