Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Customer Appreciation – A Gift That Makes a Difference

I was blessed today to have an opportunity to meet up with a high school friend of mine that I have not seen in 28 years.  It wasn’t a typical “long time, no see” meeting.  Christopher and I immediately got into a passionate conversation around a number of things, including what people do for others and how making a difference to those in need is a critical responsibility we all share.

I blogged about about the subject of doing the right thing for others back in February of 2008.  You can find it here if you haven’t read it before -

As we talked, Christopher happened to mention how he thanks his customers.  He expressed an idea that seemed so brilliant to me that I simply had to share it.

Many of us have received the classic corporate gifts – the pretty crystal paperweight, the nice pen set, the corporate t-shirt, etc.

My better half recently pointed to a box that contains an estimated 150 corporate t-shirts that I don’t wear anymore and that I keep promising to “take care of”.

How many of us have received those nice little trinkets that ended up in a box, are given to our kids or are passed off to family and friends because we simply have too much of this stuff already.

Think of the impact on the environment to produce all of this stuff that we don’t really need or have too much of.  In the end, is it a gift that touches the heart or something that clutters an already cluttered life?

Do we really need more clutter?

Christopher has a different approach. 

He buys goats for his customers.

Now you are probably thinking “If I don’t have space for a t-shirt, what am I going to do with a goat?”

In fact, what he does is he buys goats via organizations like Plan Canada (formerly known as Foster Parent’s Plan).  These goats are delivered to needy people in developing countries and are one of many ways to give a sustainable gift to someone who needs it.

Rather than buy more “stuff” that not only doesn’t add to our life but in fact, adds more junk to an already overloaded ecosphere, he buys something that provides long-term sustainable assistance to someone in need.

One day, a client asked him “how do you know the people in need actually receive the goats you buy”.  Christopher was struck by this question and decided to find out for himself what happens when one buys a goat.

He went on a quest to ascertain if buying a goat actually results in someone receiving a goat.  He documented the journey in a movie titled “Where’s My Goat?”.

I invite you to explore Christopher’s journey here.  Click on the link for ‘Where’s My Goat?” and then select the “Watch Trailer” link.  As you watch it, think of your own way of expressing gratitude in a way that produces a positive, life-changing result for someone instead of creating more trash on the planet.

Maybe instead of buying a trinket that will get tossed into the garbage, thereby producing no positive impact on others, you might consider buying a goat for someone as Christopher does.

Perhaps your favorite way will be to help someone in need through great organizations like Samaritan’s Purse.

For some, the preferred method might be to sponsor a child through the work of World Vision.

Maybe clean water is important to you and you prefer to work with groups such as Water Missions International, a group of passionate people who specialize in providing sustainable water systems in developing countries.

Perhaps there is some other organization that you prefer to work with as you give a gift to someone else.

However you choose to express gratitude, think about ways to do it such that you feel great about it, the recipient feels appreciated and you make a REAL impact on someone who could use a helping hand. 

Not only that, when you express gratitude in this way, the Earth will thank you as well.  :-)

Doesn’t that make more sense and sound like a lot more fun than giving away another paperweight?

Let your creativity soar – whatever you come up with will be gratefully received and you will have made a REAL difference.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to figure out what to do with 150 corporate t-shirts.

Yours in service and servanthood.



  1. Corporate T shirts make terrific rags. You have enough to ditch your paper towels forever!

    I like to send people seeds as a thank you!

    Nice post!

  2. Harry,

    Thank you for sharing your story and like always it shows the commitment we all need to make in our lives to help others.

    When I was in University we did a study on how much each person needed to give for the entire world to be free of starvation. It was a lot less than most of us think. Don't have one extra coffee a day at Starbucks. Don't buy that extra pair of shoes that are on sale. etc...

    Why do we in the so called "civilized world" squander needlessly and take for granted what we can do to help others. Harry I am still shocked when I see people in this economy buy things, go into debt, without thought of anything but owning "Stuff".

    As I awoke in my life and look back at how many times I have bought useless things for people I realize I am one of the people who gave away paperweights, T-shits etc... Actually, one of my past employee's gave me back a gift I had given her a few years earlier. Prior to realizing that I gave her the gift I spouted off that what kind of person would give a gift like that. That is when my PA said people like you...

    For the last many years I have put an effort into not taking that extra Starbucks coffee and instead dropping the money into a donation box. Not accumlating stuff but taking the money and sponsoring kids to have food, medicine, shelter and education.

    I look forward to one day raising the stakes and being a part of changing how the world acts in a responsible and accountable manner towards their fellow man.

    A goat today could be 1000 goats tomorrow if we all participate!


  3. Liz,

    Thanks for the comment. :-) I think sharing seeds is a GREAT idea!

    As for my t-shirts, they will probably end up being freecycled or with the Salvation Army. :-)

    Thanks for sharing!

    Take care and create a great day!


  4. Hey Peter,

    Many thanks for sharing your observations. :-)

    I think you are exactly right although I haven't had one of my gifts come back to me yet and had me wonder "who would give a gift like that". :-) Thanks for the smile.

    I also agree with you regarding how easy it is to maximize our contribution.

    As you correctly note, it all comes down to choices - many of them much simpler than people who look for the "big impact project" would realize.

    Take care and thanks for sharing, Peter.


  5. Hi Harry,

    An excellent idea! It takes it just a bit farther than I have already and I really love the thought of thanking customers this way.

    I just gave my dad 3 hens and a rooster for his birthday, but his favorite has been the goat.

    Thanks for sharing and because of your musing more people will pick up the idea and again you have made the world a better place.


  6. Hi Carla,

    Thank you for your kind comments.

    Thank you also for giving in a similar way. I think many more people would do the same if they knew such programs existed and knew that they weren't a scam!

    Take care and create a great day!


  7. Harry,
    I love the Goat story. What an inventive way to help others while raising consciousness.

    I attended a seminar recently on the simple steps we can take to create sustainability in our planet. If each of us does one simple thing like, not having that extra cup of coffee using a disposable cup or purchasing that fancy thig-a-mathing that gets placed in the trash years later, we can help our planet.

    All it requires is the commitment to commit to one green action a day. AND we must not worry whether others think we're making a goat of ourselves. To them I say, "BAAAAAA" because they're acting like sheep.

  8. Hey Leonard,

    I agree with you 100%.

    We need one more thing.

    We need more people like you - people who are not afraid to inspire, to motivate and to love unconditionally - and to do so in a transparent fashion.

    When we have that, we are off to the races.

    With love and deepest respect.