Car dealers and contractors are known for their notoriously low levels of customer satisfaction. This is unfortunate, because there are plenty of good ones who suffer because of the bad ones. Here is the tale of my two-headed customer service nightmare.
The Unnecessarily Shady Car Dealer
My wife and I scheduled a meeting with the sales person who helped us last time. The morning of the meeting, we received a call from someone else at the dealership to confirm that we were coming in that afternoon. I appreciated the confirmation and thought nothing of it.
When we got to the dealership, we were approached by a salesperson before we could step out of our car. Love that.
We told her about our appointment and she said she didn’t think our sales rep was in today because she hadn’t seen him all day. Annoyance #1.
She introduced us to her sales manager, who was the one who called to confirm our appointment. He said he tried to tell me that he sent our sales rep home because he was sick. As if I somehow didn’t allow him to convey that message on the phone. Annoyance #2.
We would have come in anyway, so why lie for no reason?
So we were working with this woman who swooped down on us when we got to the dealership. Fine. When she brought back the first price quote, it showed the price of the car “plus tax, tags and fees.” These extra costs were not itemized. Annoyance #3.
Did the monthly payment include all of these mysterious fees? When we asked the sales rep, she said she didn’t know. Annoyance #4.
So she went back to get an answer from another manager. This took 10 minutes. She ended up going back to speak with her manager again. Another 10 minutes. Annoyance #5.
Finally, the manager came down from his lofty perch. We asked him to show us how he calculated the monthly payment. He showed us the math, but the final number he showed us was $30 less than the original monthly payment we were quoted.
We understand if it’s off buy a few bucks, but that was a pretty big discrepancy so we asked him to explain it. He couldn’t. Annoyance #6.
At that point, I was pissed. I’m sure most of his customers don’t question the math and they get away with this crap, but they had already given me half a dozen reasons not to trust them.
The sales manager asked where the monthly payment needed to be to strike a deal and we told him. We knew our number was low but after being deliberately lied to and misled, we weren’t going to budge. Here’s how the next exchange went.
Sales manager: Can you meet me halfway?
Sales manager: Can you come up at all?
Sales manager: We have a lease deal on the same car that would lower…
Sales manager: Would you be interested in another model?
Sales manager: Let me see what I can do.
15 minutes later, he comes back and drops a can of keys on the desk. Keys to cars that people drove to the dealership were in this can because that’s where they put them after inspecting the car for trade value.
I don’t know if this was his way to apply pressure or tell me to take my keys and leave, but I was blown away. Annoyance #7 and major insult.
He said he couldn’t meet my price. My wife and I got up and left without a word. The next day, we bought the same car from another dealership for the same price that the previous dealer had quoted.
The Lesson: Be transparent. Be honest. Don’t assume the customer is an idiot. Be respectful. Or lose business.
The Corner-Cutting Contractor
We hired a local contractor to finish our basement. This contractor was highly recommended and did good work for my in-laws. Before this project started, I told the contractor that we needed a room above the garage completely gutted and remodeled after the basement project was done. I hoped the incentive of more work would motivate them to do a great job.
On the first day of the job, I was at work and my parents were babysitting. When I got home from work, I found out that my father had to go downstairs and tell the workers not to smoke near the house because they could smell it upstairs. Annoyance #1.
Even if I didn’t have a two-year-old, a pregnant wife, and a mother with a lung condition, do I really have to tell you not to smoke on the job?
When the insulation was installed, I noticed gaps all over the place and insulation hanging behind the studs. Basically, it was a really sloppy job.
When I brought this to the contractor’s attention, he said insulation in a basement isn’t even really necessary. They never actually disputed the fact that it was a sloppy job. Annoyance #2.
I’m paying you for the insulation. I’m paying you to install the insulation. Do it right. I have an unfinished side of the basement and a finished side, so if the insulation is shoddy, my furnace will be working harder than necessary.
By the way, insulation will be the most important part of the work we need done in the room above the garage. What part of that project will you determine isn’t important enough to do your best work?
When new steps were installed, the second stair tread from the top was not as deep as the others. It was obvious to the naked eye. Annoyance #3.
This is a safety issue and a code issue. Measure the damn treads. When I asked them to fix it, the second step was fixed but the first step wasn’t deep enough. Annoyance #4.
Does it really need to take three tries to ensure that the depth of the stair treads is uniform?
We had agreed that there would be a half wall coming down one side of the staircase. I came home from work to find a full wall, which created a sort of mini-cave on one side of the stairs in the basement. The contractor said it had to be done because the half wall was unstable. Annoyance #5.
I told him that wall had to come down. He claimed that he told me from the beginning that the half wall might not be stable so a full wall might be necessary. Sure you did. Jackass.
I asked if the half wall could be stabilized with a vertical support beam at the bottom of the staircase. I was told it would. Five minute conversation. Problem solved. One full day wasted.
During this conversation, the carpenter said, “Do whatever you want. It’s your house. I don’t care.”
I’m not paraphrasing. He actually said he didn’t care. He also said that I needed to make up my mind because he had a lot of work to do. As if doing the same jobs two and three times didn’t waste any time. Annoyance #6 and #7.
Yesterday, I arrived home from work with my daughter to find our entire first floor covered in thick dust. Within 30 seconds, my daughter had it on her face.
The contractor had done some sanding at the top of the staircase with the door open. The door that opens to our kitchen, three feet from where we eat. No drop cloths, no barriers created. Annoyance #8.
As I write this, the basement finishing project continues. And it will continue until it’s done right.
The Lesson: Don’t cut corners – for your own sake and for your customer’s sake. Take pride in your work. Be respectful. Or lose business.
As a customer, I’m really not difficult to please, and I never gravitate to the cheapest option. I will gladly pay someone to do a good job.
As a business owner, I happen to disagree with the notion that the customer is always right. More often than not, the customer needs to be educated. But this can be done respectfully, and it should only be done to satisfy the customer, not to win an argument or justify sloppy work.
If you want to earn someone’s business, keep their business, win repeat business and get referral business, do your job and be respectful. Why must that be so hard?
I’m a copywriter, marketing consultant, lifelong New Jersey resident, husband to a beautiful wife and father to two beautiful girls. I love playing with my daughters, a day at the boardwalk, sarcasm, craft beer and grilling. I despise beating around the bush, synchronized swimming, Toddlers & Tiaras and onions. Most people don’t know I used to be a radio DJ and once wrote, produced and voiced a commercial for the TV show 24. Two places I want to visit before I die are Ireland and Norway, the homes of my ancestors. One place I never want to revisit is my first apartment because my creepy landlord, Monty, freaked me out. That just about covers it.