Business And Creating Public Confidence
( Originally Published 1912 )
One of the most important and persistent questions that has ever come up in America, is the relation between the public and the "Service Corporations." Magazines write about it. Newspapers devote much space to it. It is made a plank in the platform of political campaigns. It is an every-day topic of discussion whenever men meet.
In many localities they already have municipal ownership of water and light companies. Quite generally, there is discussion of "Municipal Owner-ship," "State Regulation," or "Government Control."
Corporations Are Encouraging Confidence
Indeed this question has become so acute, and the public is so excitable over it, that many of the local monopolies, or public service corporations, are taking it upon themselves to handle their business with the public in such a way as to allay suspicion and create confidence.
Meter Reader's Duplicate
Certain gas companies are providing a duplicate check for each meter-reader to use in his work. As he reads the meters in houses, stores, factories and other places using gas, he marks on four dials printed on the check—these dials being exact duplicates of the dials on the meter—the exact reading of the meter, puts on the date, signs his name. He tears off the duplicate of this check, and leaves it with the consumer or user. The reader does not compute the bill; he simply gives the consumer a record of exactly how the meter reads. These consumers' duplicate checks are kept ; each month the consumer can subtract the last previous reading from the new reading, and figure the exact amount of gas which he has used. In this way he can always tell whether his bill is right, and whether he has actually used the amount of gas for which he has been billed. If he is very particular, he can read the meter himself before the regular gas inspector or reader leaves his place. Just as a person who travels on a mileage book usually glances at his book to see how much mileage is in it when he hands it to the conductor, and then glances at the book when it is handed back, to see if the conductor tore out the correct amount for the distance to be travelled.
Coal, Coke, Charcoal
In New York State, there is a law—Paragraph 384 and Paragraph 389, Chapter 825, Laws of 1911, which reads:
"No person, firm or corporation, delivering coal, coke or charcoal, shall deliver, or cause to be delivered, any quantity or quantities of coal, coke or charcoal without each such delivery being accompanied by a delivery ticket and a duplicate thereof, on each of which shall be in ink or other indelible substance distinctly expressed in pounds the quantity or quantities of coal, coke or charcoal contained in the cart or wagon or other vehicle used in such delivery, with the name of the purchaser thereon, and the name of the dealer from whom purchased. One of such tickets shall be delivered to the person specified thereon, and the other of such tickets shall be retained by the seller."
Paragraph 389—Chapter 825, Laws of 1911—reads : "A violator of any of the preceding sections shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall upon conviction be liable to a fine of not over $50.00 for the first offence, and not over $100.00 or two months' imprisonment, or both, for the second and each subsequent offence."
Possibly a similar law will be passed in other States.
This is an effort on the part of the law-makers to compel dealers to give evidence to the purchaser with each sale that the purchaser is receiving goods "as ordered."
The Superintendent of Weights and Measures, Washington, D. C., not long ago sent out the following announcement :
"This office has recently had two or three cases where we. found short weight coal and the dealers, delivering same, were using the certificate of the wholesaler from whom the coal was purchased. This practice makes it difficult for the office to locate the responsibility, as a dealer or his driver may, for some reason, take off some of the coal in transit. I desire to respectfully invite your attention to this matter and suggest that you have printed or stamped across the face of your certificate : `Not responsible for the weight of coal after it leaves our scales' or words to that effect."
The above illustrates the advantage to the merchant of using duplicate coal tickets or slips which will clearly and positively establish the fact that he, himself, is giving full weight to the consumer who buys coal from him.
The Favorable Predisposition
The modern successful business man realizes that one of the first requisites of success is to create a favorable predisposition in the mind of the purchaser or buyer or the one with whom you desire to deal. A house builds up a reputation for fair dealing and liberal treatment of its customers. It advertises itself to the whole public, in order that when the people come into its store, or would-be customers come into its place of business, or its men visit prospective customers in their own places of business, there will be a favorable disposition toward it and its representatives. The use of sales checks or accurate records is a strong factor in creating a favorable impression toward the house which em-ploys such accurate and business-like methods.
Protection to Both Parties
In regard to public service corporations dealing in gas, both natural and artificial, water, coal, wood, coke, charcoal, electricity and ice, the use of a duplicating sales slip left with the purchaser is a protection to the company as well as to the purchaser.
It is certain that all firms dealing in commodities of any kind that are under public discussion and subject to regulation, should do everything in their power to let the public, or consumer, or purchaser, see that they are being treated fairly as to the quantity and quality and price. Nothing establishes this confidence so much as a written record which the consumer can study and compare. The itemized "Bill of Sale" given to the consumer, tends to dispel suspicion, and create confidence.