Nobody Told You There'd Be Days Like These

Feb. 1, 2007
What drives you nuts?

The varied aspects of the tool business range from serious to light-hearted, but there are two “nutty” categories in there — one being the “nutty” things that happen to us, and the other being the things that drive us “nuts!”

I have to put “time wasters” at the top of my nuts list. One form of time waster is the customer that makes you chase him around to collect money. And we have all waited for some to return from long road tests — sometimes to discover they don’t have any money anyway. (Dude, tell me right away if you can’t pay; don’t compound your infraction by wasting my time.) Then there are the customers that will pay you — when they get around to it. I stand there waiting as they do everything but reach for their wallet. Cell phone calls, text messages, shooting the breeze at the parts counter — you name it, anything to delay the payment. For some techs it’s a source of amusement. I find it not amusing!

Next up is the guy that wants to see everything you are toting, but you know from experience that this is not time well spent. I would rather move on to the next person who is sincerely interested in what I have to offer and enjoys my show. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has a chance to buy from me. But I want to lavish my attention on the people who are players, or have the potential to become one. Then you have the guy that owes you too much money and wants to see the show. We try our best to downplay our offerings in hopes to collect and move on quickly.

“Where were you last week?” Don’t you like being greeted by this, especially when you told your customers you would not be there?

If we could collect $1 each time we heard, “There was something I needed but I can’t remember,” our working days would end in early retirement. I give out “want” lists, but only a few customers utilize them regularly. I think there’s more money in collecting all those dollars!

Here’s one situation that gets me all the time: The computer says I have one, my mind says I have one, but I can’t find it when the customer needs it. I stroll up and down the aisle looking for the tool that is not where it should be in the first place. I figure something was set on top of it in a game of hide-and-seek we can live without. If there are customers in the truck, I walk past them numerous times until I give up and they exit so I can search alone. Once panic sets in, forget it — I am not finding it now. Of course I come across it a few stops down the road. At least I am not losing my mind.

Most of us carry tools into shops and sometimes an item is left behind by mistake. It might be the next stop or a day later when we discover the missing item and try to retrace our steps. I wish all customers would call when they find the tool in their space. Some do, but others return it during the next visit after you’ve been wracking your brain. I find zero comfort in, “I could have kept it — you wouldn’t have known.” I remind them that honesty is its own reward.

On the subject of our trucks: How do you feel when the guy with dirty hands paws through your inventory? You won’t need the CSI unit to follow his trail! I also have some folks that like to stash empty candy wrappers in various locations. How do you feel about dirty or muddy shoes entering your store? This is one I look out for at certain stops. I don’t want to discourage business, but I have asked people to wait at the door while I bring them their requests. Any reasonable person will understand — if your truck is a clean one.

And lastly there are the spilled tools that hit the floor. It’s so fun to get down on all fours and play pick-up with the tap-and-die set! (Socket sets also are challenging when they crash and need to be collected — boy, do they roll everywhere.) This usually happens after showing the set to someone and not putting it back properly. Even more fun is when a customer doesn’t secure a tool he was looking at. Bonus points if the tool scratches a toolbox on the way to the floor, and even more points if it lands and the case or a part gets damaged. Hello, discount time.

Apart from customers, sometimes it’s the distribution channel that makes me nuts. Like when an item I’ve promised to a customer isn’t in the order I’m counting on. Ugh, now you have to show up empty handed.

It seems as if the nuts didn’t leave me any room for the nutty this time. I can say with a degree of authority, however, that if you don’t act a little nutty in this business, you eventually will go nuts. Smile at yourself and the situations you’re in sometimes. This is a fantastic opportunity to be your own boss, and the parts we enjoy still outweigh the problems many times over.

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