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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Every Detail

My phone rang while I was in the office, instead of under a car or truck, always a plus.

“Hi, Bernie, this is Every Detail (name changed in Dragnet fashion). I want to make an appointment for an oil change, and check-up."

I can do that. I recognize her as a very good customer I’ve had for over two decades. She’s an older lady, which means she’s not much older than me. Ms. Detail employs a sharp edge when dealing with service providers; and I’ve been on the receiving end of these interrogations for a long time, so I’m used to them. In the late 80’s, she needed a clutch job on an early 80’s Toyota Tercel she had. The Tercel was one of those vehicles you must remove the engine to do the clutch, so the expense is rather high. She was less than enthused, and she pulled the dealer card on me, as in ‘I could get it done for that at the dealer’. I pulled my have a nice day, and I wish you well at the dealer card in reply. Ms. Detail was angry she didn’t get her own way; because at the time, she still believed all trades-people ripped off a woman.

Three days later, a tow truck showed up at the shop with Ms. Detail’s Tercel. She jumped down from the tow truck cab, and Ms. Detail was fuming. A local Toyota dealer (out of business now) pulled the old ‘we have to disassemble the clutch, and find out what exactly you need’ card, but it won’t be as much as that (My) estimate. Ms. Detail happily let them. This is a legitimate way of estimating, if done in a truthful manner; and in California, with a written estimate. The dealer called Every with an estimate for twice what I had quoted, claiming they would have to do X,Y,Z to the transmission. They of course charged her the teardown time before allowing her to tow it out. They made a slight error though, no written estimate. One call to them, reminding the Service Manager of the dim view the California Bureau of Automotive Repair takes to this bait and switch tactic, and he immediately offered to refund her ‘teardown fee’. I didn’t find any ‘transmission’ problems, and finished slightly under the estimate. After all this, my dealings with Ms. Detail go just like yesterday’s.

“Can I bring it in Tuesday morning, and wait for it?” She asks.

“I have the very first appointment open for the day, and you can wait for it if you like,” I reply, knowing she’ll hold me captive in the office for longer than the job takes.

“See you then,” she agrees and hangs up.

Every arrives right on time. I write up an estimate; which includes a couple extra things she tells me she needs: wipers, washer fluid, rear tail light bulb, and a dash piece which fell on the floor. She signs the detailed estimate, and away I go. After twenty years with her as a customer, I know the estimate was a formality. The interrogation would follow anyway. It’s her quirk. I finish, back her car out, and present the invoice to her in the office. It is identical to the one she signed, containing only the items she specifically asked me for, yet she sits down and stares at it for a few minutes as if she’s never seen it before. Every looks up at me then questioningly.

“So, what did we do to my car today?”

My teeth were clenched tightly together, expecting the usual question from Ms. Detail. Sadly, it didn’t help, I still bit my tongue. :)


Jordan Summers said...

I am still convinced that you should gather up all your stories and put them together in a book.

BernardL said...

Thanks Jordan, I appreciate your input. Truthfully, until I started throwing down these daily run-ins with my quirky customers and East Oakland denizens, I never realized how close to fiction this stuff seems. :)