Diversion – Customer Service is NOT Dead

I drive a two-seater roadster convertible. Aug 1 - Driving out the drivewayYou may wonder what that has to do with customer service. If you have ever driven a convertible or even know someone with one, you know soft tops require more tender loving care than hard tops. You can’t go through automated car washes, you shouldn’t park them out in the weather, and they tear. THAT is where customer service comes in.

About two years ago I noticed a little tear on the seam of my soft top. It was really small … less than 1/2 inch. IMG_2631I hoped it would stay small and ignored it. Last year I noticed it had double in size. I tried fabric glue. That doesn’t work.

I contacted the dealer for recommendations of repair shops. The dealer said they don’t work on soft tops and didn’t know who did. (Apparently SOME customer service actually is dead!) I asked around. I googled it. I found a repair shop listed in the yellow pages online and drove out to the shop. I was told my little tear was not repairable. The technician said I should just order a new top. ACK!

I refused to believe that. Greg is a sailor and he knew if sails can be repaired, SOMEONE should be able to repair my tiny little tear. Why not find someone who repairs sails? With that, we decided to keep our eyes open anytime we were near the shore.

This weekend, we headed toward Williamsburg, Virginia. I didn’t know Greg had already spotted a potential option on a previous trip, so when he slammed on the brakes and turned into Hayes Custom Sails & Canvas, I wondered what was up.

We drove to the door only to find we had arrived 20 minutes past closing. DARN!  But wait, the door opened and we got a wave. We jumped out and Greg mentioned the tear. The shop’s owner, Rod Hayes, walked over and took a look. He hesitated. He said the top would have to come off so it could be stitched on a machine to match.

“Wait,” I responded, “I don’t care if the stitching matches.” I’m no seamstress, but I’ve repaired a few tears in my day and asked if it couldn’t just be whip-stitched. Rod hesitated again. He suggested it wouldn’t look the same. I countered that with a tear that small I didn’t really care if the stitching matched as long as the tear was sealed and wouldn’t spread further.

Sailor's Palm - Right HandedRod responded by popping into the shop, grabbing a needle and waxed thread and something called a sailor’s palm to help him push the needle through the canvas.

He proceeded to effortlessly stitch up that little tear while the three of us chatted about sailing and flying.

In just 30 minutes, IMG_4702[1]my soft top was repaired. I was delighted! “How much do we owe you?” we asked.

Rod’s response equaled the amount of cash in Greg’s pocket. We paid him, shook his hand and hopped back in the car.

The lesson learned is two-fold. First, don’t give up when you know you can get something fixed even when you’re told no. It’s nice to know that in this disposable world there are still true craftsmen who know what they are doing and will fix something rather than throw it away. Second, small, locally-owned shops are run and staffed by people who still genuinely care about what they do and make the customer happy. All you have to do is find them and ask.

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