If All Else Fails, Use Guilt

, , , , , | Right | December 18, 2018

(I work in the service department at a car dealership that is part of a larger dealer group spanning multiple makes. My particular brand’s franchise is closing for business so the car make will no longer be supported, and another brand is moving into the space. We originally were to have a temporary contract extension of a few months to remain operating in order for the manufacturer to open another location, so we could transition our customers, but at the last second, they opted out of that plan. The manufacturer ‘surprised’ us with news of the last date of operations with just under two weeks’ notice until said termination. We immediately had to cease bringing in new business to give us the best shot at completing the repairs that were already ongoing. As such, we have not had adequate time to prepare our customers for the closure. However, I do think it wouldn’t have helped for some as they don’t seem to understand the concept of ‘Closed for business.’ The first example customer dropped in without calling or scheduling — something that, even under normal circumstances, we were virtually always too busy to accommodate anyway.)

Me: “What brings you in today?”

Customer: “Well, I have [problem #1] and [problem #2] and I was hoping you guys could just fit me in.”

(He’s literally coming by in the afternoon on the Friday before a holiday weekend — the least likely time a by-appointment business would be able to ever fit anyone in for a drop-in.)

Me: “Unfortunately, I have some… unexpected news we just received. We’re going out of business. Our dealership is actually closing permanently a week from today.”

Customer: “Oh! Oh, no!”

Me: “It took us by surprise, too. Unfortunately, we’re not able to take any more cars in at all; we have to finish what we have in the shop now before our doors shut for good.”

Customer: “Oh, I understand. That sounds tough. And finding out during the holidays, too.”

Me: *glad he’s taking it so well, unlike most people* “I can get you the number for [Manufacturer’s corporate helpline] so they can help you find the most convenient location for your future service needs.”

Customer: “Oh, don’t worry. It’s okay. I’ll just come back later.”

Me: “Uhm… No. That won’t help. We won’t be here.”

Customer: “OH! You’re CLOSING!”

Me: “Yes. Closing.”

Customer: “Oh… I guess I’ll get that phone number.”

(I don’t know what other meanings he originally interpreted from ‘going out of business’ and ‘closing permanently’. The next customer called to schedule an appointment and proceeded to flip out on my cashier who answered the phone:)

Customer: “BUT I HAVE TO GET MY OIL CHANGED! I’M ALREADY WAY OVERDUE! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?”

Cashier: “There are many facilities that can perform the oil change on your car. You’re not obligated to take it to the dealership where you bought the car, especially as it’s no longer in business.”

Customer: “THIS IS SO INCONSIDERATE. I WANT YOU TO KNOW I’M LEAVING A BAD REVIEW ON YELP. WHAT ABOUT MY CAR?”

Cashier: *losing patience* “It’s blindsided all of us. [Manufacturer] gave us less than two weeks’ warning. I feel bad about your oil change, but I also feel bad about the fact that we have twelve employees here who just found out they don’t know if they’ll have jobs in less than two weeks.”

Customer: “WHAT?! Oh…”

(It worked so well that our manager actually encouraged us to guilt-trip people about our unknown employment when they gave us a hard time. It worked to shut them down pretty well. Fortunately, as the dealer group is large, they have guaranteed we will be able to keep comparable jobs at other locations, most of which are nearby. And we all shared a good laugh about why she thought slamming us on Yelp would make us feel bad: we were going out of business so our Yelp score means diddly squat. The only thing her review would do would be to help us by a. spreading the word that we were closing and not taking in any more cars, and b. making us look less attractive to customers, again helping reduce the number of people trying to bring in cars we couldn’t see anyway.)

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