It was Friday afternoon. Most of the cars were delivered – only one more to go: Mr. and Mrs. Gray’s car. And the Grays were excited to pick it up since they were going upstate for vacation. (They didn’t want to drive the Geo Metro the insurance company gave them. You can’t really blame them … they owned a four-door Caddy!)
They had dropped off their car at my shop on Saturday, saying they were happy we were open because they wouldn’t have wanted to miss work on Monday to drop off the car. I told them their car would be ready for pickup Friday at 4 p.m.
The appraiser came Monday, and we reached an agreed price. When he left, we started the repairs. Tuesday, the parts were delivered. By Wednesday, the car was ready to be sprayed, and at about noon, the office manager called the claims rep to make sure the check was being sent out. The woman in claims said the check was sent out Tuesday, so the Gray’s would probably get it Thursday or Friday.
Thursday came and the car was almost ready – just waiting for some molding to be delivered Friday. By 3 p.m. Friday, the car was almost done getting detailed and the moldings were installed – complete just as promised.
At 4 p.m. on the button, the Grays walked in the door.
They had the biggest smiles on their faces when they saw their car was done and looked brand new. They were also thrilled we detailed the car inside and out. (We weren’t paid to detail the car, but it’s something we do to every car that comes in for collision repair.)
After examining the car, we all went into the office to do the paper work. Mr. Gray thanked me and said, “I’ll recommend you to everyone!”
Then Mrs. Gray asked, “Do we have to sign anything?”
I told her no and that all I needed was the check.
They both looked at me and – at the same time – said, “What check?”
The Grays assumed the insurance company was sending us the check, and I assumed they knew they were getting the check. I explained to them the insurance company sends the check to the customer and that I couldn’t release the vehicle until I was paid.
Well, before I finished that sentence, their whole attitude changed from thrilled with me to mad at me. They couldn’t understand why I couldn’t give them their car without getting the $3,850.
I understood their anger, but they didn’t seem to understand that I’d never met them before in my life. If it had been $200 or even $500, maybe I would have let them take the car – but not $3,850. I’ve gotten burned too many times in the past.
I told the Grays they could put it on their credit card, but they refused, saying “I’m not going to pay for this on my card. (Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself, “You want me to give you your car, yet you won’t pay for it on your credit card?) They left frustrated and angry. I felt the same way.
When the Grays got their mail on Saturday, the check was there. They came in to pick up their car later that day but didn’t say two words to me. They handed me the check, I gave them the keys and they left – not at all pleased they had to cancel their trip.
Because of all this, they forgot about the quick turnaround time, the quality repair and the free detailing. And I can forget about seeing all the people Mr. Gray said he’d refer to me.
Because I repair vehicles – in part – for future referrals, I feel this job was a waste of time; it’s not going to grow my business at all. (I won’t even go into the other stories about people wanting to pay for $7,000, $8,000 and $9,000 repairs with personal checks … or giving me a check made payable to a lien holder or made out to their company.)
What’s most frustrating is that this whole thing could have been avoided with better communication. Communication is the solution to most of our problems with customers and employees.
What did I learn so I avoid this situation in the future? I give customers a “Smooth Delivery” form when they drop off their vehicles. Since I’ve been doing that, I haven’t had this problem again.
Writer/problem solver Scott Saal is the owner of SBH Collision & Glass in Deer Park, Long Island.
Smooth Delivery Form
Everyone at (shop name) would like to thank you for choosing us to repair your vehicle.
To ensure that everything goes smoothly at the time of pick up, we’d like to review methods of payment:
(shop or owner’s name)