June 25, 2010

What's in a name? Everything!

It was a church group meeting, and members were talking about creating a memorial garden. The names of landscape architects and landscaping contractors came up..

It was a church group meeting, and members were talking about creating a memorial garden. The names of landscape architects and landscaping contractors came up..

The stories came out: "That guy was fine, but he never returned my phone calls." Another contractor started out great, but had problems finishing the job. The property owner had to beg and plead, take personal days off, and even offer to provide lunch in order to get the contractor to finish the work.

It struck home to me the importance of "a good name."

Young people today disregard the good names of others, it seems. I have a young friend who is very nice in person, but on a social networking Web site, she disparages her friends, curses those she believes have treated her unfairly and pours out her misery for anyone to read. Her friends reply with equal lack of tact, loyalty or kindness. I wish I could tell them how important it is to keep your good name, now and forever. As they rip each other apart, they tear themselves and our perception of them to pieces as well.

The effects of a good or bad name last longer than people realize. The guy who owns a pizza place across the street has a list of bad names he will never hire again or even offer any good reference. My brother and his friend were hired on the spot in this poor economy, and kept on working because they were glad to have jobs. The owner regaled them with tales of people who said they were desperate for a job, but who only worked one day and never returned again. My brother has had a series of jobs as he travels, but he gets hired anywhere he goes because his good name travels with him. The pizza guy across the street was glad to give him a reference as he applied for a job in Utah because my brother kept his good name.

Oh, the problems that come with a bad name! Even special events can earn a bad name. After the shots rang out at Merced's recent "Town and Gown" graduation night for the university, college and high schools, the event gained a bad name.

"Cruising Nights" used to be a lot of fun before gangs tried to take over. No one came to watch a certain parade on a certain holiday because the event had a bad name from events of the past.

Past A-list movie stars find themselves blacklisted after heavily publicized shenanigans. Famous people, because of their publicized indiscretions, are now on the "out," no more to be idolized or revered. They already have been replaced with new media darlings, because they chose to sacrifice their good names. Businesses are losing customers and money because they no longer have a good name with consumers.

It seems strange in this modern, impersonal, liberal era to find that something as old-fashioned as a "good name" can make a difference. But as I have been finding out, in this poor economy, having a good or bad name makes all the difference in getting hired by small business owners who comprise more than 70 percent of employers here in the Central Valley.

Like it or not, it still comes down to what people say about you when you are not around that makes a difference.

Holt is a landscape horticulture graduate of Merced College who divides her time between Merced and Mariposa. E-mail her at columns@modbee.com.

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