I always thought that Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Britain would have been a great source of wisdom to most pommies, at least until he befriended George W. However I never realised that, by accident, he would become a source of enlightenment for me. Knowing that I would be a useless politician, I have contented myself with the private study of British and U.S. politics and in accordance with my latest work I purchased a biography from a well known book store, which featured the life and times of Mr. Blair.

On closer inspection I found the book to contain pages which were crumpled; stained and watermarked and being the lover of books that I am, I returned the book for an exchange. That was four weeks ago. Today, short of $39.95 and still ‘book less’ I rang the store to request the status of my new book.

I should state here and now that I’ve spent hundreds, probably thousands, of dollars with this store over the years and had always received courteous attention with no difficulties and, to be absolutely honest, I held the store management in high esteem. I was, if you like, living with a perception that the culture of the company was focused on delivering, ‘ customer centric service’. It is with this in mind that I returned the book, assured within myself that they would do the right thing.

Not having the same book in stock the store offered to send the book back to the publisher – that seemed reasonable but my real concerns were heightened when a simple slip of the tongue alerted me to, none other than ‘Mr. Hyde’.

Yes my book had been re-ordered but unfortunately it had not yet arrived. So a call to the publisher uncovered the sad news that my book had not yet been shipped but I was assured, it would be shipped soon – and then came the brickbat, “We’ve received one for our stock sir, but you’ll have to wait for yours to arrive!!!”

Wow! Let’s slow down here and get this straight – I’m the customer, right?; I’ve paid my money, right?; I got the raw end of the deal, right? Now you have a book in stock and you want me to wait for mine while you sell ‘your’ book again? Sorry but I just don’t get it. What kind of business service culture dictates a policy of store rights which places it’s own interests before that of a paid up customer? Where do I sit in the scheme of things? – Obviously nowhere!

The stupid part about this is that the lady who responded to my enquiry seemed completely oblivious to the company’s poor attitude. She was completely comfortable saying to me, “You wait – we won’t”. She wouldn’t and couldn’t understand why I might be a ‘smidgin’ upset!

As a consequence, my perceptions of the store have changed. Dr. Jekyll suddenly became Mr. Hyde and I don’t like Mr. Hyde one little bit. Trouble is like the Robert Louis Stephenson story on which this example is predicated, I don’t know when the good Doctor will suddenly evidence himself as the misanthropic Edward Hyde. For me the company has a split personality; a “Jekyll and Hyde” which by its very nature has come to signify a bipolar behaviour.

Sufferers of Schizophrenia are unfortunately isolated because of their disease. You see, unkindly or not, the rest of us tend to avoid them, their unpredictability is too much for us. We know that sooner or later Mr.Hyde will come knocking and we’ll be faced with something we don’t like – and to avoid that, we stay away – which, in the case of a schizophrenic business can’t be good.

The lesson here is simple; an organisation’s culture is bloody powerful and once you’ve created it you can bet your next bottle of Jack Daniels that, good or bad, the real strong>philosophy, the one that really steers the organisation, is going to filter its way out to the consumer when you least expect it. For $39.95, this store could have had my loyalty and my dollars for a long time, as it is, they just scared me off – What’s up Doc?