THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
A Culture of Complaining
By Jack Furlong
Founder, President & CEO
During the height of the pandemic, I picked up a new hobby that I turned into a small business: baking. I found my grandmother’s old recipes and started dabbling, eventually passing the time by making desserts each week. When the state of New Jersey decided to join the 21st Century and became the 50th state to allow cottage food sales, I opened a small business where I sold my baked goods prepared from my home. It’s just a side hustle, but it’s a nice extra source of income that brings me great joy, not just because I can bring smiles to the faces of my customers, but because I can think of my late grandmother as I use her handiwork to keep her legacy alive.
When New Jersey finally allowed cottage food sales, a laundry list of regulations was attached to the legislation. My total profits each year are capped at a certain amount; I cannot sell to private businesses, only people; and I cannot sell outside of New Jersey. As a result of these restrictions, calculating delivery costs became a hassle.
I ultimately decided that I could deliver to thirteen counties in the state, but I couldn’t charge based on the mileage due to my restrictions to neighboring states. I had to average the cost and charge a flat free regardless of the distance traveled. Whether I traveled 5 miles or 50 miles, delivery of goods cost $24.99.
Consider the thought process of what went into this. The price of gas skyrocketed to over $4 per gallon. I was paying for use of my own car, insuring it, maintaining it, etc. Even the standard mileage rate that the IRS used to calculate tax deductions was getting high! I knew that the economy was troubled and that some people were struggling, but I also knew that I had to cover my expenses and not lose money if I wanted this business to work.
As my first orders began to come in, there was no issue with this delivery fee. My customers understood the cost of doing business. But when things started to pick up, more and more potential customers began to complain about this cost. The complaints were mostly on social media, as if these people needed their opinions heard by the public to be validated and to feel better about themselves. I tried to politely explain my math and reasoning, but people either didn’t respond or doubled down.
About a week after these complaints started, one customer called me after she had received an order. She raved about my cinnamon swirl bread, but she also inquired about the delivery fee. She politely expressed that she couldn’t afford the fee with the current economy, but she wanted to keep ordering and wondered if we could find a compromise.
That’s when good sportsmanship kicked in.
It’s not about what you say; it’s all about how you say it. This woman realized that a polite discussion might yield her promising results. It diffused the situation and made me want to help her. I ultimately crunched some numbers and offered her a financial compromise that allowed her to become a regular customer that was mutually beneficial for us both.
It’s no different in sports. When a call by an official doesn’t favor us or our team, we tend to complain rather than seek to understand it. Coaches yell at officials thinking it will make them get more calls in the future or make them feel better. However, this rarely works. In fact, it hurts them in the long run: why would an official suddenly see things the coach’s way after the coach uses aggression to make a point?
Good sportsmanship isn’t reserved for athletic competition. It can be used in capitalism. Rather than complain about the cost of goods or services, wouldn’t it make more sense to understand the cost of something and seek a solution? Better yet, if something is so outrageously priced, isn’t it better to simply say nothing instead of demeaning an innocent small business owner?
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.