I Had It Painted (Issue 963)

In which we are reminded not to accept, fully at face value, the stories our clients tell us.  

When I received this story, shared by a good friend, I loved it immediately.

Famous band leader Count Basie was upset because the piano on which he played was constantly out of tune. He told the club owner he would not return to the club again until the piano was fixed. A few days later, the owner called to say everything was all right. When Basie returned, he became furious when he found the piano was still hopelessly out of tune. “I thought you fixed this,” he yelled at the owner. “I did,” protested the stunned owner. “I had it painted. There is not a single scratch on it.”

Great story!  Who could not like this story (in a few words, a picture of Basie, the club owner, and the mistake)?

So, considering the story as a potential Sales Thought, I wanted to know: Is the story apocryphal or true (or “enough true”)?

I found fourteen web sites and writers who have used this story, for example:

I read a story recently about the legendary musician, Count Basie. He told a particular club owner that he would not return to his club until he fixed his piano, which was always out of tune. A month later, Basie got a call that everything was fine. When he returned, the piano was still out of tune. He shouted at the owner, “You said you fixed it!” The owner replied, “I did. I had it painted.”

Very interesting: The punch lines of the stories (“I did. I had it painted.”) are identical and the versions of the story similar enough that, I’m thinking, “This is kind of peculiar.”  Is there a single source for the story – a book, an article, an interview that someone recorded or transcribed, something that would serve as a reference point? Or, maybe, somebody just made it up and fourteen writers repeated it almost word for word? Where did this come from?

The screen writer, Wilson Mizener, is quoted as saying or writing at some point (and, no, I don’t know the original source for this, either), “I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.”

Good to remember when we are listening to clients and prospects  share their stories.

Nick Miller trains banks and bankers to sell to small businesses. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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