Despite the general craziness of the world we live in, it’s always seemed that there are some givens.
A universal given is that you treat your customers with respect, politeness and helpfulness. They’re your customers. They’re paying you for your products, services and expertise. In fact simply put, they’re paying your salary! They deserve the best treatment you can muster.
If you can go above and beyond your value proposition and deliver even greater value, so much the better. Add to their expertise. Make them smarter. Help them help their customers. Help them get better. In our case, we’re committed to making the world a safer place. We promise to help you achieve better safety results and gain operational efficiencies.
That’s why I was shocked, amazed in the true sense of the word, to read the Federal affidavit against Pilot Flying J. As you most likely know, their headquarters were raided last week by the FBI and the IRS in connection with a possible scam to defraud their customers through an adulterated rebate program. The charge is that certain customers were intentionally denied full rebates for fuel. Allegedly, this was done to increase the profitability of Pilot Flying J and to raise the sales commissions for certain high-ranking sales people. Words like “fraud” and “conspiracy” and “secretly recorded conversations” are being used.
The charges and content from the affidavit are the following: …that millions of dollars of rebates were reduced for certain customers and transcripts released in the indictment show the sales staff treated their “customers” like rubes….that they used profane language and made fun of their customers behind their backs…that they picked on customers who they believed were unsophisticated and least likely to uncover the truth.
If true, this is a monumental disgrace. How do we characterize the mean spirit of the conversations mentioned in the affidavit? Tawdry is too kind.
Remarkably, after the raid (in which the Feds took computers and files), the company’s first reaction was that the rebates in question were for “a very insignificant number of small trucking companies.” Really? Some of the customers qualify as insignificant?
Now, Pilot Flying J is being sued in a class-action lawsuit and several staffers have been put on “administrative leave”. Events continue to unfold but it seems to me that a fundamental given has been grievously violated. Someone forgot why the business exists and that, plain and simple, is to provide value to the customers. Now, the company has entered into damage control mode. That may mitigate some of the harm done. Who knows? But it may be time for Pilot Flying J to pay for their violation of customer trust.