Handling Unreasonable Motor Club Customers.

When we received the call from the motor club, the information provided said that it was a Nissan 200sx that needed a jump start. But, when Tom, our tow truck operator, arrived, the vehicle was completely covered in snow and sitting at the bottom of a driveway that was also snow-covered.

The job was sent over as a jump start, and when Tom arrived, the owner admitted that he didn’t have any money to have it repaired.  And that he was hoping Tom could diagnose and cure the problem right there on the spot.

So, after more than fifteen minutes removing the snow to gain access, Tom spent another fifteen minutes trying everything he could to get the vehicle started.

The car had plenty of power and was turning over fine, but it just wouldn’t start.  With his mechanic’s hat on, Tom suggested that it might be a fuel issue or a sensor, or any number of other problems that a real mechanic with the proper diagnostic equipment should be able to figure it out. But it wasn’t something he could fix.

It was then that the owner reiterated that he had no money for a mechanic and thanked Tom for trying anyway. So, Tom put his tools away and left.

On his way out of the neighborhood, Tom was flagged down by a woman who happened to be the vehicle owner’s mother. She was on her way home and asked that he come back. Dutifully, Tom turned around and drove back to the house.

She wanted him to try to start the car again.

He explained what he’d done moments earlier and confirmed that it wasn’t a battery issue. But she insisted he try again.  Tom did as she asked, and when it didn’t start, she asked him to tow the car to a local tire shop.

Two hours later, I received a call from the vehicle owner’s mother.  She was calling to complain about the service she’d received.

I listened and apologized, assuring her that I’d have a talk with the driver.  She went on to say that she wasn’t going to call and register a complaint with the motor club. She just wanted me to know about…what she considered to be…sub-standard service.

So, I apologized again, and after reassuring her that I’d talk to Tom, I thanked her, and that was the end of it.

When I talked with Tom that evening, he couldn’t believe she called to complain.

Tom said that the woman’s expectations were unreasonable and that he’d gone above and beyond to help.  He said the only thing that might have been misunderstood was his suggestion to take the car to a place that could diagnose the problem rather than the tire shop the mother insisted on.

I decided that the whole thing must have been her way of expressing frustrations over car problems…complaining because the tow truck driver didn’t completely solve the issue. And I let it go.

But it wasn’t over.

The Art of Handling Unreasonable Motor Club Customers

The next day the woman called again.  She started off by going over the same issues from the previous day, but this time she went on to say how the whole experience had bothered her emotionally.

I stopped her…asking, “Didn’t we talk about this yesterday?”  I thought the issue was resolved.

She responded by saying, “Yes, we did, but I think I’m going to need another tow. The tire shop can’t fix it.”

I told her we’d be happy to help and suggested that she call her motor club to request service…if she didn’t want to pay for the tow out of pocket.

This is where it finally gets interesting.

She said she didn’t want to use another tow from her motor club because she only gets 4 per year.

“Well, other than paying us directly, I don’t know what else I can do for you, Ma’am,”  I said, slowly catching on to where this was going.

Unable to maintain the charade, she just blurted it out. “Don’t you think it would be in your best interest to give me a freebie?  Otherwise, I’ll call the motor club and complain.”

I was completely caught up now.  This woman was threatening to use a negative complaint about my business as a bludgeon.  In a blatant attempt to get a free tow, she was willing to lie about the service she’d received.

I’ve got to admit…this was a first.  She was trying to blackmail me.

After losing money on the first motor club call and fully expecting to break even on a second one, this woman believed I still owed her something.

The gloves were off now.  I said, “You’re trying to blackmail me.”

Her response was one of righteous indignation.  She couldn’t believe I used such a word to describe her behavior.  I then suggested a few others that might be easier to swallow.

“You’re using a threat to coerce me into giving you something for nothing.” And…“I’m beginning to think you didn’t have a legitimate concern with the service you received in the first place. You just used that as an excuse to extort free services.”

But for some reason, she didn’t like those words either.

She then terminated the conversation and followed through on her threat, adding my latest comments to the mix.

In the end, she got what she wanted, a free tow from another contractor.  And I no longer had to deal with her…win/win.