I had blog material happen to me yesterday afternoon at a little after 4PM. As I caught up on bookkeeping while talking to a customer on the phone in my backroom a Ford truck drove into the shop and past the customer stop here line. While I’m handling the call and walking out a stocky guy in his late thirties or early forties gets out, opens the hood and stands waiting with flashlight in hand. I decide he has something to show me. When my call ends a minute later I approach him with my usual spiel.
“Yes Sir, may I help you.”
He looks around the empty shop with a big smile, not knowing I make sure it’s empty by 4PM on most days. “Man, how you doin’? Look’s like you could use some business.”
“What can I do for you, Sir?
“I’m here to give you some business. I want you to change the spark plug right here.” He turns the flash on the #6 spark plug while holding up a spark plug in his free hand for me to see. “I already got the new plug. How much to put it in?”
In my experience when a customer arrives to give me the business they’re really there to GIVE ME THE BUSINESS. Not wanting to make this post into a novel, I won’t go into the hundred questions popping into my head. I settle for one. “How do you know the #6 spark plug is the bad one?”
“It’s a hunch.” His smile leaves and he gives the new spark plug a shake in his hand as if he wanted Mr. Spark Plug to back him up on his ‘hunch’. “C’mon… how much to put in this one spark plug?”
I decide it wouldn’t be worth it to point out the folly of guessing at the cause of a miss. Maybe he knows that plug is always the one to foul out. “$22.50.”
“What!?” He almost drops Mr. Spark Plug and his flashlight on the floor while screwing his face up into a demon’s mask of disbelief. “Twenty bucks for one spark plug!?”
“No… $22.50. The minimum here for anything is fifteen dollars.” This isn’t 1920 and I’m not running a Model T shop.
“That’s highway robbery!” He’s poking Mr. Spark Plug at me while retreating to his driver’s side door. “Man… that… is… highway… robbery! You belong ‘cross town, man… chargin’ like that. You belong ‘cross town! One spark plug!?”
“You could just say no thanks,” I remind him. “When you go into a restaurant and the menu seems high, do you accuse the restaurant owner of being a thief or do you simply go to a different restaurant? That applies here. Try a different shop.”
“You must think you ‘cross town,” he repeats while slamming his door shut.
“I’ve been here 33 years. I know where I’m at. Sorry I can’t help you… either now or in the future.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means you’ve burned the bridge between you and Nilson Brothers Garage. If you had said no thanks, I would have estimated any job you requested in the future. Because you intimated I’m a crook, that option is no longer open to you.”
“I won’t come back here anyway!”
“Then it’s a win win situation, Sir. Good luck.”
I watched him squeal out of my garage. I knew I should have kept my thoughts about all the great customer interaction over the past few months to myself. I’m jinxed now… but it could mean some funny blog material. :)