What would you have done?

As owner of a print and copy shop, I am often called to help people make copies of very private and intimate documents: love letters, divorce papers, etc. I have always felt there should be copier / client confidentiality and I normally avert my eyes while copying such material and quickly delete unread any digital copies that end up on my computer.

In this column I am going to break that confidentiality, although I will not reveal the name of the customer and I suspect that if she ever does read this column she will probably be too embarrassed to complain!

In Geneseo, with a state education factory in town, we sometimes have a little bit of a town-gown problem which often is exacerbated by strong political differences between our enlightened academic class and the hoi palloi. I try to avoid such conflicts in my business and have worked both sides of the aisle in preparing political materials.

However, when I inadvertently discovered evidence of political bias against my business in one of my own customers, ironically in a job that I was being paid to copy, it challenged all my principles.

Normally my copier works fairly proficiently in making and collating multiple copies of multi-page documents. You just load the document push the collate button and stand back. Every now and then, however, it makes a mess of things!

Recently I was asked to make a couple of copies of a very interesting  document by one of our noble professors. I only know that because my machine malfunctioned terribly and I was forced to manually re-copy about 10 pages that had randomly miss-fed and then insert them back into the copied documents in the right order. Luckily my customer had left to run a few errands and I was able to perform this time-consuming and embarrassing task in private!

To do this correctly I had to take a closer look at a document that I normally would of ignored. The first thing I noticed was that the document appeared to be something like a chatty Last Will in which the author was advising her descendants on the various businesses and tradespeople that she had used locally and recommending which ones to use for various jobs. This seemed like a very good idea and I made a silent note to perhaps prepare a similar document for my successors.

Although the gossipy nature of the text would have made for interesting reading I resisted the temptation to read it until I noticed there was a section on local print shops. As I quickly skimmed that section I noticed that I was not among the select locations recommended. That seemed a little odd since I was the business that had actually been chosen to make the copies, but it gets worse.

Taking a closer look at this section I noticed a small paragraph at the bottom of the section that I will quote in full: “The Genesee Graphics copy shop on Main Street is now out of business. No great loss because the owner was very conservative.”

Since I was only making a couple copies of the document for the customer’s children I wasn’t so much worried about the somewhat exaggerated report of my demise, however, the ill will conveyed in the last sentence left me stunned.

As I waited for the customer’s return I contemplated my options. Should I throw the now perfectly-collated copies away and tell her to take her business elsewhere? Perhaps just charge her double and not explain why, or just grin and bear it? What would you have done?

In the end my dilemma was made easier when instead her husband returned to pick up the job. I decided that since he was perhaps a more innocent party I would just let the matter drop. When he questioned why my charge was so small for the job I asked him with a wicked grin if he wanted me to charge him double?

I then explained that I would charge him the same price that I would charge anybody else that walked in the door. There must have been something in my attitude that set off a warning bell, because after paying he told me he was glad I was still in business!

If my customer somehow does read this I have only one request: If you do an updated version, please take it to one of your politically approved copy shops!

 

 

 

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