Where Men Can Become Better Gentlemen


"Rules Proper to be Observed in Trade"

By Benjamin Franklin


Endeavor to be perfect in the calling you are engaged in; and be assiduous in every part thereof; INDUSTRY being the natural means of acquiring wealth, honor, and reputation; as idleness is of poverty, shame, and disgrace.


Lay a good foundation in regard to principle: Be sure not willfully to over-reach, or deceive your neighbor; but keep always in your eye the golden rule of doing as you would be done unto.


Be strict in discharging all legal debts: Do not evade your creditors by any shuffling arts, in giving notes under your hand, only to defer payment; but, if you have it in your power, discharge all debts when they become due. Above all, when you are straitened for want of money, be cautious of taking it up at a high interest. This has been the ruin of many, therefore endeavor to avoid it.


Endeavor to be as much in your shop, or warehouse, or in whatever place your business properly lies, as possibly you can: Leave it not to servants to transact, for customers will not regard them as yourself; they generally think they shall not be so well served: Besides, mistakes may arise by the negligence, or inexperience, of servants; and therefore, your presence will prevent, probably, the loss of a good customer.


Be complaisant to the meanest, as well as greatest: You are as much obliged to use good manners for a farthing, as a pound; the one demands it from you, as well as the other.


Be not too talkative, but speak as much as is necessary to recommend your goods, and always observe to keep within the rules of decency. If customers slight your goods, and undervalue them, endeavor to convince them of their mistake, if you can, but not affront them: Do not be pert in your answers, but with patience hear, and with meekness give an answer; for if you affront in a small matter, it may probably hinder you from a future good customer. They may think that you are dear in the articles they want; but, by going to another, may find it not so, and probably may return again; but if you behave rude and affronting, there is no hope either of returning, or their future custom.


Take great care in keeping your accounts well: Enter every thing necessary in your books with neatness and exactness; often state your accounts, and examine whether you gain, or lose; and carefully survey your stock, and inspect into every particular of your affairs.


Take care, as much as you can, whom you trust: Neither take nor give long credit; but, at the farthest, annually settle your accounts. Deal at the fountain head for as many articles as you can; and, if it lies in your power, for ready money: This method you will find to be the most profitable in the end. Endeavor to keep a proper assortment in your way, but not over-stock yourself. Aim not at making a great figure in your shop, in unnecessary ornaments, but let it be neat and useful: Too great an appearance may rather prevent, than engage customers. Make your business your pleasure, and other entertainments will only appear necessary for relaxation there from.


Strive to maintain a fair character in the world: That will be the best means for advancing your credit, gaining you the most flourishing trade, and enlarging your fortune. Condescend to no mean action, but add a luster to trade, by keeping up to the dignity of your nature.

The Pennsylvania Gazette, 20th February 1750.

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