WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward
I was listening to a friend the other day about his quest to get a ‘good quote’ for replacing the tyres on his wife’s car and his list of assorted prices that ranged from the ‘not bad’, ‘reasonable’ to the ‘you must be joking!’ prices quoted from assorted outlets.
Many years ago in my quest not to be tied to one job for 50 years then to receive a clock upon retirement, assuming I lasted that long all things considered as boredom can kill, as I entered into tyre fitting which provided me with an insight into a world that while seemingly looking boring to a degree, was quite the reverse with the assorted knowledge and skill required to actually perform the task.
The company I worked for supplied and fitted commercial to agricultural as well as the basic ‘bread and butter’ trade such as cars, vans etc.
You had to have your wits about you as dealing with things that contained pressure as in compressed air, plus if you didn’t have your mind on the job could have severe consequences as we knew of one local fatality that hit the local headlines and served as a reminder to keep you focused on the job.
However it was not lacking in questionable comedy of sorts that sometimes made your day complete, with the following examples, cases and patients springing to mind.
Part One: Knowing your customer (and their wants)
As well as fitting the tyres and batteries, we also issued quotes to those wonderful folk we called customers; if they accepted our quotes (usually most did) or time-wasters if they didn’t – it was always significant that it was the time-wasters who asked the most questions, plus the silliest questions: ‘Do they puncture easy?’ was a common one and often I replied no more than a difficult punctuate but it took longer as opposed to an ‘easy’ one with one person then replying with: ‘To be fair, I do try to avoid nails and other sharp things in the road if I can’ which made me wonder if he was one of the non-sharp things that had come in from the road I had before me at that moment.
The times I heard: ‘Well, I will think it over and let you know then’ with one or two well ahead of the game coming out with: ‘I’ll have to ask the wife and see what she says/thinks’ which was forerunner of the timewaster who looks at your car for sale and rather than say they don’t want it, use ‘I’ll have to ask the wife to see what she thinks’ get-out clause but more than likely most of our customers were a good lot as they replied after consulting their wallet: ‘Okay then – when can you fit them?’ being the response and it was usually within minutes assuming we had them in stock etc.
Part Two: Fitting the tyres
As the car or vehicle in question was jacked up in order to replace the tyres or tyre, it meant just that – we jacked the car up once it was driven into the fitting bay as the driver got out, looked on as we did the necessary to reunite his wheels with tyres with that stuff called tread on as in most cases a lot were bald or nearly so.
One such incident still lingers in the mind.
One customer drove his car in for two tyres to be fitted on the front end, then got out as we proceeded to jack the said front end up and my fellow workmate asked if the lady in the passenger seat could also step out the car for basic safety (and common sense) reasons to which our customer then threw a wobbly by saying: ‘Good lord! – ou cannot expect my wife to get out the car as she has just had her hair done!’
Me and Tony, my workmate, stood in silence at hearing that one but our boss, and the owner, came in at that point as he had overheard this verbal exchange and with a bit of coaxing, he managed to get Lady Hair-Dhoo out the car into his warm office.
Part Three: Customer services (groan)
This could go on for umpteen pages really but a few nuggets from a whole wealth of general silliness plus at times, heart warming stuff that came from our mainstay, our customers.
Punctures were or are part of the staple diet of a tyre fitting company but it was the occasional customers who made it an entertainment form in its own right.
One bumptious customer came in one morning to say that one of his tyres had a puncture: ‘See? – it’s that bit at the bottom of the tyre, the flat bit!’ to which I looked at it in my best possible scientific looking pose, rubbed my chin then I turned the wheel round and so the ‘flat bit’ was at the top as I said: ‘There – problem sorted’
He was not amused of course but it made up for a lousy day as it turned out later.
Another joyful instance was the lady who came in to see us, clutching a large nail as she explained that the tyres we had fitted the day before were ‘very nice and comfortable’ (!?) but as she was going to work that morning, she noticed this big nail sticking in one of the tyres, so she came in to ask if ‘it was one of ours’ as we could have it back in case we wondered where it had got to’ (!).
As we checked the tyre in question, which by then was slowly losing air pressure, we repaired it free of charge as a good will gesture as off she went leaving us with the nail although having pointed out (no pun intended) that it wasn’t ours.
It didn’t end there though – about a fortnight later, she rang us to ask if the owner had been in to ‘claim’ their nail yet.
Quite how on-line shopping would cope these days in such cases is open to debate.
One worthy customer of note is worth a mention for the sheer entertainment he gave us.
Mr Hexwhyzed was a solicitor who fancied himself as being a rally driver but as he spoke with a slight speech impediment, he was a ‘whally dryber’ and was forever coming into us to discuss assorted tyres fit for him and his ‘sphort’.
While our boss loved him or rather his money, the fact was as a ‘whally dryber’ he was useless as he would go off of a weekend to, say, Wales or wherever but once past the start line, within minutes he would either roll the car over or stick it in a tree or just run out of road.
His staff called him ‘Speedy Gonzales’ after the cartoon character but he was more Gonzales than Speedy but as our boss related after one of his visits to order even more sets of tyres – you see it was never his fault but either the car or the tyres – that he was living proof that even if you throw heaps of money at something, and still don’t have the either talent or the skill to match it, its a pointless exercise although he had brought much financial pleasure to the company, not to mention our wage packets.