Source: Sherman Publications

My Way
Why is it so hard to do the right thing?

by CJ Carnacchio

December 26, 2012

Doing the right thing.

Itís so simple and easy, yet why is it such a hard thing for so many folks to do?

Last week, I did it at the Sunoco gas station in the Village of Oxford.

I wanted $10 worth of gas. I gave the cashier a $20 bill and he gave me $10 in change. As I was filling up, I let my mind fill with thoughts of the afternoon deer hunt that laid ahead of me when all of the sudden, I noticed the pumpís screen indicated I was rapidly approaching $20.

The cashier didnít realize that he had set the pump for double the amount I prepaid. Now, I could have easily got in my car and drove off with $10 worth of free gasoline. I could have cheated the gas station and spent my ill-gotten money on something more enjoyable, like a fine cigar.

But I didnít do that because my parents raised me to have a conscience and always do whatís right. I walked back into the store, pointed out the cashierís mistake and paid him the difference. Nobody had to force me or cajole me into doing the right thing. I just did it and Iíd do it again. To me, doing the right thing when nobodyís watching says a lot about a personís character.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who need a little Ė or a lot Ė of arm-twisting when it comes to doing the right thing.

A perfect example is on Page 1 this week.

Jeff Collier, owner of Collier Lanes, paid thousands of dollars to AT&T over the years for an emergency line that had been disconnected about 12 years ago.

Originally, the phone company informed Collier that it had investigated the matter and it wouldnít be reimbursing him. No explanation. No money. No justice.

Howís that for customer service and appreciation?

Then I got involved with a few phone calls and questions. Next thing you know, AT&T is taking another look at the situation, calling Collier and now, heís going to receive at least $11,500 from the phone company.

My question is why didnít that happen in the first place? Why did it take involving the media to get AT&T to do the right by Collier? Why didnít the company just admit its mistake and compensate the local business owner accordingly?

Make no mistake, I donít believe AT&T isnít paying Collier because itís the right thing to do or because it cares about dealing honestly with their customers or because itís suddenly grown a corporate-size conscience.

Itís more likely that AT&Tís paying him because theyíre hoping to avoid Ė or at least lessen Ė any negative publicity. Itís sad but true that many large corporations seem to care more about their manufactured public image than acting in an ethical, decent manner.

While Iím certainly glad AT&T agreed to pay Collier, it saddens me that the companyís actions have about the same level of sincerity as a naughty child being forced to apologize by an angry parent who keeps smacking them in the back of the head.

But unfortunately, thatís the world we live in now.

Itís only wrong if you get caught. If you can get away with it, do it. Feel free to take advantage of people if you believe they canít fight back or they donít have a voice. Admit nothing and deny everything. Only make good on a mistake when the media or a lawyer gets involved.

In the grand scheme of things, my $10 correction at Sunoco didnít change the world, but at least I didnít make it any worse. Maybe thatís all any of us can really hope for.