But not at Nordstom. And therein lies the lesson.
When asked to explain why his stores do not set a limit on clothes taken back to the dressing rooms, John Nordstrom explained that, in retail, a small percentage of your customers, let’s say two percent, will steal from you. The policies of any given store can make the number a little less or a little more, but the loss will always hover around the same two percent. “Why,” he wondered, “should we make the other 98% of our customers feel like we don’t trust them, just for a chance at cutting into that 2%?”
I am often asked by clients to help them win the last war. They experienced a loss on a project or saw a loophole in their contract and vowed not to let that happen again. So, we sit in my conference room and plan our strategy.
Often, this proves to be a worthwhile exercise. There are those times, however, when the meeting arises out of the business equivalent of the Irish Sweepstakes. The circumstances surrounding my client’s loss formed a once-in-a-generation event which my client could not duplicate if it tried. But because of it, because of the still-fresh sting of it, my client wants to change well-considered company-wide procedures.
That’s when I tell them about the dressing rooms at Nordstrom. And I ask them to consider whether this change they’re contemplating is necessary to the health of the business as a whole or if it really just amounts to a lot of effort devoted to preventing something already rare and unlikely.