No charge for car battery and bonus bucks to boot

  • Written by Bob Rakow

I recently purchased a new battery for my car, but the transaction was unlike any other I’ve experienced.
I stopped at a local auto parts store, asked if they had a battery for my make and model and if they would install it. Within minutes, the new battery was in, the old one was out, and I was standing at the front counter waiting to settle up.
That’s where the confusion began. I walked to one register and was directed to another register where an employee asked me if I was “all set” or something like that before handing me $136.
Something seemed amiss. I was getting a free battery and $136? What a deal!
I stayed at the counter for a moment wondering why I received the money I owed the store. Rather than say something right away, I walked to my car, counted my money, recalled how much I had at the start of the day, factored in my other purchases and was positive the store screwed up.
I explained the situation to the manager, who reviewed the register receipts and found the cash drawer to be about $275 short—the $136 I was given plus the price of the battery that I never paid the store.
That’s a lot of money. My wife has worked in banking and retail most of her life, and having a cash drawer shortage is a very big deal.
The store manager summoned the employee who rang me out and said, with a hint of astonishment in his voice, “You gave him $136?”
The funny thing was, the employee wasn’t embarrassed, apologetic or ashamed. Instead, he tried to put his mistake on me, saying that I indicated all was well when he completed the transaction.
Funny, I sort of figured that retail employees know enough to charge customers who come in for goods or services. Giving money away is not typically in the business plan. If the guy was unsure of anything about my purchase, he should have asked.
The employee walked away from the counter until the manager, sounding like a father admonishing a young child, said, “Don’t you have something to say?” The young guy looked clueless until the manager told him to thank me.
I wasn’t looking for a “thanks.” I returned to the store only because I wouldn’t feel right about driving around with a free battery and $136 in my pocket. It’s dishonest.
I did tell the young man that a lot of people would have pocketed the money and never returned. Maybe he figured he’d be disciplined because I returned.
But the employee’s reaction or lack thereof reminded me again that there’s a lot of poor customer service out there.
I’m not sure if some people who staff stores, answer phones, work in restaurants and so on are ever trained to properly treat customers. Probably not. Others likely just don’t care.
They’re working thankless, minimum wage jobs. They don’t expect to keep the gigs for long, and if they get fired or become overly frustrated, they’ll just move on to a similar job.
It’s not entirely their fault. We’ve all had a part-time job with the insufferable manager. Bosses have a job to do, but when they fail to respect the employees, the work can become miserable real fast.
But no matter the reason, the customer pays the price for poor customer.
Thankfully, bad customer service is still the exception rather than rule. And I’ve learned that if you have a complaint about service, talk to a manager. They’re the ones who understand how to treat customers.
To wit, I have a warranty on my newer car. I had minor repairs done at the dealership a few weeks ago and was charged $160 for the diagnosis fee and some small parts—both not covered by the warranty—surprise, surprise.
I asked about the unexpected charges and, without hesitation, the general manager cut the invoice in half. He wanted me to leave happy, he said. If it cost him a few bucks, so be it. He wants me back when it’s time to buy another car.
I had problems recently with my hot water heater. I called my plumber, who worked his magic and had it repaired in no time. No charge either. We have a relationship. I’ll be calling him again for bigger work or I might refer him to a friend. He knows this, so why nickel and dime me on the little stuff?
When the recent storms hit and we lost power for two days, a refrigerator full of food spoiled. I emailed a detailed list and monetary value of the food to my insurance agent and a check was in the mail the same week. This is just one reason why he is my insurance agent. Availability and endless efforts to save me money are two others.
Seems there’s no gray area when it comes to customer service. It’s either really good or just plain bad. Giving away auto parts and money might be considered both.