Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A bad day turns good
I got up this morning and did my usual morning routine with an eye toward leaving for work a bit earlier than usual since there's been a lot of traffic jams lately and I was tired of getting to the office with just minutes to spare before clocking in. The "Oh crap, I might be late and get a written reprimand in my file" stress is something I'd rather avoid. I really need this job and to lose it just because Austin traffic sucks would really piss me off. But today I was right on track to leave 10 minutes early until I went to start my car and the engine turned over just twice before the starter went click, click, click. I was hoping to find corroded battery terminals when I opened the hood, but they were squeaky clean which meant that most likely the battery had given up the ghost and needed to be replaced. Or my alternator could be out, but the battery was almost four years old so odds were good that it was the battery. I looked around to see if any neighbors were out and about, but the early birds usually leave for work between 6:00 and 6:30 AM and the rest of the RV park tends to sleep in. As far as I know, I'm the only one that leaves at 7:00 AM so I left my hood up in the international symbol of car trouble and went back into my RV to notify work that I would be late or possibly not in at all today. It wasn't too much later that a neighbor knocked at my door to see if I needed some help. I got lucky; they were up much earlier than usual and noticed my hood up.

One jump start later and I was ready to head off to work. As a bonus, this neighbor, who is a retired engineer and therefore has a great deal of smarts, handed me an extra car battery and some jumper cables to take with me so I could jump my car after work using his extra battery instead of having to rely on finding someone to give me a jump start. His foresight saved me a great deal of grief because because after work the parking lot was almost empty and apparently no one else was getting off work at 5:00 PM today so there wasn't anyone to flag down to ask for a jump. But thanks to his extra battery I was on the road in minutes and I headed straight to the O'Reilly's Auto Parts store in Buda to buy a new battery, provided they had one in my budget range.

Now, it's two days before payday so I had a very limited amount of funds available. The counterman pulled up my battery choices on the computer with prices and I guess the look of despair on my face was pretty evident because another counterman intervened and directed him toward some cheaper options. He then took me over to the battery rack and showed me why he didn't think I should buy the absolute cheapest battery available, but here was one that was not much more and well worth the extra money. It wasn't a scam; I know enough about car batteries to know he wasn't bullshitting. And when I told him, "Yes, that battery you are recommending is the same battery that I bought from O'Reilly's four years ago," his eyes lit up and he told me, "If that's the case, then we can definitely do you right and make your budget."

Somehow, he managed to find the record of my prior purchase despite my complete lack of memory of what my cell phone number had been back then. It took him quite a while, but he was persistent and after applying a warranty and some other pricing voodoo, it more than met my budget. And to top it off, they even changed the battery for me right there in the parking lot, no extra charge. I haven't seen that kind of customer service in years!

The counterman joked that I had enough left over to buy some beer and that's exactly what I did. I bought some for myself to celebrate my good fortune and a 12 pack to give to my helpful neighbor. I was going to buy a 12 pack for the folks at the auto parts store, but was afraid that might be against company policy. But they will, at the very least, get all of my future auto parts business and I will also sing their praises.

And what started out as a bad day, turned out to be a very good one thanks to some helpful folks. Which reminds me to never underestimate the value of good customer service or even just lending a helping hand to someone. You never know for sure, but it just might make their day.

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