Once upon a time, there were three friends named Fast, Cheap and Good. One day they decided to seek their fortune in the big City. They loaded their packs with bread and mead and set off from their small village home in the country.
After nearly a day’s travel, Fast, Cheap and Good came across a river. The river was wide and deep, and there was no bridge in sight.
“What shall we do?”, asked Fast. “We cannot cross by bridge, and we cannot swim across as our packs will get wet.” The three friends sat on the bank and pondered their predicament, but could not come up with a solution.
Deeply saddened, they had all but given up and were preparing to turn back to their village when a man appeared further along the river bank, dragging behind him a rowing boat.
“Please sir,” shouted Cheap, “would you help us cross the river? We can pay you for your kind assistance with bread and mead made by our very own hands.”
The man looked at the three friends, and then looked at his boat. It was decrepit and falling apart in places. There was a small hole in the bottom.
“I would gladly help you”, he said, “but I fear this old boat is not strong enough to hold all of us. I am on my way to the big City to seek my fortune, and had only planned on using it once to cross the river. It will not last a second crossing.”
There was a moment’s silence as the man looked at Fast, Cheap and Good. They looked very glum.
“However,” he said, “let us see if the boat will hold us all.”
The three friends thanked the man profusely and helped him drag the boat into the river. The man stepped into the boat and sat down with the oars. A small well of water immediately seeped through the hole in the boat’s bottom.
Next, in stepped Good. More water started to seep in. As Fast followed him, the boat sank further into the river and the bottom started to slowly fill with water. However, it remained stable.
When Cheap also stepped into the boat, the leak grew rapidly and the boat started to sink. All four men jumped out quickly and dragged it out of the river to avoid it being lost.
“I’m very sorry,” said the boatman, “but I can only take two of you with me across the river. My boat is simply not strong enough for all of us. How do I pick which of you should come with me?”
The moral of the story
When it comes to service, you can offer (and expect) Cheap and Fast, but it won’t be Good. You can have Cheap and Good, but it won’t be Fast. Or you can have Good and Fast, but it won’t be Cheap.
Hat tip to Louise Lloyd at Popcorn PR for providing the inspiration for this post.