Today i hurt someones feelings

I guess i still have a lot of work to do on my interpersonal skills.

I recieved a complaint today about a company employee, ME! I guess its the big advantage of running a business that you don’t have to answer to anyone – cause i’d have been tough if someone i employed recieved such a complaint. I spent a short while beating myself up over it. Now i’ve resigned to try improve myself and have put it behind me. But here’s the story to get it off my chest and i’d appreciate any comments or feedback:

We hired a truck to transport some equipment we needed to install. Not gonna mention the company cause its not really relevant, anyway its not a major player and you most likely wouldn’t have heard of them. We pay in advance plus a reasonably large deposit for to cover excess milage. So all goes well the first 3 days untill the cluth gives way leaving us stranded. We call up one of our engineers who tows the truck to the garage and we transfer the remaining equipment into his landcruiser. It takes an extra day but we finnish the job in time for the weekend. Monday rolls around, the rental company informs us they have another truck for us to pick up and off we go to collect. “Your lucky its the only one we have free – It’s been sitting in my back yard for six months storing furniture” says the rental mechanic. The truck is well past its usability date, i express concern about the “stability struts” used to tie the equipment in place not being strong enough for our purpose – only to be told their solid as a rock. “Give em a tug” suggested the mechanic, being a bit over zealous i pull at a loose strut and it comes off. I hand it to him sleepishly, i didn’t mean that to happen. Well its all we got says he smiling. We go. The truck has a top speed of 40km, no exageration, and that was down hill on a motorway!

Project complete and a week later i get the Invoice(s) – Rather than a rebate it says we owe them money. I get on the phone to call the owner to ask a few questions:

1. Why is the milage rates 80% higher for the second vehicle when it was the same brand, model and size?
2. We had agreed that we would be credited for the full tank of fuel in the broken down truck, could this not being deducted be an error?
3. Why were we being charged an expensive daily rate in opposed to the agreed weekly rate? (Six days being nearly twice the price of a week).

After several attempts a reach the owner manager, he said he’d investigate the first two issues, the third however since their seperate trucks, their seperate Invoices and since we only had the truck for six days we couldnt expect the reduced rate for having it for seven. I reminded him we booked for Two weeks and the only reason we didn’t have it for so long was that his vehicle broke down. He went off explaining how much it cost him to fix the truck, i felt like telling him how much it costs us to delay and have engineers waiting around doing nothing, but i composed myself and said “you can’t blame or charge us extra for your truck breaking down”. He said he never infered blame and i apologised as i could see there was little reasoning to be done. He agreed to review the Invoices and get back to me soon.

Two weeks roll by and i get impatient, so i ring to follow up. The guy really starts to rub me up the wrong way when he says he’s been out for a week and is only back in the office now – “i’ll get back to you on it,” he dismisses me. Mind mind was thinking this guy can’t be for real, how can anyone own a business and be so glib to a customer. Remeber this guy owed us a deposit back. ‘Away last week?’ i was thinking – ‘What about the week before that when you were suppose to call me back!’ Instead i find myself saying “I’m getting pressure from the accountants to rap this up (a white lie), can you give me a rough estimate when you’ll call back”. Although i controlled the words my voices gives away how disimpressed i am. “No i can’t,” he barked “i’ll get around to it when im ready.” The phone hangs up and i’m in disbelief as to what just happened. What a jerk.

Later i recieve a fax opening “Firstly i don’t appreciate being spoken to in such a tone” the letter gets all defensive and then in the final paragraph mentions that he’s reviewed the Invoices and he is “willing to offer as a gesture” the refund which in my opinion was quite obviously due. It hits me, this guys pride has been hurt because by querying the Invoice in his brain i was accusing him personally of not doing his job right and by asking him to respond within my time frame i was implying he wasn’t king of his castle.

So despite both of us going off thinking we were in the right, we both up ended feeling bad because of it. We both went off feeling we won – i got the money back which was my goal and he showed the young smuck who’s boss by going over his head and sending in a complaint which would give any boss good reason to question a persons employability. Don’t worry i’m not letting myself go just yet :). The result i’ll need to find a new supplier when we have need to rent a truck and his business will forever need to replace the disgruntled customers it looses.

Anyway i guess from the experience i learned that i need to work harder on the human element of dealing with people. Common sense isn’t all that common and sometime people just need you to let them think they have all the power if it gets the desired result. There’s probably many many people like him that find people like me impossible to deal with!

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