As you might guess, I review a variety of electronic newspapers and news sources every day, but after all these years, I still enjoy reading a traditional print version of the morning paper with that first cup of coffee. It might be because I spend so much time every day looking at a computer screen, that I just want to start the day unplugged, moving more than just my eyes.

A little over a month ago, the local newspaper I subscribe to sent me my annual renewal form in the mail. The annual renewal price was $190. I was in the middle of a speaking tour and didn’t have time to respond to the renewal notice. Another few weeks went by and then I received the marketing call. They said; “We noticed you did not renew your paper this year. If you renew now, it will only cost you $90. That’s a savings of $100. Will you renew now?”

I said yes. They didn’t know it, but I would have renewed at the usual $190; I was just too busy. There is something else they obviously don’t know. I will never trust them again. In just a few sentences, they taught me to never pay the bills they send me, because if I do, I’m ripping myself off.

I’m sure this is not what the management at the local paper wanted to teach me. How do mistakes like this get made? The answer is simple. We “assume” trust is there because we see organizations and ourselves as being trusting and trusted. Because trust is assumed in all that we do, we often fail to consider if our actions will undermine trust. In this case, the local paper taught me not to trust any of the offers they send me in the mail. I now know, there will be a better deal if I take no action and wait for the better offer.

Anytime you are introducing something new, a change of any kind, ask yourself what will happen to trust if you do it in this way? If the answer is that trust will go down, don’t do it in that way. I didn’t say don’t do it. I said don’t do it in that way. Change how you do it so that trust is maintained. And, if anyone in your organization can find a way to increase trust, reward those people openly because you will want that behavior repeated.

Another strategy would be to say they are offering me a one-time-only offer to renew at a reduced rate and this price would not be offered again. By emphasizing the one-time-only aspect of the offer, it is less likely to be seen as a rip off.

There are millions of AOL customers today who have a broadband connection and are still paying $21.95 per month for e-mail and access to their content. Millions have called to cancel and were then offered $19.95 per month for the same service. If they said no to that offer, they were then offered $5.95 per month. If this happened to you, how would you feel? My guess is that you would wonder how long AOL had been ripping you off at $21.95 per month. Trust would be undermined.

About a month ago, AOL decided to offer their e-mail and content service for free allowing them to better compete with Yahoo! and Microsoft’s free services. Did AOL notify any of their customers who are still paying $21.95, $19.95, or $5.95? No! Instead, they are hoping that they don’t ask so they can keep collecting the money. My guess is that the remaining, long-standing, loyal AOL customers will eventually find out, feel ripped off, and leave AOL forever. Is this what AOL really wants? I don’t think so.

The moral of this story is: never teach your customers to distrust you.