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?

ChrisBrogan.com runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Theme Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Whether you're a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides you with the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

With automatic theme updates and world-class support included, Genesis is the smart choice for your WordPress website or blog.

Become a StudioPress Affiliate

  • http://stevegarfield.com stevegarfield

    THAT is an awesone story.

  • http://www.obsessedwithconformity.com/ Jim @smashadv

    Brilliant. Brilliant. Sincere dialogue brings out the best in people.

  • http://www.hollywoodpodcast.com/ Tim Coyne

    Awesome story.

    A similar thing happened to my friend Dan when we were in New York City on business a year or so ago. He left his iphone in a cab. The cabbie ended up contacting his wife somehow, she contacted Dan, and a couple hours later a cab pulled up and handed Dan is iphone.

    People are inherently good I think.

    Tim

  • http://obviouslybenhughes.com/ Ben Hughes

    WOW, Chris. That's fantastic!

    I've always (tried) to engage others in polite ways, even when they seem to be down on themselves and their general outlook on life. It doesn't always get reciprocated back to me, and sometimes I have to give up, but at least I tried.

    It seems like every time you're nice to someone and they respond well to it they either try to pay it forward, or return it back to you double. That's just the best facet I can find of our human way of being.

  • kenmontville

    Great ROI and what Jeff Turner (@respres) calls YEO – you engaging others. It's amazing that as much as we try to be “social” online that we forget how to be “social” in real life with real, flesh and blood people, live and in 3-D.

    This is a great story and a great reminder that it's important to be “real” with real people we meet. In this case, it saved you a bunch of bucks. My guess is that it would have been rewarding even if you had remembered your suitcase.

    BTW, I found this post by following you on Twitter. Ironic, huh?

  • Craig Coomans

    Great story! Your engaging conversation with the CAB driver surely did play a big part in having the suitcase returned. By engaging people we are etching ourselves in the minds of others and it looks like that is exactly what you did there.

    Engage & conversation are two of the most important things when it comes to interacting with people. The funny thing is that I had never thought about it until I start using twitter 6mths ago and started following KM practioners and the like!

  • http://lyricalvenus.com LyricalVenus

    Wow, yeah. there's a big difference between someone you make a personal connection with, even if it's small, and just another customer in a long line of many. If you hadn't made that personal connection, even if she wanted to return the suitcase, it's more likely she would have just brought it to a Lost & Found type of place rather than waiting outside where she dropped you off. Thanks for sharing this story with us!

  • http://www.waltribeiro.net/ WaltRibeiro

    Epic. So when are we grabbing lunch in NYC? Because our conversations kick ass too :)

    Glad all worked out for you!

  • http://www.stevewoodruff.com/ Steve Woodruff

    Wow. What a great story. I've tended not to be real engaging with cabbies. Maybe that needs to change…

  • http://digiphile.wordpress.com/ Alexander Howard

    There's the “ROI” of being a fundamentally decent human being who takes the time to connect to each person he comes across.

    There's a word for that, used by Steve Garfield when he just called it out in a tweet about your post, derived from an ancient tradition…

    Karma.

    Your approach to valuing conversations, truly listening, showing demonstrable interest in what the other human has to teach you…well, in this reader's opinion, that's what's brought you such success in this “social media” world.

    Maybe, just maybe, nice guys win now. You certainly did on that trip. Goodonya, Chris. Enjoy the day and downtime with your family.

  • http://www.thelittlefluffycat.com/ thelittlefluffycat

    Yesyesyes, absolutely YES! What an awesome story. The day we realize that we are all more alike than we are different, the world will change in a heartbeat. :)

    Thank you for this. You made my day!

  • http://pangeo.us/ Jeff Power

    Chris, it was fun being the one on the phone with you when she pulled up!
    It was no mistake. You treated her with genuine interest and respect. She gave you the same in return.
    Of all the things you teach about connection/community, THAT is what makes the world work.
    Jeff Power
    Global Hope Network, US Mobilization Director

  • http://www.moriza.com moriza

    I am 100% sure that your conversation in the cab is part of the reason for her to waif for you and return the suitcase in person. Without it, with her honesty she would have just return it to the lost and found.

  • http://www.itsdigitalmarketing.co.uk/ Gary Robinson

    It's stories like this that remind you that sometimes you can have faith in others.

    The $40 outlay for a £1000 saving is a great ROI, but I think you probably got a little more intangible ROI from her act of kindness

  • http://www.onlineprnews.com/ Tara Geissinger

    What an amazing story! I completely agree that the personal connection you made with that woman is what brought your camera back to you. How easy it would have been to just sit back there engrossed in your upcoming meeting notes, Blackberry, etc…and not give her a second thought. Thanks for reminding us of what is important.

  • http://www.compassionateactionnetwork.com dakini_3

    … can we talk my friend Chris for just a moment about the power of heart … and the first rule that you teach us … Listening … this post is a joy and a testament to human connection … and also why I choose to spend my time Listening to you. Warmly, Jeris aka @dakini_3

  • http://girlola.wordpress.com/ Angela Bull

    Wow – fantastic story, as usual. This is why I read your blog.

  • patphelan

    Great story
    over this side of the pond we have a saying
    “Nice to be nice”

  • http://susanwrites.livejournal.com/ Susan Taylor Brown

    Wow! I love this story. It tells us so much about you and gives me hope for humanity in the future.

  • http://styleosophy.wordpress.com/ styleosophy

    It's the human connection that is so rare these days. All it takes is a smile and good amount of being yourself + being polite to others to connect to someone on a personal level. I'm sure why she brought your things back, with no strings attached!

  • http://www.blogbythebay.com/ Ginger Wilcox

    That conversation was actually worth a lot more in my opinion- it demonstrates that kindness and graciousness still exist. Despite all the negativity we constantly hear, general politeness can reap tremendous rewards, even if you don't see them right away.

  • http://www.deirdrebreakenridge.com/ Deirdre

    Chris, this is a fantastic story! The connection you made with the lady cab driver brought your bag back to you. The human connection, no matter where you are, online or offline results in ROI. However, the lesson here is that you could have easily kept to yourself in the cab and not had that conversation about life with a stranger. Without that personal connection, the outcome may have been different. But, your commitment to this short but sweet relationship made the difference. That means that we should all take the time to invest in the relationship, no matter how brief the time spent together. You just never know who you are going to meet and how you will help one another. Great story! I will remember this one :)

  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuartfoster

    Sometimes the goodness of people really does pan out. I'm in disbelief that she was actually able to come back and return the suitcase to you. Then again: you engaged her, talked to her about her life, and generally were a genuinely cool dude. Being a cool dude does tend to sometimes give back an ROI :). Awesome story Chris.

  • http://www.hgmarketing.com/ Laura Powers | @hgmarketing

    This story is so touching. What goes around, comes around!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Didier

    Maybe more ROH … Return on Humanity.

    Thanks for sharing with this woman (and with us) !

    :-)

  • Pingback: The ROI of Stories — cafedave.net

  • http://www.thepearlsd.com/ Kimberly

    Interesting post, thank goodness you got your stuff back! I believe that as humans we need interaction. Your gesture of creating dialogue and asking her about her life shows that you are a selfless person that genuinely wanted to know how her day was and details about her life. As a seeker of info, I'm sure you learned some interesting facts from the details of her life. So it would only make sense that she had a vested interest to return your belongings to you. Had you not engaged in coversation, or invested in her product (marketing take) you would have never gotten your stuff back or had any ROI. Great post.

  • http://janetfouts.com Janet Fouts

    That's a great story Chris. It takes so little for us to engage someone in a simple conversation, and usually it's more interesting than reading email on your phone while in the cab anyway. Simply being nice to people whenever the opportunity presents itself always returns. You're just never sure when or where.

  • http://neoblog-teachersadventure.blogspot.com/ kells

    chris, your story concurs with what one of my school's tenets: connect with the student (customer) for a positive outcome for everyone. to connect with them in a meaningful way, on a personal level, reaps results not only in classroom work & behaviour, but also exam marks. of course it's not possible to connect with all 150 students, but we try, damn hard.

    very kind of your driver to return and wait for you. if only more people were like her.

  • http://neoblog-teachersadventure.blogspot.com/ kells

    whoops, backspace error, lol! (with what)

  • http://bizzantik.com BiZZantik

    Wow. Makes my heart warm on many levels.

    You made the effort to engage in a conversation with a cab driver. What a lot of people don't realize, is that many cabbies are some of the most interesting and nice people on earth.

    Your connection with her brought that bag back to you.

  • Kyle

    Just when you've lost almost all faith in people, you find a story like this to restore it at least to some degree. Maybe the world isn't doomed after all and there is still some hope for humanity.

  • http://dorjem.blogspot.com/ DorjeM

    Sweet mate!

    I just love how you're able to draw lines between what most would find disconnected events.

    Lines that count and “speak”, pardon the pun, to people.

    DorjeM

  • http://www.twitter.com/lcsharp Lisa

    One of those great stories that restores your faith in humankind. Thanks for sharing. Glad it all worked out.

  • http://www.charlesfrith.com charlesfrith

    I think a hundred bucks would have been appropriate.

  • http://www.icejacket.com/ Davis

    Chris;

    That's a great story. I am glad you had your property returned and were able to share some news about a positive experience; some people might say especially in NYC.

    Like you, I am really an optimist at heart. But that is tempered by pragmatism. it is my belief that generally people would prefer to do the right thing. Sometimes it is easier (more expedient) not to. And while I concur that your conversation and the friendly and sympathetic dialogue that was exchanged definitely did not diminish the likelihood of the cab driver returning your bag, I offer you this: because of who she is/was, the driver delivered/returned your property. Because she is fundamentally honest, she returned your property. Sometimes, things just work out and I would offer that perhaps even in the case that the two of you had not had such a pleasant conversation and exchange of ideas or information, she, being fundamentally honest, would have done the right thing regardless.

    Perhaps the moral of the story is that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose but clearly, it is best not to forget your bags.
    Kind regards,

  • http://www.centernetworks.com centernetworks

    awesome story – i can share a similar experience – i got into a cab in manhattan and took a ride to my apt – i felt like i was sitting on something and sure enough i was sitting on a man's wallet – figuring if i gave it to the cabbie the person may never see it again, i took it – got up to my apt and opened the wallet to find a TON of cash (no idea how much) along with loads of cards – i will leave out the man's name but no matter what i searched online i couldnt find him – then i thought – he has an insurance card – let me call his doctor – i told the nurse that i had this guys wallet – she of course told me she couldnt give me his info – i said fine – just give him my number – he called 5 minutes later – we met 15 minutes later – the man was in full army (i think) gear – huge man hugged me for what felt like 10 minutes – he said he was leaving tonight to go to iraq and without the money and his id cards he was in big trouble with his superiors. i told him not to worry, it's all there. so chris – believe that even though some test said humans aren't trustworthy – there are lots of people who are – and i have to disagree a bit – i bet the woman would have helped you even if you just sat there and said nothing for your journey – people are right no matter what the outside forces are. it's why relationships are so gosh darn important.

  • http://www.mayhemstudios.com/ mayhemstudios

    Chris

    A great story. You're real, genuine and want to connect with everyone, no matter who they are. Thanks for being you. :)

  • http://www.whatbillthinks.com/ Bill

    Sure is good to hear a story like this every now and then. Keeps one from completely giving up on the humans. Glad it had a happy ending for you.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Well, the karma was doubled by talking with you. : )

  • http://www.abetterlifeeveryday.com/ Phil Stanoch

    Great story Chris! It's amazing how taking a little time to get to know someone can lead to such great things.

  • zenaweist

    As I read your post, I found myself saying this is Chris and his big share way of life. You truly listen to everyone you come into contact with. You walk your talk. You have an amazing gift and you are constantly showing us how to “share” by simply listening and having real conversations (not just polite back and forth) with individuals.

    Just shared an example of (no pun intended) how you “pay it forward” with a group of amazing social media Kansas City women and men yesterday at the Chicks Who Click conference. I told them how I gave you a book, The Horse Boy, after I finished it because I thought you might enjoy it (but knowing how swamped you are, not knowing when you'd get to it.)

    I was clear I gave it to you with no expectation, this was a “break” book for your enjoyment.

    We walked through this chain of tweets:
    http://twitter.com/chrisbrogan/statuses/1757197474
    http://twitter.com/TheHorseBoy/statuses/1773439021
    http://twitter.com/chrisbrogan/status/1773486540
    http://twitter.com/TheHorseBoy/status/1773567554

    and I think I speak for all the #cwc09 group in saying we all felt this full circle “we are all connected” great karma moment.

    Goodness follows you because you lead with greatness.

    Thank you, Chris, I've learned so much from listening to you, reading about your experiences and being lucky enough to watch you interact with others.

  • http://www.myoddfamily.com/ Katybeth

    What a great story–one both you and the cab driver had the opportunity to share throughout you day. I wonder how the cab driver shared the story with her family.

  • http://classyadele.blogspot.com/ Adeline Chua

    That was an awesome story, Chris – especially seeing the chances of someone honest enough to return a complete stranger's things. The fact that she even waited for you to finish your meeting (opportunity cost of driving away to make another sale) … really amazing. That's the pinnacle of Boston Cabs' hospitality for you! :) Seeing the earlier threads, I think someone should start a website collecting “Great Cab Stories” ;) It's heartwarming to know there are still decent and honest people around (despite the economic doom and gloom and dishonest ppl out to make a quick buck out of everyone else)…. :) This truly made my day – thank you!

  • http://www.lloydlemons.com/mbiz Lloyd Lemons

    Enjoyed your post. Great story. It's stories that connect us and stories that keep us connected. (Glad you got your camera back too!)

  • Pingback: ROI Chris Brogan « Ms12’s Weblog

  • http://SirkinLaw.com/ Mina Sirkin

    Treating everyone from every walk of life as if they are your family is priceless.

    Mina Sirkin
    http://www.SirkinLaw.com

  • http://technebish.blogtown.co.nz/ Ritsa

    Great story Chris. A similar thing happenned to me – picked up from the airport, had a wide-ranging conversation about life with the recently arrived cabbie, left my brand new fancy work phone in the back of the cab. I was at a big conference centre, and the cab driver came back and searched through several conference rooms for me.

    Gave him a hug and some money, offered to marry him so he could stay in the country,(he said he'd have to ask his wife) and then I wrote a long letter to his company about what a great guy he is.

    Yes, I think our conversation in the cab made a difference. However, I am also a great believer in the kindness of strangers.

  • http://www.aleconsultants.com/ Terry Stratoudakis

    Great story and I totally agree on your alleging that the two are related! The personal connection is becoming more and more understated but with such stories we see the things that bind us all together.

  • http://www.kushmoney.com/ KushMoney

    Sound like me in a cab, I always talk to the cab driver. I think the heartfelt conversation is what made the woman want to return your bag.