Allow for exceptions to rules

rulesAfter returning to Earth from the first manned mission to the Moon, the Apollo 11 astronauts were required to comply with the rules of international (or in this case, interplanetary) travel. Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins had to go through customs at the Honolulu Airport.

The three astronauts went through the same process as any other travelers returning to the United States. They stood in line for customs and had to fill out the standard form listing what they brought back from their trip (moon rock and moon dust samples) their flight information (Apollo 11), and their route (Cape Kennedy, Florida to Honolulu, Hawaii, with a layover on the moon).

I am not making this up; it really happened.

Most often, rules and policies are developed either to standardize reoccurring events or to control misbehavior. I understand that, but sometimes rules need to yield to good sense and sound judgment.

The first time Mary and I visited Copenhagen, Denmark, we were finishing a 12-day cruise of the Baltic states. We disembarked the ship at 7:30 a.m. and went directly to the hotel where we would stay for the next two nights. We were told that there were no rooms available because they were being cleaned. Okay, that’s reasonable. We would wait in the lobby for the first available room.

Several hours later I inquired again and got the same answer, “The rooms have not been cleaned.”

Several hours later I walked through the hotel and discovered that most of the rooms were now cleaned and ready. When I mentioned that to the desk-clerk, he said, “Check-in is at three p.m.” “But the rooms are ready now,” I implored. His set-in-concrete reply was, “Check-in is at three p.m.”

Argh! We waited eight hours in the lobby and were finally given the key to a room at…3:00 p.m. (We would have toured the city during the time we were waiting for a room but it was a national holiday and everything was closed.) The hotel’s not-well-thought-out but strictly enforced policy created unnecessary inconvenience for its clientele.

View rules as guidelines, not as commandments carved in stone brought down from Mt. Sinai. Make exceptions to rules when commonsense requires it.

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12 thoughts on “Allow for exceptions to rules

  1. Perhaps the hotel you mentioned could learn important tips on customer service from Chic Filet. Good article.

    • Thanks, Jim, for sharing your thoughts. Someone told me the Chic Filet is now offering a paper box to families, where their cell phones can be placed while enjoying a meal (to keep family members from checking their smart phones). They do a lot right. Don

  2. Reminded me of the “zero tolerance” policy too many public schools have implemented. A few years ago, a young man i knew won tickets ($75. each) to the prom. He was so excited to the prospect of who he’d ask. The next week i asked him if he had a date. Looking down and dejected, he informed me that he could not attend, due to being suspended from school. What infraction had he committed? He had used his truck helping his grandmother move over the weekend. A few items had fallen out of the boxes and remained in the bed of his truck. Among them was a knife. A butter knife. No weapons allowed on school campus. Zero tolerance.

  3. Don:
    It depends on the person making the rules. When God makes the rule it will not be wise to alter it or ignore it.

    • Harold, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’re right, knowing the difference between man’s and God’s laws is critical. I have such fond memories of our years serving together. Don

  4. Rules: In time, most rules are either bent or broken. Much of it depends on how large the “tool” is to alter the rule, eg, the White House.

  5. Rules are for the obedience of the inexperienced and the guidance of wise men. (WW2 British RAF Ace, Sir Douglas Bader).