Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Did you know that in accounting land, where I reside part of the year, despite the darkness of the skies and the perpetual panic, goodwill is something that can be purchased with money? Not only that, you can't define goodwill as something other than, "This here makes my business more valuable because people know who I am," or, "the value of this business is much higher than its book assets because of all the goodwill." What this means is that if the value you place on something is more than what the numbers show, we call it goodwill and we're good. (Please, no lessons on how goodwill "really" works. Too much reality would interfere with my message.)

How's that for tangible? And yet we use it anyway, in a field where we like numbers to mean something. You can't see it, you can't use it (not tangibly, anyway), and it's usually an arbitrary value that comes from the difference between the selling price and the book value. 

You know what else is intangible? Social pleasantries. Being nice to people doesn't put any money in my pocket, and probably not yours either, unless you're a paid greeter. So just because it's intangible, some of us have apparently discarded the concept. Not you of course. My readers are the most considerate people I know. But the inconsiderate people don't read this because I don't allow them to, so I'm going to tell you something in secret, just between us.

I'm fed up with these people. 

How hard is it to say thank you? Nothing difficult, an email with two words. THANK YOU. That's all. 

Two weeks ago I had two people ask me for references, one a former employee, one a service provider. Being considerate, I went to the appropriate website and did so. I even sent the former employee, who was just laid off from the same company I left over a year ago, an email asking how she was doing and offering suggestions. 

No thank you's. 

I don't mean to sound ungrateful, really, it's not that I do these things so someone will say thank you. It's not like I can save up thank you's and take them to the bank. I can't even put them in a jar and save them for a rainy day. It's the intangibleness of them that I like. 

Several days ago someone emailed me with a question. I don't mind questions. There's a place I go where I answer questions for free for hapless purchasers of a product I use a lot. Sometimes I get thanked, but mostly the answers just drift off into the ether, and I don't know if they helped or not. Sometimes I'm thanked effusively. I don't care if they don't thank me because I'm getting POINTS. That's right. Points. These points are not redeemable for valuable prizes, nor can I use them when a cop pulls me over and wants to know why I was going 90 in a 65. (Wouldn't those kind of points be so cool though?) 

Sometimes people contact me directly. Usually I decline to answer questions by email, unless they're paying clients, because I do have to earn a living sometime. But sometimes I do. The other day someone emailed me. I don't know where they got my name or email. It doesn't matter, it's not exactly a secret. They asked a question, and because I happened to have a clue, I suggested some areas they might look at that might fix their problem.

And that was the end of that. 

Bah, humbug. I don't want to stop being nice, but I may have to if I don't start seeing some intangible goodwill over here. My clients are all fabulously nice to me, so it'll only be the non-clients who suffer. They can send me questions and ask me to take five minutes of my time and I'll just say, "No, I can't be bothered, I have a life, what do you people expect?" Well, I won't actually say that. I'll just ignore them. Answering them with a no would mean taking my time, wouldn't it? And time is money. 

Thank you. Really. I'm sure I don't say it enough, but thank you. You can't take it to the bank, but you can bask in it for awhile.

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