I remember how good I felt when I first read (and wrote) about Rahim Khan Khilgi about a year ago. I felt exactly the same way today when I got an email alerting me to a blogpost in The Consumerist about an unnamed “Conscientious Customer” from Pakistan.
The software company I work for put out a version available for download early 2007. It was a success, however for the first two months there was a small problem. As soon as you purchased it, you were able to download it BEFORE your credit card was validated. This led to the company getting burned until it was fixed.
Back in 2007 we had a customer who tried to pay for the download in Pakistan, and then paid for it with a debit card. It was the only card payment he had, and it was rejected. He had no other forms of payment, and we had to write it off as a loss while he got to enjoy using his software for free. Whatever, it was our web engineers’ mistake that caused it.
In October 2008 a letter came in the mail with a check from a customer for the Download version. Obviously this raised some questions as we could not process a download order paid by check. I opened up the file with the name on it, and lo and behold, there was the guy from Pakistan who we had written off the charge for.
I called him up, and it turns out that he just moved to the US and one of the first things he did when he had gotten a checking account was to send a check to us for the full amount of the software that we had written off over a year and a half prior.
Honesty, and memory like that is hard to find these days. I wonder if coming from another country and culture had anything to do with it.
Some of the comments on the post are even more interesting to the Pakistani reader. My favorite comment, however, was:
Neither honesty nor dishonesty know any borders.
Given the nature of the web, one hopes this is not some kind of hoax or smart-alec plant. But even if it were, it highlights a more important point: What this customer had done was the “right” thing, but not a particularly “good” thing. Why, then, does it surprise us so? Maybe, because a part of being ‘good’ is to to that which is ‘right’ – even, and especially, when we could have gotten away by doing that which was not right!
More importantly, why is my Pakistani pride awakened by the story?
These stories have the impact they have partly because they are being told by outside voices rather than by ourselves (defensively). More than that, they have impact because we know that these stories are not exceptions, they reflect the goodness – or, at least, the aspiration for goodness – in all of us. That despite the stereotypes that we have of ourselves, despite the fact that there are many amongst us who do bad things (as there are in all societies), we are a good people (indeed, I believe all people are good people).
We are, indeed, a good people. Let us, then, be defined – and define ourselves – not by those amongst us who do bad things (indeed, there are many who do). Let us aspire to emulate, instead, those who rise to the goodness within them. Life, I think, is defined by the struggle to find that goodness that lies in all of us. May all of us succeed in this struggle!