22-year old refuses to return 3 brand new iMacs he bought for €6, due to pricing error

Due to an error on MediaMarkt’s website, customers were able to buy an Apple iMac of 2,190 euros for 2.19 euros last week. The computers were also delivered, but the retail chain now demands that buyers return the iMacs or pay a large additional fee. A number of customers refuse to do so, including 22-year-old Nemo Strengman. He claims to be in his right because the products are delivered to his home. He concluded that the purchase agreement was completed. The Dutch consumer association also urged to return the products, however, Nemo replied: “I find it inhumane and very customer unfriendly that MediaMarkt attacks so aggressively. After all, I am a customer they have to keep satisfied.”

Source: HLN

You might wonder why this article on a Just Culture & Systems Thinking blog? But I think it is very relevant because it illustrates the society we live in today. A society where there is no room for error. Where everyone needs to win his argument – if necessary in court. While you can argue that there need to be law and order to make a society run smoothly, this kind of behaviour/mentality pushes organisations into ever more compliance. I like to call this ‘umbrella-thinking’ Let’s make sure the umbrella”s are up for any possible lawsuit we may face! The consequence is more procedures, longer user agreements and disclaimers, more compliance and less tolerance for error.

Umbrella-thinking: “Let’s make sure the umbrella”s are up for any possible lawsuit we may face!”

If we continue this path we are heading for evermore thicker and infantilising manuals, which are so vast that no ordinary man can know everything that’s prescribed. Not to speak about inevitable contradictions. More of the same (i.e. more compliance) won’t make us any safer. What we need is to bring back common sense. But for that, we need moral values about right and wrong. And this is – some of you will argue – is exactly why we have a legal system: to help us make the right decisions…

My conclusion: nothing is black and white, it’s all grey. That’s why we need a balance: autonomy vs. prescribed rules & procedures. And if things go wrong, look at the event from all possible angles. There is no ‘single truth’, but multiple. By re-assembling stories from different angles we gain a better understanding of what went wrong and learn from it. I guess our friend Nemo would be happy too to be treated ‘just’, next time he makes an error…