Will Make Them Come Clean

, , , , | Right | August 21, 2017

(I own and operate a vehicle detailing company in a small city. I am currently working on a vehicle and get a “ding” on my phone from a new message on my business email. A customer is inquiring about a detail service.)

Customer: “Hey, I’m wondering what you charge.”

Me: “What type of vehicle and which service?”

Customer: “I dunno, what do you do?”

Me: “Well, I do both interior and exterior. Interior includes all surfaces, glass, carpet shampoo, and leather wash and treat if applicable. There are two options for exterior: basic wash, or wash/polish/wax.”

Customer: “How much for the whole deal?”

Me: “What type of vehicle? The prices vary.”

Customer: “It’s a [less than one-year-old full size SUV] but it’s actually pretty clean, you know; it’s new and all. Just a grocery getter, leather seats.”

Me: “Interior you’re looking at $110, exterior wash/polish/wax is an additional $150, so $260 in total.” *this is less than half the price of all other local businesses that do this work*

Customer: “Oh, wow, that’s expensive. Can I get a discount?”

Me: “Unfortunately, no. For a vehicle that size, that covers my materials and chemicals and not much else.”

Customer: “Oh, someone whose car you did referred me, but he only paid $60.”

(I had a grand opening special pricing about three months prior. The only vehicle I did for $60 was a tiny car, similar to a Smart car, for a basic interior cleaning, and it belonged to a woman. I thought it was a simple mix up, or maybe he talked to her boyfriend.)

Me: “Well, being that you were referred and as you say the vehicle is mostly clean, I can discount the interior detail to $90, but the exterior service price only covers my materials. I only use [Brand #1] and [Brand #2] products, which come at a very hefty price tag. My rates are already heavily discounted.”

Customer: “What about just interior and then exterior wash? Shouldn’t need a polish. And like I said, it’s super clean being that it’s so new.”

Me: “An exterior wash would be $25 additional on top of the $90 interior service.”

Customer: “Perfect. So you polish the wheels and stuff too, right?”

Me: “No, sir, an exterior wash is just that: an exterior wash. I pre-soak, use [Brand #2] vehicle wash, hand-scrub the vehicle, then [Brand #2] spray-on wax via a pressurized sprayer, and then rinse.”

Customer: “Oh, okay, that works. Can I bring it today?”

Me: “I have an appointment until five pm; however, if you’d like to bring it by after that, I can have it done by nine pm.”

Customer: “Can I drop it off around four, then you can do it when you’re done with the other one?”

Me: “Sure, I’ll see you then.”

(4:00 pm comes and goes. At 4:45, I finish the first vehicle and notify the first customer, then re-set the shop for the second vehicle anyway, in case he’s just late. 5:10 pm, the first customer arrives to pick up his truck. The other customer FINALLY shows up and asks the first customer to check out my work, asks how dirty his vehicle was, etc. He looks pleased, then we move to his vehicle. It’s now 5:20 pm.)

Customer: Sorry I’m late; I almost forgot about this.

Me: “Not a problem! I can still get it done in time for you.”

(He leaves and I get to work. The vehicle is FILTHY inside. A bag of chips was spilled in the back and crushed into the seats and carpet. The seats can’t be moved because seven water bottles are underneath one, and four under the other. There is enough mud to build a brick house, and candy and other snacks were pushed and hardened into every compartment and area of the floor. Normally I’d stop what I am doing and notify the customer it will be full price, but I figure I’ll let it slide this time. True to my word, I work non-stop to get it done on time. At 7:15, I get a message from the customer, asking if it is done yet. I advise him it will be ready for 9:00 pm as I mentioned earlier. I finish five minutes to nine, and the customer pulls up to inspect the work.)

Customer: “Wow, the inside looks amazing, like a brand new car again! Thanks a bunch! But I noticed the wheels aren’t polished and there’s no shine on the tires.”

Me: “As I mentioned earlier, the exterior wash is just a wash. That work would run additional charges. [Local Automatic Car Wash] charges $28 for the machine wash so I like to think it’s a good deal at $25.”

Customer: “Can you just like grab a bottle of tire shine and do the tires quick, and polish the wheels really fast?”

Me: “Yeah, sorry, I close up shop at nine and I have an appointment first thing tomorrow morning. If you want to bring it back tomorrow afternoon I can for sure, but it’d be an additional $25. A wheel polish can take up to an hour to do them properly.”

Customer: “Just at least shine the tires, as like a favor for me coming here? I could have gone to the other places. They’d do it.”

Me: *internal sigh, thinking “yeah, they would, for $550″* “Yeah, fine, I’ll shine the tires. It takes about ten minutes and they’re all done.”

(He seems content staring at me doing that, which creeps me out. His friend emerges from the vehicle he came in and starts staring, too. I finish as quick as possible then go to get paid.)

Customer: “Cool, so, it was 90+25 right? Here, keep the change for the awesome job!”

(He hands me six $20 bills, totalling $120, $5 more than his fee. My typical tips are between $20-$80 but I’ll take what I can get!)

Me: “Thanks! Have a great night.”

Customer: “You, too! I’m gonna bring you so many customers, post reviews on all the local Facebook pages and on the classifieds websites, and everything! I’ll post a review on your Facebook page, too. Bet you’re glad you gave me a deal now, huh!” *winks* “I’ll bring my other vehicle in, too. I’ll message tomorrow to book an appointment.”

Me: “All right, thank you. Sounds great! See you!”

(Two weeks later, no reviews, no posts, no other appointment, no referrals. I found him on Facebook and discover he’s a car salesman… and sold that vehicle the next day. He literally stinged my price and made this whole show just to sell this vehicle without having to deduct anything from any of the other businesses in town! Better yet — the $60 customer he said referred him had no idea who he was, and she didn’t have a boyfriend… so he just pulled a number out of thin air to get a deal.)

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