Oversights Undermine Trust (Issue 995)

In which we are reminded that, while small defects in presentations or deliverables are, largely, inconsequential, they matter.

Steady readers of this column may remember that, a few weeks ago, I agitated a bottle of a creamy hot sauce by shaking it with the result that the hot sauce sprayed my kitchen cabinets and a white kitchen curtain.

Not one to hold a grudge, I went back to the same grocery store this week intending to purchase another bottle of the sauce because I like the flavor. I had wrapped up my grocery shopping; this was the last item on the list. The hot sauce bottles were arranged on the top shelf opposite the sweet potatoes and squash. The green ones, the ones I wanted, were four bottles wide. I reached up and picked the first bottle on the right.

As I took it down, I examined it and noticed that the bottle was only half full of ingredients and that the ingredients had separated into three layers.


I walked around the end of the aisle to find John, the produce section manager. He was speaking with a couple of other store staff just inside the store’s front door. I hedged in and introduced myself: “Good morning, everyone. John, remember me? I’m Nick, the guy with the exploding hot sauce.”

“Yeah, hi, Nick.”

“Hi, John. So, I just pulled down this bottle of the same hot sauce and, John, there’s a problem with this one, too.“

I handed him the bottle.

He looked at it and said, “Oh, it probably just leaked.“ He handed it to one of his associates. She agreed: “yes, it probably just leaked.“


“No matter,” I said. “There was a problem with whoever put the product on the shelves, that they missed this. And there’s a problem with this product supplier; this is the second defective bottle in as many trips.”

John held up the bottle. “I’ll put it on my manager’s desk with a note,” he replied and I was thinking, “How can trust you guys pay attention to what you’re stocking when we’ve had problems with this product TWICE.”

In the early 1980s, rock band Van Halen included a contract clause requiring a bowl of M&Ms back stage and indicating that there could be no brown M&Ms in the bowl or the promoter would forfeit the entire show at full price.

In a 2012 interview, lead singer David Lee Roth explained that the bowl of M&Ms was an indicator of whether the concert promoter had actually read the band’s complicated contract which addressed the band’s extensive and sophisticated lighting and stage.

“If I came backstage…and I saw brown M&Ms on the catering table, then I guarantee the promoter had not read the contract rider, and we would have to do a serious line check” of the entire stage setup, Roth said.


Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at https://clarityadvantage.com/knowledge-center/ .

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