The ROI of Stories- An Informal Case Study

Taxis The other day, I made a rookie mistake. I left my suitcase in the trunk of a taxi. As it sunk in what had just happened, I knew that I was doomed. Or was I? Here’s the story and how it relates to value.

When I get in the cab at the Park Plaza hotel in Boston, I engage my driver by apologizing for interrupting her lunch break, and asking her how much of the day is left. She says, “Too much,” and sighs a bit. I ask her how she’s doing.

The stories in the car are between this woman and myself, but we have quite a back and forth about her life, about family, about cultures and how difficult it is to make relationships work when some very basic cultural similarities are missing. It was a great conversation, where we both told each other small stories of our lives. I leave her cab happy, and she seems a bit more peppy after the conversation, too.

About 10 minutes later, I realize that I’ve left my suitcase in her trunk. Worse, that suitcase has my very expensive Nikon D60 camera in it. Even worse, I’ve picked up this cab without calling, and paid cash, so she is completely unknown to me.

I call the dispatcher, who had no idea how to determine which Afghan woman had picked me up, and who essentially told me to call the Boston Police Hackney Unit’s lost and found. I did this. Calling lost and found meant just calling an answering machine. No humans. By the way, that was days ago, and still no response.

At this point, I’m fairly sure my bag is gone. I’m reasonably sure this woman will discover the bag, and if she chooses to turn it in, will no doubt keep the camera. There’s no reason for her not to do so. And having just watched a TV news undercover report on how honest people aren’t (17 out of 17 people failed a simple test), I wasn’t feeling especially positive about my chances.

Flash forward about an hour and a half from when I realized the bag is gone. I’ve been to three appointments and lunch. I’m now standing exactly where the woman dropped me off. I am on a phone call when I look over and I see her pull up. Yes, the cab driver who has my bag has just pulled back up.

“I figured you were in a meeting, so I waited about an hour and then came back.”

I can’t believe this. There’s my bag. Completely intact. I give her a big hug, give her money equivalent to 2x the original cab ride (which probably still isn’t enough, given how much she saved me), and we part.

Was the storytelling and conversation itself what brought my bag back? I feel it was. Was the connection we shared in the cab better than the connection with the dispatcher who did nothing to help me? Definitely. Do I see that this kind of interaction (being human, caring about others, telling stories) offers a measurable ROI in business transactions? I say so.

My total expenditure: $40 (or so) plus a heartfelt conversation. What it saved me: $1000 (or so).

Yep, that’s ROI to me.

What do you think?

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