Friends Don't Name Names

Guys know not to name names.

Movies teach us this. The honorable mobsters never snitch. They also don’t get killed when they enter protective custody.

It’s more than just snitching, though. When someone asks you for names for anything that you wouldn’t want to do yourself, you don’t say a word. It’s common sense, a logical rule for friendship.

The other day, someone named names.

I got a call from someone selling life insurance. Out of the blue. He mentioned that he got my name from a friend of mine (he named the friend) and proceeded to set up an appointment (I have a hard time saying no to nice people, and it’s a little more complicated than what I’ll delve into here).

I e-mailed my friend and asked him what happened. His response? “I had to name names.”

Bulls**t you “had” to name names.

As a result, I spent an hour and a half this morning talking and listening–but mostly listening–to this life insurance guy. And at the end of it, you know what he says?

“Can you give me the names of some friends I could talk to?”

I said no. He was persistent. He said that I must have some friends in town. I said yes, I do. He said that surely they could use some financial advice. I said yes, perhaps, but I don’t know much about my friends’ financial situations, and most of them seem to get along well enough. Again he asked for names.

That’s when I looked at him and told him point-blank: “I’ll ask my friends if they want to talk to you. But I’m not giving you any names.”

He got the idea.

What bewilders me is that this guy–again, a nice guy–presumed to think that I’d be willing to recommend him–a guy I’ve known for a little over an hour–to friends I’ve known for years. He said that’s how he meets new clients. But how could I possibly vouch for this guy without knowing how good of a financial/life insurance advisor this guy is? Why would he think I’d do that to my friends?

Again, I don’t name names.

This taught me a valuable little lesson. You see, I’m starting a business in the near future (more on that later), and I’m expecting the most successful portion of the marketing to be word-of-mouth recommendations. I had planned on letting users recommend the site to friends before they even had the chance to use it.

But what I learned today is that in doing so, I’d be asking people to name names. Even if there’s an incentive involved with recommending the site, how can you recommend it to a friend if they haven’t even used it yet? Such a recommendation wouldn’t carry any sway.

Instead, I’m going to insist that users test out the site and get a feel for it before they recommend it. Then they’re not naming names. They’re helping friends.