Gonzo's Tool Box: Cash Discount For Engine Swap Gone Wrong

Gonzo’s Tool Box: Cash Discount For Engine Swap Gone Wrong

In attempt to drum up some new business, I decided to run a cash discount promotion for large jobs thinking it might bring in new customers. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but the best-laid plans often go awry.

In an attempt to drum up some new business, I decided to run a cash discount promotion for large jobs thinking it might bring in new customers. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but the best-laid plans often go awry.

The cash discount was going to run for a month as a trial. All expectations looked promising. Customers from a few weeks earlier had been contacted and informed of the new promotion to see if they’d like to schedule that big job they were putting off.

Almost all of them set an appointment before the promotion deadline. Soon, the shop was bustling with new activity and jobs were waiting for an open service bay.

Unfortunately, there’s always one sourpuss who has to ruin all the fun for everyone else, like Mr. Gripey who came to the shop. He was your typical “bargain hunter, never going to be a regular, always has a complaint” type of customer. As he put it, “I’ll be your No. 1 customer, if you can get me done on time.” I assured Mr. Gripey that everyone is our No. 1 customer here and we would do everything we could, within reason, to get his vehicle repaired in a timely fashion.

It was a typical pickup engine swap, except for Mr. Gripey. His periodic snooping and questioning of the mechanic about the job was relentless.

I was prepared for the inevitable and personally took on the job of double-checking every part, every fastener and every existing blemish on the vehicle just to be sure there was nothing Mr. Gripey could question once the job was completed.

The engine slipped back in place without a hitch, and every nut and bolt was torqued down to specs. Everything was going as planned, except for one small detail: the promised date of delivery. Because of the workload and the arrival of the replacement engine, we missed the date by one day.

This was all Mr. Gripey needed to begin his wrath of expletives and insults as to how awful we’ve made the entire experience.

Was I surprised? Not at all. Now he wanted an even bigger discount than what the promotion had offered. I offered my apologies and discounted the job even more. That wasn’t good enough. He wanted the entire job for free and to pick his truck up ASAP. Of course, that was not going to happen. The bill needed to be paid.

Several days passed between unanswered phone calls and messages left for Mr. Gripey to pick up his vehicle.

Another week passed and Mr. Gripey still hadn’t paid or picked up his truck. It was time for one more phone call, but with an added incentive. Mr. Gripey was informed about storage charges for keeping his pickup behind locked doors and that the charges would keep adding up until he showed up. He was given a grace period until the end of the week, and if we didn’t hear from him by then the storage charges would ensue.

Mr. Gripey managed to show up at the shop that very afternoon. I gave him the total and said, “That’ll be cash, sir.” I wasn’t about to give this guy a chance to walk out with the keys with anything less than a paid-in-full balance and a signed off completed repair. Mr. Gripey turned around and went out to his car and returned with three large bank bags. He tossed the bags onto the counter and said, “Here ya go. Count it if you feel like it.” The bags were full of pennies.

“I’ll take my truck now. If you don’t mind,” Mr. Gripey said. I looked at the pile of coins starting to pour slowly out of the split-open bag and looked back up at Mr. Gripey and said, “Sir, this is legal tender alright, but this is no way to pay your bill. But, in your case, I’ll accept the payment only after it has been fully counted. So, just have a seat and I’ll get this counted and then I’ll gladly hand the keys over to you.”

Mr. Gripey hadn’t planned his little caper out as well as he had thought. He thought I was just going to hand the keys over and I’d be stuck with several hours of counting pennies, while he was long gone with a smirk on his face thinking he just pulled a fast one on a repair shop. But, he wasn’t getting those keys until I had every last penny counted. 

With some help from the crew, we sat in the front office counting each and every penny. I wasn’t about to give the guy the satisfaction of taking the bags to the bank to have them counted. I wanted him to sit there waiting the hours it took to have it all hand counted.

It was by far the best bonding time I had with the crew. As we counted, we talked about jobs in the shop, what was coming up next, tools, where we wanted to be in the next few years, our families, kids and pastimes. Indirectly, Mr. Gripey did us all a huge favor by allowing us to have a few hours of time together away from the wrenches.

By the time we were done, we were all tired of stacking pennies. We could finally get up from this chore and get Mr. Gripey out the door with his truck and warranty paperwork. His warranty expired a long time ago, and he’s never come back for even an oil change.

I’ve been paid with all kinds of things over the years; from a stack of Susan B Anthony coins to a case of beer. This was the first time anyone paid for an entire job with sacks full of pennies.

If there is a next time, I’m not counting all those pennies again. I’ll let the bank do it and make the guy come back the next day. Just don’t tell Mr. Gripey that. He still may need another lesson or two on how to act civil at a repair shop. Even if it is one penny at a time. 

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