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Column - Here's how to get my money

Unless you grow your own food and hunt and gather for all your other needs, you probably need to buy things from someone else.

Nobody likes giving away their hard-earned money, but the fact is that we need most of the products and services businesses offer as much as they need our money.

What amazes me is that as hard as many businesses work to get customers, many also consistently do stupid things that make themselves look like idiots, as well as making customers feel like they're being used, manipulated and deceived.

So, businesses, if you really want me as a customer, here's how you can get my money:

•Don't try to hide the fact that you're trying to make money - making a profit is the number-one responsibility of a business. If you don't make a profit, then your employees are out of a job and customers no longer get the benefit of your product or service. Ideally, as part of doing business, you will be able to help people and give back to the community; but first you have to make a profit.

•Don't constantly talk about all your community service projects - especially if you keep on raising your prices. If you're spending money on PR while at the same time raising prices, it makes me wonder where your priorities really are. If you're not making a profit, you need to concentrate on that, not on trying to look good.

•When you advertise, don't use biz-speak techno-babble and meaningless phrases. We already know that every business is "full-service" and "state-of-the-art." What we may not know is what you actually do or provide, or how you are different from your competitors. Don't try to sound more important than you really are with fancy words and silly mission statements. Nobody cares if you "endeavor to proactively contribute to community affairs by providing value-added products." That kind of language only makes people wonder what you're trying to hide.

•Don't jump on the "green" bandwagon just because everyone else is. If your products or business practices really are significantly helping the environment (not likely), than advertise it, otherwise find some other way to promote your business. Just because everyone is doing something, doesn't mean it's right - or effective. And by the way, we all know that not sending out paper statements or catalogs and making us go online instead is more about saving your "green" than about you actually caring about the environment.

•Specialize in something. You can't be great at everything. Being able to do everything well really only means doing everything just good enough to get by. Do one thing well and build on that.

•Don't advertise something unless you can follow up on it. If you claim to provide fast, courteous service, then you need to provide it at all times and to everyone (even the media).

•Don't try to hide things from me. If you're under construction, say so; if you only have two years of experience, be up-front about it; if you don't have the ability to do something, admit it.

•Have one person in charge, and let them be in charge. Nothing is more annoying than dealing with two or three people who all think they're the boss.

•Don't add on all sorts of surcharges and fees to try to make more money. If you honestly can't make it at the rates you're charging, then you either need to simply raise them (and risk losing a few customers) or re-evaluate how you're running your business.

•Don't call something a service charge when it really is a fine for a mistake I made.

•Don't put your product in a package that can't be opened.

•Don't put me on hold for a half hour with an automated message that keeps repeating "your call is very important to us."

•Don't cut down your competitor. Your criticism not only shows a lack of character, but it shows you'll do anything to make a buck.

If you really want my money, don't play games with me: just give me a good product at a fair price, while being honest and treating me with respect. And don't be ashamed of making a profit in the process.