1987: The Heat, the Kitchen, and Credit Cards

(This is reposted from my blog at timberry.bplans.com)

I was furious. This guy had stolen from us, blatantly, by ordering a software product, returning it, getting his money back from us, and then getting his money back from the credit card company.

This was back in the “old days,” the beginnings of Palo Alto Software, when I was the only full-time employee. I knew the guy’s history. He had done the same thing with the previous version, and then he did it again with this version.

So I was furious when I called the credit card merchant services line to get my money back. This guy was stealing from us and the credit card people were empowering him.

I got about five minutes into the call when I finally had to take a breath, which gave the very smart and presumably very well trained woman on the other end of the call a moment edgewise.

“Mr. Berry, can I interrupt you, break your train of thought for just a moment?”

“Okay,” I said, but begrudgingly.

“If your company is going to do business with customers who have credit cards, this is going to happen to you from time to time,” she said, calmly, with a reassuring tone.

“What’s happening is that our biggest problem is credit card fraud, merchants who take customers’ money and skip out. We live and die on our customers trusting us that credit card purchases are safe.”

I was listening. She continued.

“So you have to just think of it as a cost of doing business. We are always going to side with the customer, at the drop of a hat. It comes with the territory.”

And by then, I was getting it. Like the old saying, “if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

“So basically,” I asked, “anybody who is prepared to lie to you can take my goods and get them free?”

She hesitated only a few seconds, just the right amount.

“Well, please don’t quote me on that,” she said, “but think about it. Is it worth it to you to take credit cards?”

I thanked her, gave up the issue, and went on to do something else more useful.