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Thursday, April 12, 2007


“Hey, Bernie!”

I turn back from walking to the 1998 Chrysler Town & Country I’m doing front brakes on. The voice belongs to a real nice guy who stops by the shop to make appointments he never keeps. Since a one man shop rolls along on split second timing most days, this type of customer cannot be tolerated, no matter how nice he is. I give him a little wave of greeting and stop.

“Are you busy?” he asks, looking around the shop.

“Yes, I am,” I answer, not giving out with my usual how may I help you; because in his case, unless he needs to air up a tire, I got nothin’.

“When can I get my Honda in?”

“Well, you’ve already made five appointments to bring it in, only one of which you called to let me know you weren’t coming. That’s two past my limit of no shows. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to find a different repair shop for your car,” I explain with just the right amount of regret.

He’s dumbfounded.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do business in that manner,” I go on, after he keeps standing there silently, his mouth working, but no words coming out. “You need to find a shop capable of taking your car in at a moment’s notice. As I explained before on your other visits, I can’t do that.”

“You’re going to turn away business?” He continues with a stunned undercurrent to his words.

“What business?” I ask with a shrug and a grin. “You never show up for any appointment you make.”

“I told you my job is really messed up. I’m on call…”

I hold up my hand to halt the story I’ve already heard. “I know your problem, and I’ve already explained mine. You need to find a better fit for your car at another shop.”

“Why can’t I leave the Honda off now, and you can look at it when you get a chance,” he’s insistent.

“Okay, leave it now, and I’ll take it in,” I reply. I’m a cement-head; but I can be reasonable, in spite of what my wife says. :) “I’ll get a look at it late tomorrow morning after I finish with the appointments on the books. C’mon in the…”

“I need my car tomorrow morning first thing,” he interrupts, proving he hasn’t heard a word I’ve said.

I laugh, shake my head, and turn to walk away.

“What’s wrong with that?” He calls after me.

I face him once again with my arms extended to encompass the four other vehicles sitting in my shop. “You are not on the schedule. These customers’ vehicles are. Who do I tell they don’t get their transportation back because I’m working on your unscheduled Honda?”

“This is an emergency. Can’t you explain…”

“No, I can’t,” I cut in, letting some of the irritation I’d been feeling since starting this time wasting conversation, seep into my voice. “This isn’t the ER. I just offered you a chance to leave the Honda, and…”

“I’ll come back tomorrow afternoon,” he persists.

“No, Sir, you won’t, because that would be a waste of time. Please go home, get the phone book out, and call around for a shop more suited to your needs. I’m not the only repair shop in the area.”

“So you and I can’t do any business?”

“I have to get back to work,” I reply instead, turning to the Chrysler. “I’m sure you’ll find a good place to get your car fixed, it just won’t be here.”

My Honda ‘customer’ left, and I’m back fixing the Chrysler thinking how I’d be treated by a professional, like my own dentist or doctor if I simply didn’t show up for appointments. They overbook to overcome such instances, but they also have penalties for insufficient notice of a no show. I never cared much for overbooking jobs; because it usually ended up in a mess at the end of the day, so I don’t do it. It appears my Cement-Head reputation will have to remain intact. :)

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