11 minutes…are you freakin kidding me?

Lion And Panda

I forgot.

I was supposed to shut down the account and got distracted by one of the other million shiny objects that comes to my attention daily; who am I kidding, hourly and sometimes by the minute.  Since I forgot this morning the bill came to prepay for next month.  It wasn’t a lot, only $50, but it was the principle of the thing, or more likely knowing that I would have to admit to a mistake and apologize to my business partners for wasting that $50.  As a start up, every dollar matters and while we could take the hit, I don’t like having to admit that I am in fact human and make mistakes…especially to my partners.


I logged into our Highrise by 37 Signals account and cancelled the subscription.  Then I reluctantly mentally prepared myself for the bureaucratic battle that was about to ensue.  I knew what was coming, I would ask for forgiveness, they would refuse, I would grovel, they would offer a kind gesture, I would throw a temper-tantrum and they would either give me my money back or call the cops.  Either way the rest of my day would be spent pissed and miserable.

So I found the email address… support @ you are about to hate your life dot com, and started the standard politically correct message twice having to remove several threatening comments and reinforcing that I had indeed read the fine print (full disclaimer: no I didn’t and no one ever does).


11 Minutes later:

“Thanks, Richard! I’ve just refunded this charge. You should see this refund in your statement within 72 hours.

Have a Happy Monday!Joan Stewart
Basecamp Customer Service*Please note: I work Monday, Tuesday, Thursday Friday, 10am – 7pm Central (US).”Umm…What?

We were gonna wrestle, Joan…and you took that from me.

Either, my initial email was terrifying (it wasn’t) or 37 Signals gave Joan something too few companies do: TRUST.  They trusted her to take care of their customers.  Even while writing out the email, I remember thinking about how if they messed with me on this…well I’d show them….I would cancel contracts on all my other 37 Signal applications (yes, I know…I’m basically a 12 year old with anger issues, but I feel confident in saying that most people have been through similar irrational situations).

But I didn’t.  Now I’m here to use them as an example of what to do.  The response was quick and painless.  Joan took care of everything, let me know when to expect the return and provide her work hours to ensure that should I need to contact her, I knew when she was available.  These experiences are so delightful, because they are the opposite of what we have all come to expect, most unfortunately.

One of the most classic examples is the Ritz Carlton, where every staff member is able to spend up to $2,000 on a guest without prior approval from the general manager.  This isn’t an annual allowance, this is per incident.  That isn’t the ceiling, a staff member could go over that amount with general manager permission.  This isn’t just comping some room service for not having the room ready on time, this is an amount that gives people pause, because it’s a meaningful amount.

The $2,000 permission free limit doesn’t get used often, but it does reinforce the trust that Ritz Carlton has in their team.

Even more interesting, this isn’t used exclusively for making good on issues.  There are stories about hiring a carpenter to build a shoe tree for a guest; a laundry manager who couldn’t get the stain out of a dress after trying twice flying up from Puerto Rico to New York to return the dress personally; or when in Dubai a waiter overheard a gentleman musing with his wife, who was in a wheelchair, that it was a shame he couldn’t get her down to the beach. The waiter told maintenance, who passed word, and the next afternoon there was a wooden walkway down the beach to a tent that was set up for them to have dinner in. That’s not out of the ordinary, and the general manager didn’t know about it until it was built.

Romantic Dinner

I’m not sure what it costs to build a walkway to the beach, but I know that couple couldn’t put a value on it either.  These examples are share-able (in fact I’m doing it now), what I can tell you is that while we had outgrown Highrise, I still believe it is a great application for emerging businesses and I am now a stronger advocate of 37 Signals Basecamp than I ever have been.

Thanks Joan 🙂










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Lion And Panda

STRATEGY BEFORE DESIGN. We aren't like other "agencies", in fact we don't even like being called that. We're a team of freelancers who are media agnostic; finding answers to problems, whether that is in social media, video, digital, or traditional.

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