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The curious case of the customer that couldn’t be pleased!

I like to think that we’re a pretty friendly and understanding bunch at Swiftest. Our reception manager is particularly adept at communicating with customers and ensuring that we meet (and regularly exceed) their expectations. I know that when your car goes wrong, it can be traumatic, but we always try to make the situation as pleasant as possible.

Sometimes though, no matter what you do, the customer simply cannot be pleased and it was one such case this week that left me rather puzzled and a little angry.

 In a culturally diverse town like Aldershot, we’re used to customers for whom English isn’t their first (or even second!) language, yet we manage just fine to understand their needs, with maybe the odd drawing or hand gestures to get our point across. This customer however spoke perfect English yet my encounter with her left me as baffled as if she had spoken to me in Nepalese!

I didn’t take her original booking and neither did our experienced service manager. Had either of us been given the opportunity to speak to this woman first, I’m fairly confident that we’d never even as got as far as making a booking. Unfortunately, our part-time assistant/driver/parts lady took her call and being somewhat less able to immediately recognise what was clearly a raving lunatic, not only booked her in but even gave in to her demand for a ‘courtesy car’.

Once I’d seen the job card to ‘Investigate noisy pump’ on what was a 19 year old Peugeot 406 saloon, I was immediately suspicious. We  literally have no remaining customers driving cars that old (unless sports / prestige or classics) that would even dream of paying ‘garage prices’

Demanding the use of a courtesy car was another irritation I had before even meeting her. Because we were only meant to be ‘looking ‘at the cause of a noise on her car, there’s no way I was going to give her a brand new car for the day that could’ve been offered to a genuine customer having an MOT and service.

Anyway, at around 2pm on the day of her booking, she duly arrived in the elderly Peugeot. Before handing over our courtesy car, we offered to take a quick look at her car ‘there and then’ to see if it was something that could be fixed quickly without her having to leave it with us but this was declined as she was ‘too busy’ and off she went in our Toyota Aygo.

Ten minutes later, our top technician brought her car into the workshop. It was immediately apparent that there was a water leak from a corroded pipe on the engine and that the knocking noise was actually due to a couple of knackered suspension joints. Whilst the car was on the ramp, it was clearly obvious that the underside of the car was extremely rusty and the sills had jagged holes you could actually fit your hand through! This would’ve been a terminal MOT failure alone, without all the other work the car needed.

I asked my technician to simply note all the faults he could see so I could call the customer.

The lady had left a mobile number so I called it and as no answer, left a brief message detailing what we’d found and asking for her to call me back. It was now 3:30 and time to do any jobs that day was fast running out.

At 5:15 she called back and hadn’t even bothered to play my message. She again said she’d been ‘too busy’. I said that we’d looked at her car and it needed a few things that we should discuss. At this point, things became very odd as the following conversation will show.

“Our technician’s had a good look at your car and there’s some work it needs which we’d like to discuss first as it could be quite expensive”

 “I didn’t ask you to look at my car!, why would he do that?”

“You booked your car in with us to look at a fault – how can we do that without opening the bonnet and looking?”

“I didn’t want any work doing, just wanted to know what was wrong”

“We haven’t done any work or charged you anything, just had a look to see what the problems were. Anyway, we need our courtesy car back for tomorrow so perhaps you could come when you’ve finished work and I can discuss it with you”

 At this point, she kind of grunted and then hung-up on me and 5:45  she came back. Her Peugeot was parked back outside, just the same as it was when she arrived.

I attempted to explain, very politely, what the faults were and how she may want to think before spending money on the water leak if it was surely going to cost at least £500 to get it through the next MOT test. The speech in capitals is her shouting!

“When is your car’s MOT due?”

“I’m not telling you that! It’s none of your business”

“OK,  I’m just suggesting that if it only has a few months left, perhaps drive it until then and maybe it’s time to get another car”

“I can’t afford another car. I have to drive 200 miles a day to work here and have no money left after petrol and living to even think about getting another car”

“Well, unless you’re sentimentally attached to this car, I think you’d be better off not spending any more money and putting it towards something a bit newer”


“I’m not suggesting you take a loan but believe me, you can get a much better car than you have now for as little as £500, which is surely better than spending more money on yours. I can show you the rust underneath if you like, just so you can see how bad it is?” 


“OK, in that case, I’m sorry to say but I just can’t help you. I’m only trying to save you money in the long run. We won’t take your money to fix the car as it doesn’t make financial sense and we haven’t charged you for looking at it today, nor for lending you our car”

At this point, one of our regular customers who was also in reception, clearly amazed by the situation decided to add his piece

“If you’re travelling 200 miles a day, why don’t you just move a bit closer?”

This obviously did the trick as she promptly threw the keys down to our loan car, grabbed her own key from the counter and stormed out!

They say “The customer is always right” but I can honestly say that I’ve never been so glad to see the back of somebody! There’s a little patch of rust flakes on our floor to serve as a reminder though.