Doug Thomson’s 70th birthday held at The Chalet. (Photo Gerry Leibel)

“Well, I didn’t make the website!” – Perky Girl.

The joys of buying tires

I’m sitting in front of an iPad screen wondering where to start this missive and I’m beset by feelings of discomfort and disquiet.

Perhaps that is because last Sunday was my 70th birthday, a particularly inauspicious landmark on the journey of life, one celebrated by a letter from the bank saying they will no longer life-insure my line of credit.

The message is clear: “You’re down to a dog’s life boy and we want nothing more of this poker hand. Thanks for anteing up for all these years, but most especially for not croaking too soon. Happy birthday, cheery bye!” Sigh …

Seventy years of survival on this beautiful blue orb does afford one a certain sense of perspective and a bit of a curmudgeonly “what the hell!” attitude (maybe it is a perverse joie de vivre, without a lot of the joie).

So, we grump along, endure the pats on the head from our now-aging children, a growing number of aches and pains, and all the “How are you dear?” greetings from youthful and painfully perky store clerks. Well, actually, they are more often than not painfully sullen, but I remain optimistic.

So, while I’m curmudgeoning (no, it’s not a verb or a word, but I don’t care) away, let’s ponder customer service these days? I sort of, well really, needed a set of spring-summer-fall tires right now and saw a most excellent set on sale at one of our larger retailers in the region. So, I phoned up and discovered I had to special order the correct size.

“That order requires a 100 per cent deposit, sir,” says Perky Girl.

“No problem,” I respond, wondering what the difference is between a 100 per cent deposit and an advance payment.

Nevertheless, I dutifully read out the appropriate numbers from the plastic cash to her. In due course the quasi-toroidal items arrived and were installed and the perky (remember my optimism) young woman announced: “That will be $980 and change.”

“Ah, but remember perky young woman, you demanded 100 per cent deposit” (I couldn’t muddy the waters with an esoteric idea like advance payment, and no, I didn’t say perky young woman).

About that time in walks Perky Tire Installer: “You realize that these are summer tires, don’t you?” he asks, recognizing a doddering old fart when he sees one. “These are performance tires.” (An aside – I’ve been buying performance tires since before this guy’s grandfather had a glint in his eye – these are not performance tires).

“They better not be summer tires, my friend, because your website says they are M+S-rated tires.” Well, that initiated a lengthy debate, only resolved when we navigated the world wide web, found the tires, discovered they were indeed all-season and not summer, AND (wow) located the M+S (mud and snow) designation, toddled out to the car and found the same M+S moulded into the sidewall of the tire.

Did I mention that in the middle of the debate, Perky Girl took the opportunity to announce: “You got the tires you ordered.”

“Not if they are not M+S rated. That’s what the website advertised,” I retorted.

“Well, I didn’t make the website,” says Perky Girl.

Now imagine for a moment what kind of reaction that precipitated. Steam is starting to build and we still haven’t resolved the 100 per cent deposit issue yet. So, we are now into this conversation for about 20 minutes before we roll back to $$$.

“You must have received an email with a confirmation number,” says Perky Tire Installer.

“Nope,” said I.

“I can’t sell you the tires without a confirmation number,” Perky Girl chimes in.

“Don’t have one – just look up my account, it’s on the computer,” I reply irritably.

You know, it took another 45 minutes (Linda, my wife took over after I made a hasty retreat, because while controlled and polite to this point, I was about to go ballistic), with a trip to the customer service desk, back to another desk in the automotive department and then back to customer service where Very Grouchy (not-at-all-perky) Woman asked loudly: “What am I supposed to do with this?”

Finally, Competent Supervisor arrived and resolved the problem in about three minutes.

That’s the story, but at the end of that mess, perhaps the most galling part was, nobody said: “We are really sorry for all this difficulty.”

I had dropped $980 in their store, they had gotten everything wrong from beginning to end, but they treated Linda and myself as annoyances. We had certainly accounted for the day’s pay for all of them, but we were not worthy of good manners, contriteness, or even a smile.

Good Reader, I’ll leave you to ponder the moral of this saga.

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