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The making of a good day

February 19, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

It's late in the afternoon and we're finishing the invoices for the jobs that are completed. People are showing up to pick up their cars. We have 15 cars finished today, which makes it a good day, all bright and sunny. A man walks in and says: "I'm here for the Chevy." We have five Chevys ready. We need his name to locate his invoice.

"Can you give me your name please?," says our secretary.

"Jim." He says. "I gave you my name and everything this morning when I dropped the car off." He obviously thinks we should remember him and his car. After all, he remembers us.

The phone rings. "This is Mr. Smith, is my car finished yet?" We look at the finished invoices and find his name.

"Yes sir, it is."

"How much is it?"

"The invoice is for $130.50, sir."

"Why so much?"

"Weren't you given an estimate this morning?"

"Yeah, but I just wonder why it's so much."

Of course, His term "so much" translates to "too much," with which we obviously don't agree. This should have been settled when he agreed to the estimate, but he's still trying to beat us down. We reply:

"All of the charges are detailed on the invoice, sir, we'll be happy to go over it with you when you get here." He hangs up. That feeling of having a good day is fading.

A gentleman walks in and tosses his keys on the counter and says: "It's doing it again."

The face is familiar, but none of the three of us standing there have any idea who he is, what kind of car he has or what kind of problem he's having.

"I paid you guys $200 to put that "check engine" light out, and it's on again."

We ask for his name and frantically search our computer system for his records. We find that we did indeed change an oxygen sensor for him six months ago.

"Sir, we'll be happy to check the car for you to see why the light is on. You know, there are about 50 different problems that can cause that one light to come on. It might be something new. It can be something as simple as a loose gas cap"

"So are you going to charge me for this again?"

"There's no charge to find out why the light is on. If the new oxygen sensor is faulty we'll change it under warranty at no charge, and if it's something new, we'll give you an estimate."

"So you're going to charge me again for the same problem, the light being on?" That good day thing is getting dimmer.

A man walks up to me out in the work bay. He ducks under a car on a hoist and steps over an air hose to get near enough for me to hear him over the noise of an air wrench being used next to me.

"I'm the guy whose air conditioner you did last summer and it quit again. You said it was guaranteed."

I hardly know where to begin. I start by guiding him out of the busy bay, past sparks flying from a grinder, coiled air hoses and lifts raising and lowering. We have probably fixed 500 air conditioners since last summer. He identifies himself as THE guy. Holy cow. His problem turns out to be a leaking fitting, which we fix. What we did last summer was simply to recharge it with "freon." He insists it should be fixed under our warranty because we worked on it before. Since the customer is always right, even when he's wrong, I caved. We fixed it for free, and I hope the compressor never fails, because he will think I owe him an $800 job if that happens. I'm starting to need a flashlight to see a good day.

The mail brings a nice thank you card from a previous customer who made it back to Michigan with a worn-out car we had to patch up for him. I can turn off the flashlight now.

A customer says to fix whatever it needs. She doesn't need an estimate; she knows our prices are fair and she wouldn't go anywhere else. It's getting partly sunny now.

Then I remembered that at lunch today in our local diner, I asked for my bill and was told that one of the servers, Pamela, had paid for our lunch. She was grateful for getting her car fixed by us for far less than she had expected. It was absolutely sunny out, as I gazed out upon our good day.

"All's well that ends well," said Shakespeare. He's right, as usual.

Then a guy comes in carrying a bunch of discount Internet Chinese parts, and asks what we charge to put them on his car, and how long is our warranty?

My motto: "It ain't over till it's over."



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