November 5, 2012

TIME & TALENTS

By DAVE WHITNEY

As we age we definitely have a couple of secret weapons in our time and talents. While many of us have kept up with modern technology, we retain the Talent to write letters, something younger generations rarely, if ever, stoop from their high-tech platforms to do. And, we have the time to do it.

Last spring I stopped by my local Staples store and one of the clerks handed me a certificate offering a “PC Tune Up + For a just-like-new Computer.”

I bit! A Staples technician ran a diagnostic program on my PC laptop and said it would cost nearly $100 to complete the software tune-up.

I pointed the Staples coupon said the $9.99 “enhanced” tune-up offered included a “Virus and Security Check”, a “Clean up of unnecessary files for faster performance” and a “Speed up start time”.

The clerk informed me the coupon didn’t mean that. He brought in his supervisor who confirmed the coupon didn’t mean what it said. I stopped the store manager who likewise informed me the coupon didn’t mean what it said.

Huh! Was this some younger tech-heads trying to pull something over on an old fart, or is it Staples practice to hand out misleading coupons to attract business by offering a low ball price and then socking it to the customer when the work was done?

I took the “high tech” approach ad went to Staples website where they offer a means to file complaints. Almost immediately I got back an email that said: “Thank you for contacting Staples! Your question is being routed to a Customer Service Representative and we will do our very best to respond within 24 hours.”

It has been a lot of 24 hours since I got that message and I have yet to hear another word out of Staples. I have to conclude Staples doesn’t give a crap about legitimate complaints or questions from customers, that their pretense of giving top-notch service is simply a lot of balderdash.

No long after this incident I had driven up state to visit a friend and on the way back stopped at a country sausage place to pick up a few good links. When I got back in my car to restart it, it would not fire up.

So I called AAA. A wrecker came and towed me to a nearby auto repair shop in a nearby smaller central Florida city. The shop manager said I needed a new fuel pump. It was obvious I wasn’t going anywhere unless they fixed the van at about twice the cost I knew I could get it done for at home, so I agreed. It took them a couple of hours and I was back on the road.

I was about 100 miles from home, a nice leisurely drive down through fairly isolated swamp and river country in central Florida. I noticed on the way I began to have some steering problems but since there was nowhere to go I drove on home.

I had had enough gas in the tank to get me home so didn’t worry but the next morning I stopped at a local gas station to fill it up and noticed as I began to pump gas into the car the gasoline simply ran out on the ground. I gave it time to evaporate and started the van up and drove it a few blocks to my favorite mechanic who put it on the lift and informed me that whoever had done the work had forgotten to rehook the fill pipe to the tank and had installed the lines from the gas tank to the engine under the brake cables accounting for what steering problems I had noticed.

He fixed it for a few dollars.

I decided that the original shop that had done the sloppy work should know about it and this time took the old low-tech approach and sat down and wrote a letter sending along the bill I paid my mechanic. I suggested maybe they at least owed me tank of gas and left it up to them to decided how to handle it.

I heard nothing from them. After a month or so I resent the information I had originally sent them with a return receipt requested. I got the signed receipt back but not a word out of them.

I decided that maybe AAA and possibly the Better Business Bureau would like to investigate these shenanigans that went on in the territory they covered. I wrote them both and sent copies to the repair shop.

Viola! I instantly got a call from the repair shop manager who wanted to know what I was trying to do with him. He started out trying to convince me he had called in extra help to get me back on the road on a Saturday night and had sent me a partial refund check after reading my first letter. I had to remind him that I was in his shop on a Monday and back on the road by mid-afternoon and had not heard a word from him following two letters so I thought maybe I had been shammed and that AAA and BBB might like to hear about it.

It took him a while to partially cool down and I did eventually get a check refunding 10 percent of my costs, but he was anything but repentant or customer-service oriented in his behavior.

AAA has not said a thing. BBB simply informed me the repair shop would not return their calls. Other than running a pretty good road service business AAA is not very customer oriented and BBB doesn’t have many arrows in its quiver anymore.

But maybe, just maybe that repair shop manager will be a little less hesitant in the future to screw over older customers if, and when, they get towed to his shop.

The written word on a piece of paper where it can not be sent off to nowhere by a press of a button is still a powerful tool and those of us well up in our years still retain the talent to use it!

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Suddenly Senior - the nationally syndicated column read by 3.1-million over age 50 in 176 countries who've become senior way before their time.

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