A Golden Rule - Misdirected
A while back, I received a catalog in the mail from LL Bean. On the cover, in addition to photos of camping gear and clothing, was L.L.'s "Golden Rule" in large type.
"Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they will always come back for more." - Leon Leonwood Bean
Mr Bean penned that nearly a hundred years ago, and I'm sure he intended the Rule to inspire company employees for years to come, and certainly well beyond his own demise, to further his company's growth.
However, I am not as certain that he intended the Rule to be presented to the customer as a reason to shop at LL Bean.
Let's break down the Rule into phrases. "Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit." Good merchandise speaks for itself, but is a company's profit margin a selling point? Do customers care if a store's profit is reasonable?
"Treat your customers like human beings." Wow. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I think I'd kind of like to expect that anyway - not to have the founder have to explain it to me. This phrase is patronizing and doesn't make me want to shop there because they state, "Buy LL Bean gear and be treated like a Human Being!"
"and they will always come back for more." I think this phrase tops all for reasons why I should shop at LL Bean. "We make a profit, we patronize you, and yet you keep coming back for more."
LL Bean's Golden Rule has merit. Every employee should understand the history and importance of his Rule. But whichever advertising exec had the brainstorm to put the Golden Rule on customer-bound advertising material was misguided into thinking that such a move would boost sales given the employee-only nature of the message.
Apparently LL Bean's website agrees. They state his Golden Rule, but it's buried deep in the website under the retailer's background as a historical reference.