Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Simple Proof

I had a conversation with my mom the other day after their maid service had been by. Once a week these folks dust, clean windows, vacuum and clean the bathroom making life for my parents so much easier. Mom was impressed when she went into the bathroom, noticing that the toilet paper had its last square carefully folded to a point much like you’d find it at a nice hotel.

I reminded her that after the maid service leaves that she has to go around leveling all the pictures in the house; another observation she’d brought up in previous conversations. I explained that it was the maid service making sure that their actions had been noticed; the pictures must have been dusted because they’ve been moved slightly, the windows were cleaned because there were fresh towels in the trash that smelled of ammonia and the bathroom was taken care of because they took the time to fold the toilet paper and so on.

If I were in charge of the cleaning crew I’d have to give them a passing grade for leaving so much proof that the job had been done thoroughly; enough for the paying customer to make such remarks. Mom listened, marveling at such a simple and yet convincing thought process, a means to an end.

Years ago while in police school I was taught how to take a suspect's statement and to have that statement typed up for the suspect to sign for the purpose of having it entered into a court of law as evidence. I was further instructed to include some typographical errors scattered in the middle of those typed statements so that while the suspect was reading, prior to signing it at the bottom, those errors could be pointed out and initialed by him/her. Often times a suspect or his lawyer would claim that he/she’d signed something without reading it; the suspect’s initials next to those typographical errors in the middle of the statement would be a clear indication that he/she had indeed read that statement, enough to have caught the errors; proof that it had been read.

When I’m working on an old GM steering column, one that has signs of abuse or damage I make sure the customer is present while I point out the damage, things that were broken or damaged prior to my working on it. This applies to taking apart door panels or just about any conceivable aspect of the locksmith business. I’ll ask questions that would remind the customer; causing them to exclaim that he/she knew that the horn hadn’t worked in years, the turn signal indicators hadn’t been self canceling in a while or that there was considerable “play” in the column due to some existing damage. After the completion of the job I’d list whatever damage I’d pointed out earlier and have the customer sign off, an acknowledgement, proof that he/she had been aware and to lessen the chances of false accusations later on.

This isn’t fool proof; but it does make for good habits. If you conduct yourself in a similar fashion, each job documented with the same eye to detail, the result will be a clear mind, one that, without hesitation, can state the conditions of each and every job without having to “wonder” or count on memory.

I had a young woman call me the other day claiming that the key I’d cut for her car didn’t work. It turned out that I’d worked on her car six or seven months earlier. I couldn’t help but laugh at the prospect of her sitting, cooped up in her house for all that time, not being able to go anywhere, to work or the store, without calling me right away, “Hey, come back, this key doesn’t work!”

It reminded me of the old story about the Crusades; maybe you’ve heard it before. The brave knight sitting on his horse all decked out and ready to leave in search of the Holy Grail; saying good byes to his family and friends as he heads down the long dusty path. He’d given his best friend the key to his wife’s chastity belt, to guard that prize which above all else he treasured. The brave knight had only gone a hundred yards when he heard his friend shouting, “Hey, this key doesn’t work!”

I explained to the young woman that the key I’d made, the key I’d handed her; worked just fine. I reminded her that prior to my accepting payment I’d made it a point, as I do with each and every job, to have her try the key herself. I use the line, “You’d better try it, I’m a magician”, or some other corny phrase to prompt the customer into testing my finished key. It’s a way to “close the deal” and put their stamp of approval on the job. I’m starting to suffer from CRS and this simple habit also makes sure that I don’t drive clear across town, only to discover that I never gave the key to the customer, sounds silly; I bet it never happened to anyone else either.

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