Tom Piippo’s One Eye in the Mirror: Put yourself in the passenger seat.


Really! You have always been the driver, deciding where to go, taking the route that you thought was best, and driving your business in the direction that you thought it needed to go!

Couple Going On A Road TripI challenge you to put yourself in the passenger’s seat. Let someone else lead you, show you how it’s done. This could be an opportunity of your choosing, or it could be a revelation of the circumstance! A long time ago, as a young father, I took my family on a month-long road trip to the west coast and back (we live in Michigan). I did all the prudent pre-trip services; brake inspection, rotate and balance the tires, transmission service, tune-up (1990), coolant flush, etc. 1800 miles later while visiting the narrow winding roads of Yellowstone National Park, my left rear wheel took a trip of its own. With very little warning (about 10 seconds of vibration) the wheel studs sheared off, the conversion van soon came to a halt on 3 wheels and in the mirror, I saw the offending escaping wheel bounce over the van, land in an adjacent meadow, and slowly careen downhill towards a steep ravine. I gave chase but felt the tire escape my fingers as I tripped over a log, and it accelerated downhill to the bottom of the gulley.

Most of the concerned citizens who stopped only wanted to know if we were gazing at wildlife, as they hadn’t seen much yet. A Park Ranger finally stopped and hailed a tow truck to help clear the roadway and get us to the repair facility. (before cell phones). I was really humbled as I was at the mercy of another for repairs on MY vehicle. I felt they really didn’t get the gravity of my situation, how important it was for me to get back on the road as quickly as possible, that I was a young man with a young family and a very limited budget!

In retrospect, everyone was quite helpful; we received affordable lodging for the night, new nuts and wheel studs were delivered the next day and we were back on the road by early afternoon! I will remember this experience for the rest of my life. Every time I get a stranded traveler, I get a soft spot for them. I can feel the anguish and pains that they feel for not achieving their destination. Their unrest for having to rely on strangers for their salvation, they’re wondering if they will be taken advantage of, monetarily.

Having been in that situation myself, I can go the extra distance to help put them at ease. Sometimes it’s helping them get a rental car or a motel. Other times it’s giving all the possible scenarios of the diagnostics and repair, but above all, it’s doing whatever it takes to make the traveling customer feel comfortable with their situation and confident with your abilities to get them back on the road. This doesn’t mean you have to ‘give away the farm’ and do the repair on the cheap. I have only one category of repair standards, the correct way! The cost is the cost and usually, the customer appreciates a job well done, and one they don’t have to fuss with anymore.

Mechanic In A Bike StoreVin Waterhouse once told me (and many others) “you have two types of customers, those who cannot do their repairs and those who do not want to do their repairs”. I seem to be falling into the latter category. My grandson Emmett works part-time for a bicycle shop. I met the owner Shaun and was quite impressed with his business and the way he treated his customers and employees. I have always been a bicycle guy; I ride several hundred miles a year (used to be thousands), have a history of bicycle racing, and enjoy several disciplines of biking (road biking, mountain biking, fat biking (sand or snow), bike packing (camping with everything you need on your bike)) I decided to let Shaun’s business give my fat bike a major service so I dropped it off last weekend.

First, I get a text “Hello Thomas, your Borealis Echo (my bike brand and model) is being checked in for service and an estimate of repairs will follow shortly” then there was a list of ‘my’ customer concerns. Later, get a text “we are in the process of preparing an estimate of repairs on your bike, please keep an eye out for a text or call. Meanwhile please call with any questions you may have. An hour later I received a text with the repair recommendations, the estimated cost, and a scanned PDF of the estimate. Ten minutes later my phone buzzed with another text to please reply with APPROVED so they might get started with ordering parts and the repair.

This morning at 10:04 AM “Hello Tom, your work order is in REPAIR status and in the queue to be worked on. You will receive a follow-up text when work begins”.

I feel like a king! someone is taking care of my bike in a manner that I can appreciate. I was able to put myself in the passenger seat and let someone else do the driving, and I like where he is going! I will do better to treat my customers like Shaun has treated me!


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