Fork in the Road: Collage catastrophe
When my brother and I were still “ankle biters,” my dad had several collages created of family vacations and funny moments that he still hangs on the walls of his office. Understanding the importance of his request, I wanted to ensure the collage I was going to give him was created in the same pre-digital age fashion.
I had each photo printed up individually and fastened to a piece of matboard that was to be laminated and mounted to create the finished product.
Given that I’m most certainly no expert in the field of collage-making nor do I know anything about the lamination/mounting process, to ensure I completed the labour intensive part correctly I phoned up the framer whom I intended to give the business to obtain specific instructions. I was merely told to adhere the photos to a piece of bristol board and I’d be good to go.
I was gonna make my dad the best damn collage I possibly could. Four hours later, it was complete and I couldn’t be prouder.
I took my piece to the framer the next day, excited to have the finishing touches applied only to be told in a bitchy tone that I had adhered the photos incorrectly and failed to leave enough border space for the piece to be properly mounted.
I was given one choice: to redo the entire project I had worked so lovingly on.
When I attempted to explain to the manager my distress because I went out of my way to phone his business in advance in order to prepare the piece properly, I was told outright that as it was my project, it was my responsibility and that he frankly did not feel his associate was negligent in her failure to communicate specifics.
It didn’t take long for me to lose interest in giving my business to this framer given the manager’s disregard for the time I had wasted… so much for “the customer is always right.”
After much explanation, I was finally able to convince another framer to take on the project but the whole ordeal set everything back several weeks, and it resulted in a higher cost and unnecessary stress.
By the end of this experience, it was hard to feel good about doing something special for my father when I was made to feel horrible by not one but two business owners.
The icing on the cake? I received a bitchy phone call from the first framer after posting a less than satisfactory review on Google. Did he expect me to be singing his praises when I stormed out of his shop without a reasonable resolution from him?
At least he provided me with good source material on how not to behave if you wish to run a successful business and maintain healthy mature relationships with others.
It comes down to this: we all make mistakes.
Those who are mature are able to admit fault, accept personal responsibility for their actions and express empathy toward those who were affected by their lapses in judgement. My framer “friend” failed in all three regards.
The story also illustrates two important features of modern Western society: a) job specialization and b) co-dependence on others.
Whether I wanted to or not, in order to complete this project, I had to outsource a portion of the labour process and in order to do so, was reliant on other people for success. Because one of the links in the chain of communication broke down the entire project was compromised.
To prevent further “mussying up,” instead of attempting to make the amendments myself (acknowledging that this was not my field of speciality and fearing I could unwittingly do something wrong again due to improper instruction), I had to outsource the labour a second time to obtain the finished piece. As much as this was my project, it was also the project of those I hired and therefore should have been treated as such.
The hassle ended up being worthwhile because my father loved the piece, but there are three important lessons to take away from this experience:
1) Never become so proud as to be unable to admit your faults and mistakes. Doing so after all provides opportunities for self-growth.
2) When dealing with individuals who you feel are being difficult, try and understand why they might be feeling that way. You don’t know when the shoe might be on the other foot.
3) If you only take one point away from this experience, let it be this: clear and precise communication is essential for success in all domains. Don’t ever assume someone has or knows the whole story. Don’t take knowledge you have for granted when interacting with laypeople unfamiliar with your field.