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My karma ran over my dogma — is it just me?

I'm sure many people out there have a few weird things happen and just wonder, "Is it just me?" and unfortunately for you, sometimes the answer is "yes."

I don't know why, but I have certain customers who are just magnets for weirdness and crazy coincidences. You have to wonder, do they bring it on themselves? Did they anger a deity in their former life? Do they just have the cosmic "kick me" sign stapled to the top of their head? When something very strange happens, then happens to the same person again at our shop, sometimes there's very little I can say to make it up to them.

A couple in their early 20s with a very nice pickup truck came in; the truck was nicely kept, with lots of chrome detailing, and 22" wheels in perfect condition. They are going on a trip and want to swap out the 22s for their stock wheels to travel. The couple came in with another man in his early 20s, the brother of the husband, and the couple went across the street to a restaurant to get lunch while the brother stayed behind for us to watch us do the rotation and balance.

It is not unusual, especially when someone has a very nice vehicle or very fancy wheels, to watch everything we do and even stand right outside the bay to keep an eye on things. In fact, we welcome that for the customer's peace of mind; and in our waiting room are full-length windows where they can see every part of the front service bays. This truck was pulled in to one of the front service bays, in full view of the waiting room, and put on a lift. The brother watched while we unloaded the wheels, lifted the truck, rotated out the tires, lowered the truck back onto the bay, loaded the other wheels, and drove out of the bay. The couple came back from lunch and paid the bill.

Twenty minutes later, phone rang:

Wife: I need to talk to a manager.
Me: I can help you, what can I do for you?

Wife: I was just in with my Sport Trac, we had our tires rotated out.
Me: I remember, I rang you out, what can I do for you?

Wife: There's a problem.
Me: What?

Wife: Someone wrote on the roof of my truck.
Me: Huh?

Wife: There's writing on the roof of my truck. It says "**** You".
Me: That is very strange but it did not happen here.

Wife: It had to happen at your place. My brother in law said it wasn't there when he gave you the keys.
Me: Your brother in law was on the roof of the truck before and after the service?

Wife: He said it wasn't there before he brought the tires in, he had loaded them, then my husband unloaded the other set at home and saw the writing.
Me: Ma'am, that is a very weird thing to happen, but it did not happen here. The only times an employee was in your vehicle, the vehicle was either up in the air or in full view of the waiting room, and both your brother in law as well as a number of other customers can see us at all times while we are handling the vehicle.

Wife: He said when the truck was driven out of the shop, the employee drove it around the building and was out of sight for a minute.
Me: Again, that sounds very weird, but we have no reason to do anything like that. These guys really don't have that kind of time on their hands and these are all mature employees, not the kind of kids who would play a joke. I don't believe that happened here, I think someone is playing a joke on you.

Wife: Don't you think you should give me my money back or something? I mean, this is not a nice thing to have employees at your shop doing this.
Me: No, and it didn't happen here. I would suggest you check with your brother in law and anyone else who had contact with the vehicle, because that's a pretty serious thing to accuse a place of business of doing. I have no reason to believe any employee here did that.

A year went by. The same couple came back this year, only the stock wheels were on, and they wanted the 22" wheels put back on. The wheels had been stored somewhere, you could tell, they were very dusty, had spider webs and spider egg sacs all over them, they were gross. The husband was in with a friend of his this time, introduced himself at the front counter, and I was surprised to see them back here. He said he wasn't going to come back after the last thing happened, but we were one of the only places around that could balance large wheels so he was going to give us another chance. I explained again that there is no way that happened here, but if it would make him feel any better, I would stand out there with the truck the whole time. He said sure. He and his friend went across the street to get lunch.

I drive the truck to the bay myself. The same tech who did the work the year before was assigned this time, and we chuckled while we said we'd keep an eye on each other so neither of us is tempted to write on the truck, and he let the tailgate down to pull the wheels out of the back of the truck. Standing outside the truck, both of us look in and go uh oh ... one of the center caps, a pretty fancy looking one, had fallen out of the center of the wheel (it is made of plastic) and from the guy driving around, the wheels had shifted around and appear to have repeatedly crushed the center cap.

The tech and I looked at each other and we were both thinking the same thing. There is NO WAY this guy is going to believe it was like this coming in. This was going to end badly.

I checked the customer record to see if there is a cell phone number so I can call him before he has his lunch so he can see this for himself, but no, no cell phone. The tech went on with the rotation and balance, we put the crushed center cap in a baggie, parked the truck, and waited for the guys to come back from lunch. When they come back, I handed him the center cap, sure enough he doesn't believe me, accuses us of retaliation for the accusations from before, causes a scene and left angry. Nothing I can say, just a bad coincidence, but not our fault.

Six years ago, a customer was in for an alignment with a minivan. The tech completed the alignment and was backing out of the bay when another customer, driving a little Jetta, came driving around the building the wrong direction way too fast and drove right into the minivan. Everyone accused everyone else, police were called and did an incident report, and the customer with the Jetta paid for the damage.

The customer with the minivan did not return until this week, introduced himself, and explained he had not been back because of the unsatifactory experience last time, but said he'd give us another chance. This customer who owned the minivan came in with a different car, a sedan, for a brake inspection. After the tech did the brake inspection and was backing out of the bay, another customer in a Camaro was texting while driving in the parking lot and wham! drove right into the sedan.

Despite witness testimony, the customer in the Camaro blamed our tech and another investigation, another report, another trip to the body shop, and the customer with Camaro paid for the damages.

Now, in ten years and anywhere from 30 to 50 cars a day, we have only had collisions on our property four times. What are the odds that two of the four collisions would happen to the same customer, six years apart, and both were while one of our techs were backing out of a bay, and both were caused by another customer? No idea what the odds are on that, but one thing to be sure, I will never see that customer again.

A regular customer with a new Lexus came in for oil changes for a few years, but takes her car to the dealership for repair work. After her vehicle was out of warranty, she was in for her oil change and said she would start bringing it to us for regular repair work also. Great, I said, let me know if there's anything I can do. As a matter of fact, she says, it has been harder to start in the morning, could you check the battery. Sure, I say.

The guys checked the battery, and sure enough, it's the original battery in it and it drops below threshhold under load. With the cold weather coming, I recommended a battery. She agreed and purchased the battery. We installed the battery, finished the oil change, she paid, and was on her way.

Pulling out of our shop can be tricky, it's a four lane road that gets very busy. As she was pulling out of our shop, and was about halfway into the street, the vehicle suddenly stalled. She got it started again and pulled back in. We check it, check the new battery, checked the terminals, could not find a problem, it started several times while it is in our shop, we wondered if it was just a coincidence, sent her on her way.

About an hour later she called and she was frantic. The car kept stalling. She got it back to us and this time we checked over much more than just the battery. A tech found a part of a plastic bag that got sucked into the intake somehow and was partially melted onto the mass air flow meter, causing an intermittent interruption. New mass air flow meter from Lexus ... about $700.

The customer freaked out. Accused us of first sabotaging her car since she had just told me she was going to get her repair work done here, secondly trying to kill her by making her car stall out coming out of the parking lot onto a busy road, third trying to sell her a battery she didn't need, fourth ripping her off by overcharging on a repair she wouldn't have needed if she hadn't just run out of warranty. Nothing I say to her makes a difference, she is sure all this is a plot on our part, got the car towed out, we will probably never see her again.

I don't know what to say to people at times like this, you can call it bad luck, you can call it coincidence, but it seems to happen in our shop to some people and that's when they are sure it is personal. I just reached a point with each of them where nothing I could say would make them happy, and just had to part ways.


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