Want better products? Try a little kindness.

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This is a guest post from Dr. Kelli Moore, creator of  Innovations in Kindness.

Recently, at a local international market I encountered a table of watermelons marked “no refund, no exchange.” I had been looking that day specifically for a watermelon, so I was motivated to buy one anyway. I asked the lady sampling fruit if there was anything wrong with the melons. “Nothing wrong,” she said tersely.

I exited through the customer service aisle and asked the cashier, “Why are these melons marked no refund, no exchange? Do you not stand by this product?” The cashier said they were fine and that she enjoyed them. The manager was standing next to her and as I left the store I heard him say, “We have to take those signs down.”

Many of us want to be kind in our own lives, but we also realize that we live in a community (locally and globally) with others. Everyday interactions can be a moment to extend our values — even when we are shopping. Many people want to find goods and services that are aligned with their values, but sometimes we don’t spend time thinking about how to put this into action.

Twenty years ago, during a conversation with a fellow college student, I insisted that a business could make a sweatshop-free shirt and make a profit. He pooh-poohed me. Today, businesses like Whole Foods and American Apparel are household names.

How do you get the businesses that you patronize to act a little more kindly and with integrity? And what exactly does that mean?

When I ask people what it means to be kind, my pet peeve is a response that includes five other synonyms for the word nice. For me and for Innovations in Kindness, more often than not, the point is how to work through difficult people and issues with your kindness and integrity intact and reach a resolution that looks a little more kind, ethical, and sustainable.

Here are a few pointers about kindly raising awareness with the businesses that you patronize:

Focus on communication

  • No one can fix a problem if they don’t know what it is. Look a manager or owner in the eye and express your concern calmly and clearly.
  • Use constructive criticism about the business or product. Rarely is a perception all one way. Things are usually a little complicated. Recognize this when you discuss the issue.
  • Don’t assume that the person you are talking understands your issue. If there is background to an issue, explain it.
  • Once you have been polite and direct and the business isn’t responsive to you or to the issue, you will have clues as to what kind of business it is. At this point you can take your complaints to social media, but not before. Talk to people first and treat them with respect.

Make sure you are being practical

  • What can that business really do? Small businesses and large businesses have different stakes and different abilities to absorb costs. Temper your expectations and make sure they are in line with the capabilities of the business.
  • Tell the company what you are willing to do and stand by that. A better product that is good to the environment, created by fair labor may end up being a more expensive product than some consumers are willing to pay. Are you willing to pay more? Let the business know. If they produce a better product/service, then make sure you buy it.
  • Does what you want actually exist? Is there an organic peach available that was delivered by bike from a local farm that would cost .49 cent per pound?

How much do you believe in kindness? If you know that a product, person, or service goes against your values, it is important to say something. The world is full of good people who let things “go by” everyday.

I recognize the how impractical it is to make a statement to every business I patronize on a given day, but it doesn’t hurt to do some research up front to make sure that some of the places that you frequent and products that you purchase align with your values. This will help to make sure that good products, businesses and services become a part of your routine.

Dr. Kelli Moore is an educator, researcher, and founder of Innovations in Kindness. She helps people and organizations learn the value of kindness for their organizations and for their lives. She may be reached at innovationsinkindness@gmail.com. Visit the website at www.innovationsinkindness.com.

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