Some time ago, my wife, Kathy, and I received a surprising offer of financial compensation from a major chemical manufacturer for damage one of its products did to our pine trees. Their settlement offer not only compensated us for actual losses, but also included an additional 15 percent for restitution.
With this gesture, which the company had no legal obligation to do, they were demonstrating a willingness to go beyond the cost of replacing our trees. They were acknowledging the problem might have caused a measure of personal hardship and distress for us, and were offering to make amends through additional compensation.
I have no way of knowing what process this internationally known company utilized for determining what their settlement offer should be, but I do know where their underlying concept for providing restitution originated: The Bible.
The Old Testament of the Bible teaches, “When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind … then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution in full for his wrong and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged” (Numbers 5:6-7).
There are two principles included in this admonition: First, when a wrong is committed and someone suffers a financial or material loss, the offender should be required to compensate the victim for the amount of loss. Second, damages may exceed the actual monetary value of the loss. If so, then additional compensation should be made to make amends.
In society today, we often see companies seeking to get by with what they perceive as the bare minimum, both in terms of quality and customer service. So it was refreshing to encounter an example of a corporation committed to going beyond what they are required – or even expected – to do.
In His so-called “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus told His followers how they should properly respond to their enemies. But the principles He gave are applicable as well for businesses wanting to ensure that their customers do not become enemies or adversaries:
“And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, give him your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:40-41).
So I would suggest that if you discover you have wronged someone – even if the act was completely unintentional – and you truly want to make amends, consider adding to the amount of actual damages an additional amount for restitution. No one can ever fault you for resolving to do more than they could reasonably expect of you.
I have seen more than one example of companies, with an earnest effort to serve and satisfy a customer for a wrong they have committed, not only salvaging the customer’s repeat business but also seeing business increase because of their commitment to doing the right thing.
Copyright 2013, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org. His book, How to Prosper in Business Without Sacrificing Integrity, gives a biblical approach for doing business with integrity.
CBMC INTERNATIONAL: Jim Firnstahl, President
2850 N. Swan Road, Suite 160 ▪ Tucson, Arizona 85712 ▪ U.S.A.
TEL.: 520-334-1114 ▪ E-MAIL: [email protected]
1. Has a company ever offered to provide you with additional restitution for a wrong they have done to you? If so, what was the situation and how did the company respond? If not, how do you think you would react if a company volunteered to do more than the minimum required to correct a wrong?
2. What do you think of the concept of restitution: Is it necessary? If you or your company were to discover you had wronged a customer, regardless of their relative importance to the overall scope of your business, do you think additional restitution would – or should – be a consideration?
3. The Bible passage cited formally prescribes that additional restitution should be made in the event of a wrong. Do you think such a provision should be written into laws of trade and commerce? Why or why not?
4. We can readily imagine how receiving restitution in addition to direct compensation for a loss would benefit us personally, but how do you think such a philosophy could prove beneficial to individuals or companies that have committed the wrong?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:
Proverbs 12:22, 20:9, 24:26, 26:24-26; Matthew 5:43-48, 7:12; Acts 20:35; Philippians 2:3-4