Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Some Rare RD Wisdom

Once in a while, I estimate it more accurately to be about once in every forty three years I come up with a piece of wisdom, a little nugget of wise behaviour. Yesterday such a thing happened. It took me by surprise. Here's the story.

We had a bit of a flood at work last week. It wasn't one of biblical proportions, there weren't fellows sailing around on arks with lots of animals on board, but in terms of my work and my office it was quite big. We had to find the source of the water leak, a job that's still ongoing, and deal with the aftermath. The biggest bit of damage was of the water type to the carpet in our meeting room. We needed to get a carpet cleaner out to, well carpet clean, not unsurprisingly for the more astute among you, those ones sitting at the front.

And, if I may take you back to when I was about DD's age, one of my very first jobs was to sell carpet cleaning services door to door for a chap, we'll call him A, who I'm still friendly with about twenty years later. I use the word "friendly" in quite a loose manner. He's a bit of a division four chum, someone who I see once in a while, go out for a beer or a meal with, then wonder why on earth I did that as he's such a pain.

To be fair, it's probably his longevity more than his intrinsic quality that gains him membership into the very exclusive club that is known as the RD circle of friends. In fact it's more of a dot than a circle.

These days he still cleans carpets. Frankly, from what he has told me his business doesn't appear to be doing very well and so, last week, when finding myself in need of a carpet cleaner I called him for what I thought was a quite urgent job. I left messages, I sent him texts and tried several different numbers, some of them his. After about thirty six hours he got back to me.

I was in meetings and explained to A that I needed some stuff done and while he was there would he clean another couple of offices and leave the invoice on my desk for me when he was done. As I know about the price of carpet cleaning, as I used to sell it for A, I felt that I had sufficient knowledge and also that I trusted him enough to just get the job done and charge accordingly. It was a job that most carpet cleaning companies would have charged about £200 for.

The morning after he'd done what was a superb job I came into work and saw his invoice on my desk. He had handwritten a box in which he said that he had to do lots of extra cleaning as the carpet was so dirty but, if there were any queries, just to call him. The invoice was for £450. I had fourteen heart attacks and farted quite a bit. £450 was extortionate and I knew what A had done, or tried to do. He'd looked around at the office, he thinks (wrongly) that I've got a few quid in my pocket and reckoned that we, as a company, could afford it and would pay the amount without question.

The "call me if you have a query" bit was also a clear indication that he was trying it on. Most people, if they're charging what they really think is a fair price, don't go into the scenario thinking that their customer is going to baulk, or fart. I did both.

I don't mind telling you, my reader, that I was extremely disappointed with the situation. Here was an old friend, someone who I've been kind to over the years, someone who I was trying to help by giving him the business, trying to rip me off. It wasn't on. I called him.

I started by thanking him for a job well done and telling him how pleased I was. Then, like a Leopard pouncing on a carpet cleaner who had tried to overcharge, I told him that I was a bit surprised and disappointed about the high bill.

What followed was a half hour comedy conversation. A tried to squirm his way out of it, but not in any way that satisfied me. He attempted to justify the high cost through logic that only a Sri Lankan personnel manager on an efficiency course would possibly understand. At every junction and each turn he contradicted himself and made things worse. He told me that it was because the square yardage he had cleaned was so great, then couldn't remember what the size of the area was. He told me that the job took such a long time, then said that it wasn't about the number of hours taken. I realised that he should have been employed as a digger of holes, big and deep ones.

The gist of it was that he continued to try to justify the price when I knew that he had come to a figure of "about £500" simply because he thought he could get away with it. All too early in the conversation he offered to reduce the bill by £100, which didn't really help. I still felt that the price was too high and that he'd attempted to take advantage of me. We ended in a stalemate.

A asked me what I wanted and what he could do. I told him that I didn't know, that in reality I just wished he hadn't tried to charge the amount in the first place and that now the damage was done. It was an awkwardly dodgy situation. He offered a reduced amount yet still claimed that the original price was fair. I said that I'd pay the £450 if he was so adamant that it was appropriate, though I knew that I'd never ask him to clean a carpet for me again.

We had a stifled "friend's" conversation after that and parted. Neither of us was happy but I knew in my heart that I was in the right and my conscience was clear. A clear conscience is one thing, but I was left with the invoice to pay. I sat on it, the matter not the invoice. The fact was that it was wrong to pay the amount and it would have been wrong not to.

Then, yesterday morning I had my flash of inspiration. It has made me smile and feel that, were someone writing a bible right now, they'd look at me and consider using this as a parable or a stable or whatever they're called.

I gave the invoice to the woman who never pays for her lunch and asked her to write a cheque made payable to A for £350. Then I also asked her to do another cheque for £100 but to leave the payee blank. I sent them both in the same envelope to A, with a compliment slip. I wrote a message on the compliment slip and asked him to do whatever he felt was correct with the £100 cheque, to make it payable to himself, give it to charity or rip it up.

I have a feeling that I'll never find out what A decides to do with the cheque. I'll let you know if I do.

I'm quite chuffed with myself though, just thought I'd tell you. I can't wait until I'm eighty six.


Sach said...

I bet, 450, that he's going to cash it.

That 450 would be in Yen though.

Jack Point said...

A very sophisticated way to rub it in I must say.

For more subtle than anything I could have come up with.

Resident Princess said...

Enjoyed the read RD. I think he'll take the whole lot though. shame! Like how you handled it.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Sach - You may well be right. This way I reckon, if he really does feel that his price is fair, then he can cash it and have a clear conscience. At least he knows that I wasn't trying o get out of paying just for the sake of it.

JP + Resident Princess - Thank you, I wonder if I'll ever find out what he does with it!

ViceUnVersa said...

Ooooo... You could have got a fair bit of new carpet for that price mate. With the recession got it laid free too!
BTW; your trust in humanity is very admirable. The bugger I am sure is now grinning to himself with the cheque already on it's way the bank. People like that are usually are like that, no conscience you know.

DD said...

PS: RD you are such a wonderful person. I am glad there are a few of you left in this world. When I am having a bad day all I need to do is visit your blog to feel better.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Aah thank you DD. I'm smiling all over!