Be careful of basing any important decision on the terms a business or person uses to describe themselves. Experience suggests that strong statements about being ethical or transparent or open to change, along with a myriad of other traits, should be taken with a grain of salt. Subjective statements often are made to obtain favorable attention, whether it is your purchases, positive reviews or referrals. However, those statements you relied on may not be a useful indicator of what your experience with that business or person may be.
Objective, third-party evidence of how a person or business operates is a much stronger indicator of how a business or person really is. This evidence usually comes from other’s experiences based on interacting with a person or business and not based on one’s opinion of oneself or other wishful thinking. Another source may be found in rating systems for businesses or individuals many of which have been operating for decades in a particular industry. Think Martindale-Hubbell ratings for attorneys as a useful example.
We have all seen, for example, positive and negative online reviews of businesses, their employees, products and services. Allowing for mindless five star ratings as well as perhaps overstated one star ratings – these do occur – we can examine the statements made by the reviewer and get some understanding about what they did or did not like. This permits an opportunity to see how the reviewed business or individual responded or perhaps provides us with a question or two before we jump into a transaction with that particular business or individual.
At bottom, we should make up our own minds without relying solely on a statement or statements by the business or individual that seeks us as a customer. Those statements sometimes will be accurate and, more often, will be off a little or a lot. It is worth the time and effort to make sure we are not making a mistake.