Drain Nightmare

One of my favorite stories happened when I was a sacker a Minyards in Lewisville, Texas, while I was in high school.  It was a good job for me that taught me some responsibility and provided me with spending money that came in handy for a kid in high school at the time.

For the most part, I liked the job, and the people that I worked with.  Also, my managers liked me, and knew that they could count on me to do a good job.  As a result, I was consulted to do a lot of things besides just the daily bagging requirements that were my normal job description.

One of my managers was named Dale.  He was sort of legendary as a guy who really liked to catch shoplifters, and I liked working for him.  On this particular occasion, Dale pulled me aside and asked me to assist him with an unusual project.

The store contained four walk-in coolers in the back of the store: one for meat, one for vegetables, one for frozen foods, and still another for dairy perishables.  It was the diary perishable cooler that he wanted help with.  There was a lot of condensation in this particular cooler, and the drain in the bottom of the floor was essential to leach away the extra water.  Unfortunately, during the several decades that this particular store had been open, many gallons of milk and quite a few eggs had leaked or broken while in the cooler and seeped down the drain.  Eventually, these binding agents had worked together to clog the drain, and now there were about three inches of standing water in the bottom of the cooler which had begun to slightly sour.

Rather than call an expensive plumber to deal with the problem, Dale had decided to try to deal with it locally first.  This is where I came in.  On the way to the back of the store, he handed me what looked like some futuristic weapon.  It was in the shape of a “laser gun,” was about 18 inches long, and was made of hard plastic.  There was a large pistol grip big enough to grab with both hands and a trigger.  The front end was round, about 3.5 inches across, and shaped like a funnel that tapered down to a nozzle point with a hole in it about ½ an inch in diameter.  In the back of the gun, was a little slot in which you would insert a carbon dioxide cartridge (the kind you would put in a pellet gun).

The idea was simple.  You put the nozzle into the offending drain and pulled the trigger expelling the entire CO2 cartridge in one second.  The result would be that most clogs would simply get blown down the line, freeing up the drain to function properly.

Dale quickly explained all of this to me, and he demonstrated by positioning himself over the drain and putting his weight on the gun to make a good seal.  He told me to be sure to put all my weight down on the gun, and he assured me that there was nothing to worry about.  I thought it was odd that as he was saying this, he was backing out of the cooler through the clear plastic “drapes” that hung down in front of the door, but I was not too worried.

I placed myself over the drain, made sure the nozzle was firmly in the hole, and put my full weight (about 220 lbs. at the time) onto the grip of the gun.  Then, I pulled the trigger.  I would say that time slowed down, but everything happened so fast that it would be impossible to think of it as slow, though I still remember it vividly over twenty years later.

My hands immediately shot past my face and hit the top of the cooler above my head.  Then, a scene which could only be described in language that would have been used at Spindletop unfolded.  Old Faithful would have been impressed at the geyser of old eggs, soured milk and sour cream that spewed forth and coated my whole body (chunks included).

There is no way to describe the awfulness of the smell.  Skunks would have run from it.  My manager looked at me (and smelled me) and said only two words, “Go home!”  This only made sense to me.  The problem was, there was only one way out of the store, and that was through the front of the store.  I figured that the best approach would be to go as fast as I could down the widest aisle, and straight out the front of the store.  So, this is what I did.

It was a surreal experience as I walked down the aisle, and came up behind people.  Before I even got to them, they would straighten up quickly, and cock their heads to the left, and slowly turn toward me with a horrified look on their faces.  I just blew on by them, but I assure you, it was an ill wind.

I went straight out the door without even clocking-out, got into my truck (rolling down the windows), and beat a hasty retreat to my home and a very long bath.

Customer Service

I have always been big on customer service.   I work in a service industry and I am proud of the service that I provide for my customers and my customer service skills.  I must confess that there are times when I may have not shown the greatest skills in customer service.  For example, there was the time when I owned my own business that I told a nun to take her “laptop and get the f*** out!”  It should be noted that as a businessman I had already broken several of my own business policies in an attempt to give this particular person extraordinary service.  Suffice it to say that if Jesus were indeed married to this particular woman, it would explain why he spends so much time in heaven.  I do hate an ingrate, but I can say that I probably could have handled the situation better at the time…, maybe.  So, disclaimers aside, I thought I would deal with the issue of good customer service, and treating a customer well in today’s post.

As I drove to work this morning thinking about this, I was transported back to high school over twenty years ago.  I remember working at a Minyard’s Food Store as a bagger when I was in high school.  It was a nice and growing experience.  I remember once when there was an incentive program to encourage employees to be courteous to customers.  If an employee was seen by the manager doing something extra in the form of customer service for a customer, the employee received a star on a button.  At the end of the program, the employee with the most stars got $50.  I still remember going to the back of the store and getting a chair for an old woman to sit in while she waited for her ride to pick her up after shopping.  That particular $50 seemed to spend better than the other money I earned after I won it.

I also remember an episode of bad customer service that happened to me during this time.  We closed the store at night, and were usually finished cleaning up around 1:00 a.m.  Since we had only had one 15 minute break since 5:00 p.m., most of the guys I worked with were hungry when we got off work.  Lucky for us, the only fast food restaurant in town that was open that late, a Burger King, was in our parking lot.  I usually gave a couple of the guys a ride home, so on the way out we would swing through the drive-through and pick up a few burgers.  The other benefit was the fact that two or three of the local hotties worked the late shift at the Burger King, and we would flirt with them.  We did this pretty much every night, and honestly, we were the only business that they had between 12:30 and 2:00 when they closed.

In high school, there were times when I could be a bit of a knucklehead, and one night I decided to put my knuckleheadedness to work for me.  On that evening, knowing that the particular hottie that I liked the best was working, I decided it would be cool if I drove through the drive-through backward.  We did this without incident, and when we got to the window, there she was with a sweet little giggle.  I could tell she really thought it was funny, as did the other employees, except for the manager.  He walked over to the window, and yelled at me saying, “If you guys ever do this again, we won’t serve you.”  Here I was, his only business, and he was threatening me.  I looked right at him and said, “You won’t have to worry about that” (I really think this college-age punk was just jealous that we were pulling away some of the attention from his bevy of high school hotties).  To this day, I’ve never been back to that particular Burger King, and I subconsciously choose the other burger joint whenever I see a Burger King and another fast food place together.

When I was in college, I received a crash course (almost literally) in customer service when I road Greyhound one weekend to go home from school.  It was bad enough that the bus took 10 hours to make a 3 hour trip, but I swear the driver was on methamphetamine as he drove, and I was not the only one of the passengers to notice.  I stowed my baggage, and watched them put it on the cargo hold.  It held almost all of my cloths which, like any college student, I was bringing home to be cleaned for free.  The baggage was labeled as mine.  The ride was truly frightening, and I was glad when we got to my destination in Denton.  It had been obvious for most of the trip that the driver was running behind, and that he would have used a hyper drive to make the bus go even fast if it had been available to him.  When we got to Denton, he played his customer service card.  He informed the ten or so of us that there was no record of our luggage on his paperwork.  This, of course was a lie.  He simply did not want to take the time to get our luggage off the bus.  It told him which baggage compartment my luggage was in, and that it was labeled with my information.  He refused to even look for it.  Since most of my worldly possessions consisted of clothes at this time, I was reluctant to lose them in this manner.  It told him that I would not leave the bus until he looked for my stuff.  He actually touched me trying to get me off the bus at one point, but quickly let go, and threatened to call the cops.  Eventually, I relented.  I wish to this day that I had pushed it further and seen what the highway patrol would have had to say to him…, or me.

Of course, it was a holiday weekend, and my mom had to drive me to down-town Dallas, and spend about four hours of the weekend that I wanted to use for rest and recuperation retrieving my luggage.  They did not even offer an apology.  I informed my parents that we would be finding me transportation or I would not be going back to school.  It was an empty threat because I liked school, but it worked.  I have never considered riding the bus anywhere since then.  In fact, I will go out of my way to tell people of the awful service I received from Greyhound.  Don’t ever user this company (how’s that?).

I guess the best example that I can find has to do with car maintenance.  Since I was in high school, Just Brakes has run commercials touting brake service for $100 for each set of brakes.  Anyone who has ever been to this place knows it is a lie. 

I had to get my brakes done one day, and I could not get a ride, so I was stuck at Just Brakes for several hours waiting for the work to be completed.  I proceeded to watch them up-charge every person who came through the door.  It was shameful.  The pitch was the same every time.  They would insist on replacing the same “worn-out” items on each car that they serviced (including mine).  It was fascinating that every car regardless of make, model or year would have the same problems with their brake systems.  For instance, they recommended replacing a particular spring on every car that came in.  The spring was $30 and the labor was extra.  As the day wore on, I watched every person who came through the door get charged over $600 to get their brakes done.  Anyone who balked at the price was told that if they did not have all of the recommended service done to their cars, then Just Brakes would not warranty them.  Of course, Just Brakes had already done work and labor by this time, so they had these people (including myself) over a barrel.  I thought about refusing the warranty, but something about the people who ran this particular outfit made me think that doing so would simply make me a good candidate for the example they needed to scare everyone into paying their fees.  You know, the guy who did not pay for the warranty, and oops, his brake line was worn out, came apart and led to his untimely death.  So, I sat there awaiting my fate like a WWII gypsy, and when my turn came, I paid their exorbitant fee.  But, I determined never to go there again, and I encourage you, unless you like to be lied to and have your money stolen not to use them either.

A good mechanic is hard to find, but since I found one, and his service is the best example I have ever seen of consistent, great service combined with a fair price, I will mention him here.  The business is 40-M Tire and Alignment in Lewisville, Texas (He does more than just tires and alignments).  His great service, often doing things such as plugging a tire for free, has led me to recommend him to every person that I know.  My whole family and many friends still use him.  I will still drive the 40 miles to get service from him if it is possible, and I can even trust him not to take advantage of my mother’s lack of automobile knowledge.  He treats her very well, often refusing payment for his services.

The best example of great service from him occurred when I was getting some work done to my vehicle.  I asked to have the front brakes done, an alignment, and an oil change.  On the way out the door, I remembered that I needed to get an inspection that month so I asked him for that also.  He said that the rest would be no problem, but that he did not do inspections.  I said, “Ok, just do the other stuff.”  He called me before 12:00 noon that day and told me my vehicle was ready.  When I went to pick it up, he said, “I went ahead and took it down the street and got it inspected for you.”  He did not even charge me anything extra!  Now that’s service!  And, this was all coming from a guy whose lot you could barely park in because of the amount of business he did.  I guess there was a reason for that.

 

If you have customer service stories (good or bad), please feel free to tell me (and the world)about it in the form of a comment.