Whatever Happened to a Job Well Done?


I'm not angry!I know it’s Friday. In the past I said I wanted to post lighter Friday fare. But the topic today is one that I wanted to blog about yesterday; I was so angry at the time, I had to step back and chill for a day before attempting this or I might have used uncharitable language. Argh.

What got me so fired up? Well, long before this blog, there was another back in 2001. The blog was called The Boiled Frog Blog and it dealt with society’s constant turning up of the heat on us unsuspecting frogs until we’re cooked. That blog was a melange of hot political topics, pop culture analysis, Christianity, and my calling out some of the stupid things that people do.

For one day—and one day only—I am resurrecting the tone and character of The Boiled Frog Blog to address an issue that has become absolutely maddening for me.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fact that I felt like many of us are becoming To-Do List Christians. We absolutely love the Lord, but our usefulness to Him is limited by the constant pressure we are under because of the million and a half things we have on our to-do lists.

I’ve been increasingly struggling with the fact that every day I’m buried under a host of things I have to do. What makes this infinitely more difficult is when I have to rely on other professional people to help, but those other people only make things worse for my clearing of my to-do list.

I blogged about “Life’s Little Annoyances” (a post now deleted), but I’m through being charitable or circumspect like I was in that post. I simply want to know why it seems that people cannot do their jobs right anymore. Folks have a supposed skill they perform for other people, but why is it that so many are incapable of actually following through on that skill?

My wife’s birthday is now a bust. I’d secured a professional service to create a wonderful gift for her. But when I went to pick it up, the owner started off by saying, “Now I know you’re going to be upset….” When I saw the result of what I was paying for, I was more than upset, I was totally boggled at what she was laying out for me to see. The gift was totally ruined.

My parents used that company for many years and the results were always excellent. In recent years, there had a barely perceptible quality slide, but they still did a reasonable job. Not any more—at least not for me. I’d love to name the company’s name here, but that would ruin the gift—should I get a decent version of it after talking to the company’s regional director today.

When my wife got home, she lamented that the car had been made almost undriveable by the Toyota dealership we took it to for service that morning. Seems in the midst of a routine tune-up, they were unable to balance our tires correctly. The odyssey of the unbalanced tires has now stretched through two sets of tires we’ve owned in the three year life of that car. We are now at five times that some company or other messed with the tires and could not balance them afterwards. I’ve had to fix this each time by taking it to Bob Sumerel Tires here in my area, who easily corrected the problem every time. But my question is, when did it become so hard for a car or tire dealership to balance tires? Two Toyota dealerships, a Tire Discounters, and a Costco were baffled by this newfangled tire balancin’ thing they do to tires today. The cost to me is a lot of wasted gas and a day’s worth of time lost on tires no one except Bob Sumerel seems capable of balancing.

It took more than thirty-six hours on hold with my satellite Internet provider to correct the bungled antenna repoint by the guy who repointed the antenna at my provider’s request. Me? I didn’t want anyone to touch my system lest it crumble to dust. The mere fact that someone was coming out to make changes had me anticipating disaster. And I got it in spades. The repointer also blew up the satellite modem in the process. I had to use my most livid voice to prevent my ISP charging me for a new modem that Joe Spaceshot killed in the process of “helping me out.”

When we needed some routine exhaust work on my wife’s car done, it took five trips back to yet another different mechanic shop to get the car-shaking rattle out they added in the process of replacing the catalytic converter. Five times. Finally the owner of the shop stepped in and did it himself. Since then, no more earthquake when we drive.

The Carrier heat pump we purchased to replace an old Trane that had failed has been serviced about fifteen times since we bought it less than three years ago—and still Carrier cannot seem to eliminate the unearthly moaning the unit makes when it switches modes. They keep telling me that my unit and one other one in the area are real headscratchers. Frankly, I’m tired of being the guy who gets the oddball unit, the one-in-a-thousand product infected by service-resistant gremlins from Uranus.

Just yesterday, I stood in the seafood section of my local Kroger yelling for several minutes for someone, anyone to come get my fish for me, all the while my impatient four-year old son is heading for one far-flung corner of the store after another. And though I hate looking like an imbecile standing there yelling for help, lately it has become my tactic in every JC Penney, Kohl’s, Sears or Target I visit. These stores have become utterly devoid of employees save for one or two cashiers. Truth is—and is management listening?—I’m going to stop shopping at all of them if I can’t get help after reasonably searching for someone who actually works there.

Adelphia took over the cable and high-speed Internet service for my little town. In the last year I have called them six times to come out to my house to do an assessment for hookup. Three times I had an appointment for someone to come out and three times no one ever showed up. No one even called to say, “Sorry about missing the appointment.” If they are not interested in adding a customer, how interested would they be if you were their customer and you had a problem? My assessment? Not interested in the least. In fact, I suspect that Adelphia wishes all their customers would just leave them alone. I hope they get their wish, but not in the way they expected.

And the list goes on and on.

Honestly, every single time I’ve had to use a professional service this year, there has been an issue. Every single time. I just assume it will be the norm anymore. And it means that I will once again have to drive out of my way, spend endless hours on hold, or argue for the righteousness of my cause with some customer service person who is dreaming of a long getaway to Cancun under a lazy Caribbean sun right as they are speaking with me. Every service call requires an autopsy be performed. And my to-do list never gets any smaller, simply stacking up with all the things that should have been done right the first time, but seem to be beyond the people who made, serviced, or provided the help I thought I would be getting from them one time and one time only.

And this is not just a problem with people “in the world.” It used to be that you could count on Christians to follow-through, but I gave up on using the little Christian Yellow Pages that circulates in my area because the service was as bad or worse than what I got from folks who made no claims about being buddies with the Lord. That Ichthus on the back of the exterminator’s or painter’s van or cleverly placed for maximum effect in their ad? Merely for show. Does not reflect any reality that I’m familiar with.

All I want to know is whatever happened to a job well done? When did our pride in our work vanish? I know that when I used to work in roles like these, I did my absolute best every single time. And I took it personally when there were problems, even if something went wrong that was out of my control. I never made customers feel like idiots or treated them like Neanderthals. If it meant that I lost money in order to make everything right the first time, then that was business.

I don’t remember my parents having to get the plumber to come back three and four times to fix a problem. The electrician did their rewiring right the first time around. There were no leaks after a new roof was installed. The carpeting my folks added in their basement remodel didn’t bubble up or get loose in spots. The replacement window company put the new windows in and my Mom never had to call them back once, even for a simple question.

Does anyone do this anymore?

I will say this; one company has never let me down. In fact, they usually go one better than I expect. That’s Amazon.com. Not only do I get great prices from them, but they always deliver on time (and usually several days before they promised), plus they give added perks. Just a few weeks ago I got a special edition DVD of Disney’s restored Bambi. It was a free gift from Amazon for my many reviews I have written on their site. That was a nice touch. They and Bob Sumerel Tires have me as a customer forever.

But what about everyone else? Why has every service call become a pain? Sure, the car dealership may give you a free rental while they are working on your car, but the point is lost if your car has to go back repeatedly to fix the problem the mechanics actually created during what was a routine tune-up. When my car is worse off than when I brought it in, then something’s wrong.

So today, if you have a company that has given you fits, write a comment and name them here. This blog keeps showing up higher and higher in Google’s rankings, so maybe enough complaints will get someone’s attention. On the other hand, if you have a company that has routinely given you stellar service, please give them a round of applause here. Companies that do it right the first time need to get our business.

Thank you. And may all your business interactions be gremlin-free.

PS—Don’t even get me going on what’s happened to Blogger lately….

11 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to a Job Well Done?

  1. Andy Thompson

    Wow, that was a good read! And very well said, Dan!

    I can’t think, off the top of my head, of any one company in particular that has blessed/cursed me. But I’m sure that I will before too long.

    But your post, it made me think of a story I once heard.

    A young man was just starting out as his father’s helper in the family business. One day, the dad got a call from an upset customer who demanded that his product be repaired immediately.

    The young man jumped into the truck with his dad and they made their way to the customer’s house. Once there, the man and the son made the repairs, the dad informed the customer that the customer that there were no charges.

    Once outside, the boy was confused and asked his father why he didn’t charge the customer. The dad explained that it was all in the name of customer service. The boy reminded that dad that the label on the back of the product was that of their competitor’s and that the customer had called the wrong company.

    His father replied that they had just gained a new customer.

    (or something like that, it’s been a while)

  2. I second Amazon.com. I’ll throw in Netflix.com as well.

    I worked at a Blockbuster once. That was all I could stand of that company. They keep trying to improve their image, but that’s all they improve. It’s like putting a fresh coat of paint over a moldy wall. So I don’t care if the prices are slightly lower, I will never use Blockbuster.com’s rental service, or Blockbuster the store for anything.

    Netflix on the other hand, tres awsome. Been with them for a year and expect many more.

  3. co_heir

    The Christian school where I teach has health insurance that is administered through Icon Benefit Administrators which is used by the American Association of Christian Schools and is really pushed by that organization. They will do just about anything to kepp from paying on claims, from making information unclear to outright lying about whether they have received claims.

  4. Totem to Temple

    You need to rent the movie “Falling Down” and especially pay attention to the fast food restraunt scene. That is one hilarious movie.

  5. I just loved that phrase about “service-resistant gremlims from Uranius.” Boy, how true.

    I find that getting a good handyman saves a lot of grief as well as a good plumber. Getting a good mechanic too even if you have to go all over the area to find one. But for the cable monopoly, what people have done in my city is to pressure our city council to threaten to dump the cable company and get another one if the service doesn’t improve. That keeps the cable people in line for a while until the city council issues another threat…LOL.

  6. This post got me thinking how blessed we believers are (and those who soon will be) that while we were sinners Christ died for us! How utterly amazing — how so wonderful of him. All we had to do was tend the garden but we stuffed up big time. And he stepped in and fixed it all.

    I had some contractors here last week, doing a days work of physical stuff I wasn’t really keen on, nor physically well enough to do. The job started off badly through some misorganisation their end, meaning they had to come back and try again.

    Finally, they did a reasonable job and toward the end I got in and swung a shovel by their side for a bit, doing what I was paying them to do, and I still paid them to do without reduction in agreed price. After the job we sat down and had a beer, and a chat about life. The job isn’t perfect but I gained two new friends and, I hope, they found someone who wasn’t too touchy.

    I don’t expect much from people anymore, and by and large I am not disappointed — and they aren’t too disappointed in me either, I suppose. I do expect myself to realise that they are people, and they do have lives, and frustrations like me, and so-called company promises to live up too, as well as their trade or professional certificate or code of practice. I know they also have some grumble-bum Christians to take care of too. I know: I have had to take care of them myself and have also grumbled my way into ever deeper disatisfaction with all and sundry, allowing myself to feel utterly miserable — and for what???

    I expect myself to realise that they have any number of customers that demand perfection (for whatever reason, just or not) and they need some encouragement in their work and life in general. I do expect myself to see that the most important thing between me and them is our relationship, and not the transmittsy-thingywot, I do expect myself to value them as people and see them as broken people in a broken world and so often doing a broken job. I do expect myself to realise that they need redemption — redemption in every sphere of their life. Maybe I can help them along their way, somewhat.

    Hey, so what if it is broken. The Lord knows what is going on in our lives. `Maybe we need to ask, why is it that this job went so well? — And then be grateful for the blessing of that moment and that new relationship.

    Or, just maybe whatever we have got that is broke is the very mechanism that will bring someone into our sphere of Christian influence; and/or, teach us patience or ease us out of out total preoccupation with ourselves and our self-centredness, and all the confangled ‘goodies’ thrust upon us, you know, that bundle of shiny bits and pieces, the same ones we are told that will work wonderfully, behind some fake TV-advert-smile or glossy advert promising the world. Here is some real news: The world is utterly corrupt — So, what are we really expecting?

    I have learnt that the world doesn’t revolve around my interests. Actually it and its inhabitants live or die on the sacrifice of One who knew how rotten to the core each of us is (and he wants us to be more and more like him). And to think he calls us brothers and sisters and that his Father made us co-heirs with Him. How utterly amazing.

    Well, that’s my take. Blessings to all. Peace be with you as you try and live a quiet life.


  7. Peter,

    I perfectly understand what you are saying. The problem I have is that it goes beyond “hey, just like everyone once in a while, I’m having a tough day,” to completely forgetting human courtesy.

    The day I was to pick up my wife’s gift, my son restarted hacking his head off. The previous day he’d coughed so hard he threw up. So I called the shop and told them I would have to reschedule my appointment later in the day to see if my son snapped out of the coughing fit. I was courteous to call them back and reschedule for later. In the course of conversation, the person who would be taking care of me later made note of the fact I had a very long drive to get to them (fifty minutes.) We talked about how far I was from their business.

    Now knowing this, why did she not spare me the trip? She knew ahead of time I would be upset because she told me that right before laying out the gift! If she had simply told me in the course of my rescheduling, “Mr. Edelen, I do not believe that you will be happy with the result. Let’s try redoing this. We will give you a 20% discount for your troubles and will work with you to get the final result right. Our sincerest apologies. Let me schedule a reconsultation at your earliest convenience.”

    If she had done that, I would have been perfectly agreeable and my B.P. would have stayed 120/75. If she had done that, she would have spared me a lot of gasoline and almost two and a half hours of my time. Instead, she waited till I got there to drop the bomb. That’s just plain wrong and lousy customer service.

    When people come out and admit they goofed, I am perfectly OK with that. It’s when they goof and try to hide it that I get upset. I knew the satellite repointing guy was bothcing my repoint. But he had the nerve to lie about it even after I bailed him out of a hole he’d already dug in the course of things. That’s just lower than low, especially when I went out of my way to let him save face. There’s just no excuse for lying to me after I made his job easier.

  8. Yes, Dan, I understand your frustration and the cost and the every-other irritation. But what I am suggesting is that we rethink what we expect and to what degree we expect what we expect. What if we expect on a daily basis that we will be lied to, and cheated and stuffed around for no good reason, and loathed, and hated, and ignored, and shoved asided as an inconvenient bother by our suppliers and contractors and fellow believers? What if our blood pressure was not affected by any of the nasties that claw at our soul and try and turn us into joyless Christians? You know.. the JOYSUCKERS!

    I believe, as Believers, we are to lift our heads and hearts above all that. And it is almost the hardest thing to do! But Paul learned to find contentment in whatever circumstances he was in. Just check out his catalogue of experiences and consider our momentary pains in the light of his onging experiences of abuse, etc.

    I’ll offer two poems which I think shed some light onto the discussion. Guess which one was the Pastor and which one served me coffee.


    … Even Among Friends …

    A friend phoned, said,
    “How are you?”
    “Do you really want to know?” I replied.
    “No, Probably not,” he answered.

    Then he got down
    to the nature of his call.
    It was short,
    brief, to the

    That’s the cold way
    of business without bodies,
    even among friends.

    I hung up, layed back.
    My head seemed cloudy,
    My mind sought logical acceptance,
    My soul cried out for peace.
    I tried to understand
    why I felt so empty
    and insignificant
    in such a busy world,
    even among friends.

    He phoned back, said,
    “It doesn’t matter now.”

    I thought to myself,
    I wonder what
    would have happened
    if he really cared.
    But he didn’t.

    That’s the cold way
    of business bodies,
    even among friends.


    … Something You Said …

    We only met
    the other day
    something you said
    transformed me
    the way I think
    the way I feel
    the way I act
    all different now.
    How special
    are your words
    to me.
    And now
    you are special
    to me.


    There is another factor which I think may have some bearing on the way we can reacte to undesirable circumstances, it is this.
    If something (or someone) we are responsible for goes bust, either through our personal neglect or mismanagement, or even through no fault of our own but compliments of some third party, it can reflect badly on our person as a result. And we certainly don’t want people to think badly of us, rightly or wrongly, do we! So, we gotta have everything going smoothly, according to plan, with every efficiency, and within our total grasp and control and according to our plan.

    In all this I think “control” is one thing that sticks its ugly head up. Truth is this, we are in control of precious little, but our Lord isn’t. The offer of personal control and the power that goes with it, it seems to me, is behind all our world’s advertising and politics. It is certainly something running rampant through our churches, most often from top down, and it can be so subtle. (Are the missing men in the pews stupid? You can be sure they see it and probably vote with their feet).
    I don’t think people want to be controlled, but rather be served and serve in love and huumility. I would rather someone who loved me do something for me or with me, even if they stuffed up bigtime, than some heartless zombie who couldn’t give a care about my existence but did a perfect job.

    I suppose it all gets down to this, How do we die to ourselves on a daily basis? Dead people don’t have control anymore, last I saw, nor any blood-pressure problems.

    Peace, dear friend.


  9. Pete,

    I’m not sure we could live in a society that only abides by a lowest common denominator means of living.

    I don’t remember as a teenager that people were so apathetic about what they did for a living. Today it seems like far too many people just don’t care. Now you may see that as a control issue, but I see it as a reflection of service in a person’s life. If I don’t care one hoot about you or what I do for a living, then you will get the exact kind of crummy service I’m describing. If a service provider’s attitude is, “I just want your money,” then you get what I’m describing.

    If anything, that kind of lowest common denominator, “I’m going to do the very least I can to just squeak by” thinking is one of the reasons our society is in the mess it is. That kind of thinking is completely antithetical to the Gospel.

    In my parents’ day, they would not abide that kind of attitude. In my generation, however, the attitude is becoming, “Oh well,that’s just the way it is and always will be.” It doesn’t take a genius to see that nothing good will come out of that.

    Would you want to be operated on by a doctor that got straight D’s in medical school and doesn’t take the time to sterilize his equipment because all he’s interested in is your money? Would you want your kids taught by a teacher who sits around chain-smoking all day in the classroom and always has an excuse for why the kids in her class are as dump as stumps? Would you want to fly in an airplane built by a company whose motto is “It’ll do”—I sure wouldn’t.

    We should not tolerate lowest common denominator thinking. That same kind of thinking has led to our “let’s not alienate people by talking about sin, repentance, and the cross of Christ” “churches” that make disciples that are twice the children of Hell that they are.

    No, I believe in holding people to a higher standard. Every study ever done on this proves that people rise to a challenge if pressed hard enough. On the hand, give them no challenge and they’ll sink to doing the least needed to get by.

    I think that the victim mentality that we have cultivated in the Unites States in the last thirty years is killing us. If enough people tell me I’m a victim, then I can get by doing anything, no matter how outlandish, because someone owes me something for making me into a victim. I see that thinking in almost every bad situation I run into. When no one will stand up and say, “It’s my fault and no one else’s,” you get exactly what I wrote about. In every case of bad service I got, someone tried to blame someone or something else for the fact that the work was shoddy.

    I think we will have to disagree on this.

    BTW, have you ever seen the movie Brazil? It does a good job of showing what happens when no one cares about a job well done or about what others feel. There’s a reason they call that “dystopian.”

  10. wild sparrow

    I so agree with you Dan. And, at the risk of sounding like a total loony, I think that it is a symptom of the slow rot that stems from the heart of our society. With the breakdown of the nuclear family, and the demise of support for parents and parenting, comes a decline in the quality of childrens’ upbringing and discipline. A child who is not properly disciplined cannot respect him/herself adequately. Why then should they care about doing a good job? Pride in your own workmanship stems from the knowledge that it is a reflection upon yourself (and, to extrapolate, in the Christian, it should reflect a love and devotion to God). I don’t think people these days have enough concept of who they are, or enough self-respect, to even understand much of what I’m saying (albeit very simplistically and in a generalised way) here.

  11. Pete Cino

    I don’t know how to put this, but I have had two companies in my house in the last year to do work and both have been outstanding.
    The first was MidAtlantic Waterproofing. You hear their ads on the radio all the time. We had an unbelievably bad water problem in our basement. If the weather channel predicted rain our basement was wet. They came in, gave us three options and estimates for all three, a realistic assessment on what the probabilites of success in dealing with the water problem would be for each and a price. Well, we didn’t feel like spending $23000 for waterproofing from the outside (and the rep actually advised against that option) but went for the middle ground. We signed the papers and set up an appointent. When the crew came out, they were ready for a one day job and 60 feet of french drain. Once they began to dig into our basement floor, they found MAJOR problems under there, and found an additional 15 feet of trenching to do under a set of stairs. Price increase? No way! It took an extra DAY (yep, just one extra day) and a second crew, but they stuck to their price. If you live in New Jersey (or anywhere in the Northeast) you remember the week of heavy rain in October. No water. Great job!

    Next, we had BathFitters do a tub surround. The rep again gave us many options at many price levels, and fully recognized our situation. We settled on a product, set a date and it was installed exactly as promised, when promised in less time than promised and it’s fantastic.

    I can only hope others of you have as good luck with these companies.

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