“Look at this,” a medium height, dark haired woman in her forties ordered, as I greeted her at the big shop door when she walked in off the street.
I took the advertisement postcard from her, and quickly read through the ad for oil, filter, and lube. It listed the total as $19.99. I smiled, thinking maybe I ought to start taking my car over to them for service, since I can barely pay for the oil and filter at that price.
“Well?” She urges, seeing me grin in appreciation. She folds her arms across her chest expectantly.
I admit I’m not the greatest expert on body language, but I’ve been around the block a few times. This lady’s attitude seemed a little too much of a rebuke, considering I’d never laid eyes on her before. I handed her back the card, if for no other reason than to get her out of the Nurse Ratchet posture.
“Great price,” I comment agreeably.
“Can you match it?” Ms. Ratchet asks pointedly. “I only live six blocks from your shop, and it would be nice to get my car serviced here, but I don’t want to be ripped off.”
I suppressed the laughter; and other annoying, haughty, mechanic type mannerisms, my time in this business has made me susceptible to.
“The simple answer to your question is no,” I answer with the truth in a proper subservient tone, “not even close.”
“Ma’am, you’ve read thousands of store ads in your adult life,” I try to reason amiably. “It’s called a loss-leader service to get you and your car in the door. I don’t do advertising like that. I’ve never offered sales on anything I do here. My price for lube, oil, and filter service starts at over double that.”
“Oh, so they’re the crooks for offering a bargain,” Ratchet counters animatedly shifting on her feet and leaning forward with flyer in hand.
“I didn’t call anyone a crook. Loss-leader advertising is perfectly legal. I just don’t…”
“I’d like to talk with your manager. Is he in today?” Ratchet cuts me off.
Okay, she nailed me with that one. I’ve been working my place alone for so long, Ratchet throws me off balance with an obvious customer ploy I haven’t heard since I worked at K-Mart garage back in the early seventies. I almost told her to wait a second while I went to get him, walked in the office, and walked back out in my manager persona. Too obvious.
“This is a one-man shop, Ma’am,” I curb the anti-social behavior.
“I know how this works,” Ratchet says knowingly. “I bet your manager doesn’t know you’re turning away business.”
Well, this is getting interesting. I look at the clock. Nope, I don’t have time to cultivate this relationship. I gesture for Ratchet to wait a moment. Quickly walking into the office and grabbing a business card, I return and present it to her, pointing at my name in the upper right hand corner with proprietor next to it.
“That’s me, the proprietor,” I tell her in good humor, wondering if she’ll make me show my driver’s license. “I’ve worked here since 1976, and owned it since 1983.”
“Sorry,” Ratchet says apologetically. “I’m used to getting the shuffle at repair shops.”
“No problem, but I really don’t give discounts of any kind. On the other hand, I don’t leave oil filters loose or strip pan plugs when I do a lube, oil, and filter. I also check belts, hoses, tires, and lights with the service. If I find something, I’ll note it on your invoice with a price for fixing it, and let you know if I think it’s a safety concern.”
“So do these guys,” Ratchet points out, again waving the flyer with a smile.
“Yep, it’s very possible the only extra thing you get from me is the charge.”
“You are closer,” Ratchet laughs at my unwillingness to barter, holding up my card as she walks out. “Maybe I’ll give you a call.”
Be still my heart. Hey, I can’t curb internal sarcasm.
“Anytime Ma’am, thanks for stopping by,” I say out loud. Thanks for coming by, I’m thinking. By interacting with me so entertainingly, you’ve been entered into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into... Bernard’s Blog. I know, I know… a cheap Rod Serling rip-off. My bad. :)