The Cost of Arrogance: Misjudging People Can Be Very Costly



Arrogance is a typical trait that is best kept in check by self-awareness.

Here are two interesting stories about how arrogant people often are their own worst enemy and how they cost their businesses untold millions.

This first story is from Memory Lane Moments and posted on Facebook.  This short article spells out the precise cost of arrogance.

The second story is firsthand from my late wife’s short stint as a part-time worker in the boutique clothing store Courrege in Water Tower Place on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.

Story One:  Modesty vs. Arrogance

Source:  Memory Lane Moments

“A strange visit to the house.

“A woman in modest dress, accompanied by her husband, dressed in a comfortable but cheap suit, got off a train at Boston Station and went to the Harvard University principal’s office.

“They did not make an appointment.  At first glance, the secretary decided that those people at Harvard had nothing to look for.

“We’d like to meet with the school principal,” the man said in a silenced voice.

“He’ll be busy all day,” the drought secretary answered.

“We’ll wait,” the woman said.

“The secretary ignored the visitors for several hours hoping that at some point they would be disappointed and leave on their own.  However, when she made sure that they wouldn’t go anywhere themselves, she decided to harass the director and inform about their visit.

“Maybe if you accept them for a minute and wake them up, then they’d rather leave?  ” she asked the director.

Leland Stanford

“The director sighed angrily and agreed.  As important as he is, he certainly does not have time to accept people dressed so modestly.

“When the visitors entered, the director immediately measured them with his stern and arrogant gaze.  The woman turned to him:

“- We had a son, he studied at your university for a year.  He loved this place and was very happy here but sadly passed away a year ago unexpectedly.  My husband and I would therefore like to leave some memory of him on the territory of this university

“The director was not happy about it at all, but on the contrary, he was very irritated.

– Lady! – he replied impudently, – we can’t build monuments to everyone who studied at Harvard and died.  If we did, it would soon be a cemetery.

“- No, I didn’t mean so – the woman quickly objected, – we don’t want to build a monument, nor a statue, we want to build a new building for Harvard.

“The director looked at the faded checkered dress and a cheap suit and exclaimed, “God, do you people have any idea how much such a building costs?  All Harvard buildings are worth over seven million dollars together!

“The wife hasn’t said anything in a minute.  The director had an ominous smile of joy.  So they will see her out of here after all!

“The woman turned to her husband and said quietly:

“- Is it so cheap to build a new university?  So why don’t we build our own university?

The man gave a nod in agreement.  Harvard director faded and looked confused.

The Stanford spouses got up and left the office without further ado.

“In Palo Alto, California, they established a university that bears his name – Stanford University, in memory of their beloved son.”

(Wikipedia: “Stanford University was founded by a train tycoon, U.S. Senator Leland Stanford and his wife Jane Stanford.  The university is named after their only late son, Leland.  Leland Stanford, Sr. told his wife, “From now on, all the children in California will be like our own children”… )

Story Two:  The Importance of Shoes

In the early 1980s, my late wife got a part-time job at Couregge, a boutique clothing store in the Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue (known to Chicagoans as The Magnificent Mile.  At the time, Courrege was a significant fashion name: They created knee-length white boots, Go-Go Boots, and vinyl jackets.  They are credited with inventing the mini-skirt.*  The boutique had a heavy designer following and prices to match.

As the new salesperson, my wife followed protocol when new customers entered the store. The more veteran salespeople judged a customer’s purchasing power by looking at their shoes. Since the store was commission-based, judging how much a total stranger was going to buy had an immediate payoff. 

One day, a couple walked in with the distinct look of having just arrived from an Iowa farm. The woman’s clothes were plain, and the husband had on some wash-and-wear pants. Most importantly, her shoes were plain loafers.

The salespeople looked at the arriving customers and decided they could hand them off to my late wife since she was new.  My wife was an energetic saleslady who chatted with the couple.  When the couple left the store, they bought $20,000 (in 1980 dollars) worth of Courrege shoes and fashion.  The other salesladies were stunned.

Morale of the story: Don’t look down at someone’s shoes if you want to move up.


* André Courrèges was a French fashion designer.  He was particularly known for his streamlined 1960s designs influenced by modernism and futurism, exploiting modern technology and new fabrics.  Courrèges defined the go-go boot and along with Mary Quant, is one of the designers credited with inventing the mini-skirt.


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