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….