Yesterday afternoon I was in a meeting with my good friend Scott Hackman. We were working on the beginnings of a new business venture we’re part of called MyOhai (websitetwitter).  I’ll be talking more about that in the future, what it is and what we’ll exactly be doing.

But that’s for another time.

We were meeting at Borders and I came across this:

There are so many things wrong with this picture.

First of all, we all know that pay phones are obsolete, or at least well on their way to being so. If you’ve been in any airports recently you’ll have noticed that the rows of pay phones have been replaced by laptop charging stations.

Second of all, does anything about this actually look temporary?! I mean, the whole thing is pulled from the wall.

When it comes down to it this isn’t really that big of a deal, right?  I mean, I don’t really care about whether or not this pay phone will be replaced or not.

But, I think it illustrates a problem that many companies and organizations have with communications to customers. We think customers are stupid and easy to fool.

Now, no company or organization I know would ever admit that of course. It’s not likely that they sit around their board rooms and say “How can we fool our stupid customers today?”

But that’s the way many act.

They put up these stupid signs or make announcements where everyone knows that they are full of spin and BS.


Because they are scared to death of being transparent and saying it like it really is. The ironic part is that in an effort to save face they do worse damage.

You’ve seen it before.

Company A just made a really bad financial decision.  But, rather than own it they use some lame excuse in and effort to explain to what really happened and why it wasn’t their fault.  I don’t get why they do this. We all know they screwed up. Why can’t they just own it and move on?

Or, really talented baseball player gets caught doping.  While we can’t prove it, we all “know” they did it.  All the evidence points in that direction. But instead of admitting they screwed up and apologizing and making things right they put some kind of spin on it.  The question we’ve all asked in these recent instances is this: “Do they think we are that stupid?!”  Apparently they do.

So, may advice to organizations is this.  Assume your customers and constituency are smart. Because they are. In fact, they are brilliant and probably smarter than you.

Maybe a better sign for this picture above would be “Just use your cell phone.