When I was still in college, my older sister took a new job at a super big company. She called me one night to tell me that she had a new job, and I was excited for her. I was even more excited when she told me several big boxes would be coming in the mail for me from her new company. A bit of that excitement faded when she told me the boxes would be empty.
She told me, however, when they arrived to fill them with all the products I used that were supplied by competitors of her new company. She said her company would swap everything in the box with a product they sold. “Fill up the box with everything and send it back,” she said. I got the boxes, filled them to the rim with things that were mine and a few that weren’t and sent it back. New boxes arrived so fast the boxes must have crossed paths.
Immediately, my old stuff was new stuff. I was ecstatic. A college kid doesn’t ever get the old-for-new trade deal. The reason behind this act of kindness was brand protection. The new company would not stand for any of her immediate family to be using a competitor’s products. So, they swapped out everyone as a matter of company policy.
It seemed ludicrous and expensive to me at the time, but today I see it in a different light. Today, it makes great sense. If I saw a friend or, worse yet, a family member using the service of a competitor I would cringe. What’s that say about your company? What’s that say about you?
My sister is still there. She lives out of state, but when she visits my house, it always includes a review of what we have and the trashing of any competitor’s products that might have snuck their way into the household. While I’ve always been inclined to take a less aggressive approach with family and friends when promoting the services of my company, I’m reminded of this story and reconsider that passive path as it directly reflects on me and what I think our service is worth.