To Give Real Service You Must Add Something — Sincerity and Integrity

Douglas Adams? Donald A. Adams? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular business adage states that providing real service to a customer requires a crucial added ingredient known as sincerity and integrity. This notion has confusingly been credited to two different people: Douglas Adams and Donald A. Adams.

The first was a science fiction humorist who wrote “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. The second was a lawyer and educator who taught business law. Would you please help me to determine the correct ascription?

Quote Investigator: In August 1926 “The Rotarian” magazine published an address delivered by Donald A. Adams who was the President of Rotary International, a voluntary nonprofit service organization. The speech included a passage about providing genuine service. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

We should all put into practice the Golden Rule of dealing with the other fellow as we would like to have him deal with us. But Service is something more than selling goods which are all wool and a yard wide and making delivery according to the contract. To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money and that thing is sincerity and integrity.

Douglas Adams was born many years later in 1952. The attribution shifted to hm by 2002. Perhaps an ambiguous designation such as “D. Adams” led someone to incorrectly change the attribution of this adage from the lesser-known Donald A. Adams to the well-known Douglas Adams.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1932 the “Elmira Star-Gazette” of New York published an item titled “Thoughts On Life” which included a slightly altered version of the quotation. The word “thing” was deleted, and a comma was added: 2

To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity. — Donald A. Adams.

In 1937 the quotation was included in the compilation “Thoughts on the Business of Life” edited by B. C. Forbes. The test matched the slightly altered 1932 version, and Donald A. Adams received credit. 3

In 1947 a West Point, Georgia columnist Basil B. McGinty published a piece containing a miscellaneous set of quotations including the following statement attributed to “D. A. Adams”. The use of initials can cause confusion: 4

To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity. — D. A. Adams.

In 1964 the collection “Distilled Wisdom” edited by Alfred Armand Montapert including the 1932 version of the quotation with an ascription to Donald A. Adams. 5

The remark continued to circulate in 1995 when it appeared in the collection “Who Said That?” edited by George Sweeting with an ascription to Donald A. Adams. 6

In 2002 “The Times and Democrat” of South Carolina printed a page from the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce which included the quotation, but now the words were attributed to a different person named Adams: 7

“To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and Integrity.”
—Douglas Adams

In 2008 the “Financial Times” of London published a piece by Luke Johnson which included the quotation with an attribution to Donald Adams: 8

Provide strong leadership, show them respect and give them the correct equipment and support. Training can help, but I think picking individuals who enjoy their work is more important. And, as Donald Adams says, “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”

In conclusion, Donald A. Adams deserves credit for the statement he made during a speech which was published in “The Rotarian” magazine in 1926. The statement was slightly altered by 1932 with the removal of the word “thing”. By 2002 the quotation had been commonly reassigned to the science fiction author Douglas Adams.

(Great thanks to Keir Finlow-Bates whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Thanks also to researcher Mardy Grothe who examined this topic and found a 1927 citation for Donald A. Adams which proved that the attribution to Douglas Adams was incorrect.)

Notes:

  1. 1926 August, The Rotarian, Volume 29, Number 2, Rotary’s Ideal of Service: Convention Address of the President by Donald A. Adams, Start Page 8, Quote Page 60, Column 3, Published by Rotary International, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1932 February 6, Elmira Star-Gazette, Thoughts On Life, Quote Page 6, Column 2, Elmira, New York. (ProQuest)
  3. 1937 Copyright, Thoughts on the Business of Life, Edited by B. C. Forbes, Quote Page 85, B.C. Forbes Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1947 September 25, The West Point News, Living and Learning by Basil B. McGinty, Quote Page 12, Column 4, West Point, Georgia. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1964, Distilled Wisdom, Compiled and Edited by Alfred Armand Montapert, Section: Integrity, Quote Page 218, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. (Verified with scans)
  6. 1995, Who Said That?: More than 2,500 Usable Quotes and Illustrations, Compiled by George Sweeting, Section: Service, Quote Page 399, Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois. (Verified with scans)
  7. 2002 March 21, The Times and Democrat, Section: Onward Orangeburg County by Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce, Community & Character: Sincerity, Quote Page 9, Column 2, Orangeburg, South Carolina. (Newspapers_com)
  8. 2008 March 26, Financial Times, The incalculable appeal of good service by Luke Johnson, Quote Page 16, London, England. (ProQuest)