Throughout my career in the car business, owning and managing dealerships
, I had a number of occasions when customers would say they left something in their car when they dropped it off for service, but it wasn’t there when they picked it up. This in spite of the fact that there were large signs hanging in the service drive saying we were not responsible for items left in cars. It was also in large letters on the work order the customer received.
Often times, it was change in the ashtray or console, I had one customer who said he left a gun in his car, but later retracted after he found it at home. One lady swore she left a one-carat diamond ring in the glove box that she was getting resized, and it was missing. We did a thorough investigation of everyone who touched the car, and even administered lie detector tests, but everyone was telling the truth. Her homeowner’s insurance eventually paid for it.
I always had a very open door policy, both for my employees and my customers. This was a burden at times, especially when you are in the middle of something important, but I always felt the positive results outweighed the negatives.
One weekday a customer came blowing into my office. I had been warned by my service manager that an angry customer was headed my way. I instructed my staff not to let me know in advance what the issue was, I wanted to hear it from the customer first, and if I needed additional information, I’d let them know.
This man was very large and was wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt. He looked to be 35-years of age or so and had a bushy beard. As he headed toward my desk in a very determined manner, I stood up. He angrily said words I had heard a number of times: “I want you to know I will never do business in this dealership again!”
I had a pat answer for this from many years earlier. I calmly said “thank you for letting me know that, you just took away any incentive I have to help you” and I sat down and went about my business. It never failed me, they would always start backing up and this guy was no different. He said, “well, maybe I’ll do business here again”. I invited him to take a seat and asked him what the problem was.
He told me something was stolen out of his car while he was getting an oil change. I, of course, asked what was taken, but his response was “I’d rather not say”. I was befuddled to say the least, as my mind ran through the many things it could be.
I told him I couldn’t investigate the theft unless I knew what I was looking for. He reiterated that he’d rather not say. I tried to reason with the guy and told him that if I had a bad employee or a thief in the service department, I needed to know it. I added that if it was something of value, my insurance company might pay the claim if he could prove what it was.
The man thought for a long time. Neither of us said a word for what seemed to be an eternity. Finally, he said “OK. I had a pound of marijuana under the front seat”.
Without changing expressions, I reached for the phone and started to dial it. The man said “what are you doing? Who are you calling?”
I said: “I’m calling the police. I’ve got to have a police report to make an insurance claim”.
He stood, walked toward the door, and simply said “forget it!”