No Good Deed Slides Unpunished

, , , , , | Right | January 22, 2019

I’ve always loved old machinery, especially old cars and — since I’m a Michigander — snowmobiles. Since I enjoy wrenching, I’ve opened up a shop of my own. I cater mostly to old snowmobiles, the type of thing people usually can’t find a shop willing to work on. They can also be difficult to find parts for. One day, a guy with a cane limps into my place. He explains how he just bought an old sled and it needs work.

He says he doesn’t have much money and is hoping we can work out some kind of trade. He’s got two old machines at his home that he’s willing to put up as payment if I’ll fix the one he just bought. He says he got it for his young son’s birthday, and the kid just can’t wait to go for a ride on it.

My stupid heart of gold takes over and before I know it I’ve agreed, pending a look at his trade. I follow him out to his house and find two machines in pretty sorry shape. The first one is absolute scrap, as in not a single usable part. He is a bit delusional, telling me how it’d be worth “a fortune” to a collector if it was all fixed up. I don’t want to burst this guy’s bubble by saying that I’m a collector, and examples of that model, even in mint condition, can’t even be given away. The second machine isn’t as bad, and I decide I can probably flip it or sell a few parts from it and make my money back. We shake on it.

That’s when he drops the first surprise on me. He doesn’t have a truck or trailer, and the sled he just bought is still at the seller’s house. Since it is on my way home, I agree to pick it up there and then bring it back to his home after repairs are complete. Roughly two hours later, I am home with his sled and have just begun gathering parts. I haven’t turned a single wrench on it when the phone rings. It’s the guy, and he wants to know if I am done yet! I tell him nope, just got started. It’ll be probably four hours before I’m finished.

He reiterates that his kid can’t wait to go riding. I tell him I know, and that I’ll call as soon as it’s done. A half-hour goes by and the phone rings again. It’s him again, wanting a progress report. By now I’m starting to lose patience a little. Most shops have a week to two-week lead time, so the fact that I am getting on his job ASAP is a rare phenomenon in itself. I can’t believe how impatient he is. I tell him I’ll call as soon as it’s done, and that every time I have to answer the phone, the repair takes longer.

He waits maybe 45 minutes and then calls again with the same question. I try to break it down as simply as I can. Every time I have to drop what I’m doing and answer the phone, I lose my place and have to start all over again. It’s far more efficient if he just lets me call him when I’m done.

As I’m tightening the last bolt, he calls again. This time I answer and tell him I’m just finishing up and that since I worked through dinner, I’m going to eat something quick, and then I’ll be right out with it.

He has the gall to sound disappointed, like I should just bring the sled out immediately and eat something on my own time! By now I’m anxious to drop it off, gather my payment, and put this one behind me. After this, no more sympathy deals! A half-hour later I arrive at his house. His kid is going absolutely ballistic, so that makes me feel a little better and eases some of the tension. While the kid buzzes around on the sled, I tell his dad I’m ready to pack up the two machines we agreed on and head home.

He looks at me like I’ve got two heads and says, “Two sleds?” I tell him, “Yes, like we shook on.” He tells me I must have gotten confused, and that the deal was only for one sled, and guess which one? Yup, the absolute junk one. I level with him and tell him it’s not worth anything to me, or anyone else. I’ll be losing if I take it as payment. I want the two that we agreed on.

He keeps trying to backpedal, telling me how it’ll be worth so much money when it’s all fixed up. I tell him, rather heatedly, that he’s not honoring our agreement. I tell him I made a special exception and agreed to a trade with him, went and picked up his sled, fixed it with him looking over my shoulder the entire time, and then dropped it off at his house, and now he’s trying to screw me?

He seems uncomfortable, but just keeps repeating the whole “worth a ton when fixed up” thing. I say, “So, your word is worth nothing? Is that what you want to teach your kid? That you can lie to people and never face consequences?” I tell him to keep the piece of junk if he thinks it’s worth so d*** much, and to never come near my property again.

I know it’s immature, but for a long time after, every time I pass his house and see him in the yard, I honk and give him the single-finger salute, just as a token of my appreciation!

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This Behavior Is Almost Mechanical

, , , , | Working | August 23, 2018

(I’m out running errands when I notice my car is making a strange noise, and I feel a scraping when I turn the wheel. I’m pretty sure I know what’s wrong, but I swing into a local chain auto shop just to make sure it’s not something more serious and that I can get home safely. I plan to get the issue fixed a couple days later when my usual mechanic shop is open. To note, I’m a woman, and the experience of being a woman at the mechanic can be pretty unpleasant, ranging from patronization to upselling unnecessary parts and procedures. They take my car into the back to be looked at while I describe the problem to the guy behind the front counter.)

Me: “I’m pretty sure it’s the wheel bearing. I spend most of my day driving the car for work, so they need to be replaced frequently. It sounds and feels just like it did the last time.”

Worker: “Well, we’ve got in the back now. But to me, it sounds like your brakes are going.”

Me: “No, the brakes are fine. I just had the car in to be inspected a couple months ago.”

Worker: “Listen, I’ve worked here for years, and I know a thing or two about cars. Now, we’ll have to charge you [amount] for just looking at the car.”

Me: “I’m aware.”

Worker: “But then, to check the brakes, we’ll have to take the whole tire off and that will be an extra [amount that is more than double]. It’s a more complicated procedure and requires more manpower. And then, to replace the brakes, it’s [amount much more than the last time I replaced them].”

Me: “Let’s see what [Mechanic] says before we do anything.”

Worker: “Fine. But I’m telling you, it’s your brakes.”

(A few minutes later, the mechanic comes in from the garage and hands me my keys.)

Mechanic: “Your right wheel bearing needs to be replaced. You’re good to drive home, but you should get it fixed as soon as you can.”

(I thanked him and suppressed the urge to stick my tongue out at his colleague behind the desk. I paid the consulting fee and had my own mechanic fix it a couple days later. The victory was sweet and one I shared with my female officemates, who also wear out their cars for work and also hate going to the mechanic for this very reason!)

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Caffeine And Easter And Lent, Oh My

, , , , , | Right | May 3, 2018

(A very good regular but quirky customer calls in about her car. She’s been taking her vehicles to two of our locations for over 18 years. She’s always polite, funny, and pleasant, but kind of weird. We’ve always chalked it up to her not being from here.)

Me: “Thank you for calling [Shop]. How can I help you?”

Regular: “Hi! Is [Assistant Manager] or [Supervisor] available?”

(I recognize her unique voice.)

Me: “Sorry, neither are here today; they’ll be back Monday and Tuesday.”

Regular: “D***!”

Me: “You could always let me help you.”

Regular: “Okay, I guess so. A week ago I was scheduled to come in for a transmission flush and oil change, but I rear-ended a car and just got it back from the shop. It sounds loud and different, but also windy. I was hoping someone could double-check it for me when I come in tomorrow.”

Me: “We can definitely check it, but we are closed tomorrow.”

Regular: “No, you’re not. You’re always open on Sundays.”

Me: “Sorry, ma’am, we are closed for the holiday.”

Regular: “Oh, okay, I guess. So, you guys won’t be open until Tuesday?”

Me: “Sorry, no, we are only closed Sunday. We have our normal schedule again starting Monday, after Easter.”

Regular: “F***, wait, what?!”

Me: “We are closed tomorrow for Easter and will be open again on Monday.”

Regular: “No, wait. Easter is tomorrow?”

Me: “Yes, tomorrow.”

Regular: “S***! Are you f****** sure? POSITIVE?!”

Me: *trying not to laugh and upset her* “Yes, I am positive, ma’am.”

Regular: “Aw, crap! What the f***?!”

Me: *really trying to keep it together* “I’m sorry, ma’am?”

Regular: “S***, I didn’t f****** realize Easter was coming. I’m a f****** parent. I’m screwed! What the hell am I going to do?!”

Me: “I think [Big Retailer] is still usually open for a while.”

Regular: “You can go ahead and laugh. I know this is ridiculous. It’s just rude to not laugh.”

Me: *still trying to keep it together* “It’s okay; we all forget sometimes.”

Regular: “Can you please leave a message for [Assistant Manager] or [Supervisor] that I want to bring my car in to have it checked after a collision?”

Me: “It’s okay. You can bring it in.”

Regular: “No, please let them know; you need to let them know first.”

Me: “No, it’s okay; you don’t need an appointment.”

Regular: “Please just let them know. I always let them know first and they always tell me when to bring it.”

Me: “No, any day is okay as long as we are open.”

Regular: “Please tell them.”

Me: “Okay, sure. I’ll leave them a note.”

Regular: “Okay, thank you.” *hangs up*

(I think it’s a waste of time, but while I am talking with her, I send a message to them via group text telling them I booked her for Monday. I get a text back.)

Supervisor: “No, no, no! Not Monday!”

Assistant Manager: “Not Monday!”

Me: “I already hung up.”

Supervisor: “It’s going to be horrible!”

Me: “What’s going on?”

Manager: “She quit caffeine and sugar for Lent! Glad I’m not back until Tuesday!”

Me: “Lent is already over.”

Supervisor: “You positive?”

Me: “Yes.”

Manager: “Are you sure?”


Supervisor: “SWEET! Looks like we get Starbucks!”

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Understanding The Mechanics Of The Situation

, , , , | Right | February 28, 2018

(I am having tea with my mother at her house, and while I am there a mechanic for the electricity meter comes by. The meter cupboard is in the hallway; my mom and I are in the living room. These two rooms are separated by a door. Occasionally the mechanic has to ask a my mom question, and every time he announces his entrance into the room with a knock on the door, while we are just chatting and drinking tea. In short, he is very polite and no bother at all. This happens after he has been at work for about half an hour. There is a knock on the door.)

Mechanic: “Excuse me. Do you mind if I use your bathroom for a second?”

Mom: “Oh, of course. That is no problem!”

Mechanic: “Oh, thanks; that’s not always so self-evident.”

(He leaves the living room to go the bathroom.)

Mom: “What did he mean by that? Do you really think some people refuse to let him use their bathroom?”

Me: “I’m not sure; it sounds like it.”

Mom: “Wow. I’ll ask him when he comes back.”

(A while later, the mechanic enters the living room again with a question.)

Mom: “Hey, when you said that it is not always so self-evident, did you mean that some people don’t let you use their bathroom?”

Mechanic: “Oh, yeah, sure. That happens quite regularly. It’s not even the worst thing to happen.”

Mom: “What do you mean?”

Mechanic: “Well, sometimes I walk into a house and there is a line of tape on the floor, and the customer tells me that I am not allowed to go beyond that line, into their house.”

Mom: *shocked* “No way. People really do that?”

Mechanic: “Oh, yeah. You just learn to deal with it.”

(My mom and I were left stunned with the lack of respect some people have for service workers.)

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That’s His Story And He’s Stick-ing To It

, , , , , | Working | September 5, 2017

I drive a manual (stick-shift) car. While driving it once, a small pebble struck my window and cracked it. Fortunately, it was just the tiny window between the passenger’s window and the windshield, but I went to have it replaced anyway.

I walked inside, got all the paperwork done, handed over the keys, and sat in the waiting room. An employee took the key, walked outside, and then walked right back in just a moment later. He approached me and said, “It’s company policy for customers to drive their own car into the garage.”

I didn’t say anything, just drove the car like he’d asked, but I was thinking, “Then why did you walk outside with my key in the first place?” Answer: he clearly couldn’t drive stick and was too embarrassed to admit it.

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