Against my better judgement, I found myself hankering for a breakfast sandwich last month. The handful of vitamins and Ibuprofen that normally steady a guy’s nerves weren’t cutting it, so I decided to chance a stroke and snag something breakfast-like from the offerings off a fast-food menu board.
Entering the plastic environment of the place I was truly looking forward to the trans fats to come when I spotted the unmistakably slick and Parasaurolophically-shaped head of “Tommy Tugnut” directly in front of me. And my ravenous appetite vanished in an instant.
You see, Tommy Tugnut, now a retired salesman of fine Japanese automobiles, had been my Dad’s go-to guy for years. Ever since my Dad dropped Ford for the Japanese in 1980, he could be counted on to replace his vehicle every four years, making him about as easy a sale as a guy can be. Just don’t piss him off.
On the occasion of his last car purchase, he dutifully paid Tommy a visit, explaining the model and features he was looking for. Dad further explained that he would be shopping the two other Valley dealers; and trusted Tommy to give him the best price that he could. “No worries, Harry,” said Tommy, all pally. “I guarantee you won’t get a better price from anyone else. After all, how long have we known each other? You must trust me by now!” he joked.
Well, you can guess what happened. True to his word, Dad shopped the other dealers, scrupulously avoiding mention of Tommy’s offer, and ended up purchasing the Japanese car of his dreams from another of the Valley’s dealers. Tommy was none the wiser.
Until Dad brought the vehicle to his local dealer for its first warranty service.
Tommy spotted him in the lounge while Dad was awaiting the delivery of his vehicle. Out came the big salesguy-hand and the reprimand.
“Whoa, Harry! I see you’ve got a new car! Now I thought I told you you wouldn’t find a better deal elsewhere. What gives?”
Taken aback by the grilling that Tommy seemed hellbent on delivering, Dad stood his ground and patiently revisited the terms of his purchase and added that he had hoped that Tommy would have been able to deliver on his original assurances. Tommy was having none of it....
“I don’t believe you, Harry. There’s simply no way that you got the car for that price.”
Aghast, my Dad assured Tommy that he had paid precisely the amount reported. Clucking and shaking his head, Tommy retreated with a last shot, “I don’t know Harry... Sounds fishy to me! But if you’re gonna’ stand by your story, well I guess it’s your prerogative.”
Now most salesguys would turn around and wonder what it was that prevented a steady client from continuing a good thing. But old Tommy couldn’t leave well enough alone. He headed home that day, and complained to his wife about the unfairness of the World.
And he wrote a 2000 word diatribe that he emailed to my dear Dad later that same night.
Now one would never begrudge a man of evangelical Christian faith to proclaim his good news to those in his circle; but somehow it isn’t always appropriate to throw it into the sales-relationship. And that’s what Tommy Tugnut did.
Exhorting Dad to “fall down on (his) knees and ask God for forgiveness” for “lying” about the deal that he had made elsewhere, Tommy pretty much gnashed and flailed on the printed page like a charismatic moved by the Spirit to behaviour beyond this world’s normal standards of propriety. He pined at the “broken” relationship and promised to pray for Dad, a man obviously deeply in need of Tommy’s prayerful intercession.
Needless to say, my Dad was forced to drive back down to the local dealer, slam his bill of sale onto the desk of the manager, and asked for an apology for Tommy’s belligerence. Unbelievably, no apology would come from either Tommy or the manager, which left Dad to fire off hard-copies of Tommy’s missive to the Canadian president of the Japanese manufacturer.
In the end, Dad was satisfied with the company president falling on his sword in abject apology and offering their long-term client an additional two years of free servicing for his new purchase.
And our family became the keeper of another grim tale of service gone off-the-rails at a local and normally much-respected business.
All of which came rushing back to me, when old Tommy spotted me in the line at the fast-food trough. “Heya there, kid, How’s the old man?” he cajoled. Tommy’s face folded into anger as I averred, “He’s been just fine since forgetting all about you. ‘Hope not to see you around my part of town any time soon. Goodbye.”
Normally, I would lie awake at night after showing less than good cheer to anyone; but I slept the sleep of the blessed angels that night. Because while it’s a cliche that the customer is always right; in this case it was actually true. So, friends, don’t be afraid to say “Sayonara” to the baddies in business. Rejecting them utterly and publicly might be just the thing to turn a world gone wrong sunny-side up again. Even if it means you’ll forgo a breakfast in the short-term.
— Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)gmail.com