A Humble Lesson in Responsibility

I had an extremely stressful experience today; one I feel compelled to share. It raised the question: As consumers, how much responsibility do we have when it comes to our transactions? This question is especially important when it comes to the auto service industry. Take it from me; we in the industry are the worst customers.

Late last night I received a call from my wife’s uncle. A man who I respect and love dearly. His brilliant daughter is a resident med student local to me in Dallas. She was leaving the hospital when her car wouldn’t start. She had to be at the hospital at four the next morning. Long story short I ran out to get the car and dropped mine off with her. The plan was to take her car in the next morning to the dealer to get the battery replaced where she had it replaced before. The repair should be under warranty and a pretty simple deal.

I had a flight to catch so I had some things to do during the day to get ready. I end up taking the car to the dealer around eleven thirty. The dealer is about six miles from my house, in Dallas traffic that can be at least thirty minutes.

I get there and a nice young man comes out to greet me at the car. I explain to him I am in a hurry and need to catch a flight later in the day. I gave him the invoice from the prior battery replacement and explain the situation. He says he will be right back. He goes and gets an advisor from behind a glass door. This takes about two minutes. The advisor comes out and says, “No problem, lets test the battery”. They do and it is found to have a dead cell. Simple.

My wife picks me up and I head home in the rain and get back to work in my office. I get wrapped up in work and change my focus to when I should schedule the uber to pick me up. With the rain, I don’t want to be late. I needed to be at the airport around five which means I have to leave at roughly four.  My wife comes down about three and asks if the dealer had called.

Panic sets in. I completely forgot about the car! I quickly do the math and realize I’m in big trouble. I still need to pack and now it will take at least an hour to get to the dealer and back, and to add to this, the kids still haven’t woken from their nap.

Panic leaves and is replaced by anger. How can they just not call me! I call the dealer and wait on hold for five minutes to find out its ready at the cashier and has been done since one. I feverishly pack and throw my bags in the car. Rush my wife and kids out the door and hit the road. Red light after red light, I get more and more upset. How can these guys ruin my day like this?

I call the dealer on the way and ask them to please have the car outside ready to pick up, I am late for a flight, and they say they will let the advisor know. I get to the dealership and have no clue where to go. My advisor didn’t introduce himself so I have no clue who he is. This is a huge dealership with people everywhere so I just blend in with the chaos. I find the cashier and sure enough nothing was ready for me.

“Do you have time to fill out a four-question survey?” the cashier asks.

“Not the best idea” I rudely respond and demand the keys. Stress and anxiety had truly gotten the best of me.

Fast forward a traffic and stressed filled hour and I am sitting in the uber telling the nice man about my experience and it hits me. This is really my fault. It’s not my fault they didn’t call me, but it is my responsibility to check on the status. As I am re-living the events out loud I realize, if I wouldn’t have forgotten, I would have called about one and asked if they had an update. Not to mention I also should have been more prepared and took the car in first thing in the morning, not around noon.

Sure, if I remembered and called I would have been upset when they said, “oh yeah its done, you can come get it”.  I would have asked why they didn’t bother to call me. If I had called however, I would have had a lot of time to set up my afternoon, and come up with a plan to pick up the car.

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” – Theodore Roosevelt

It was not the responsibility of the advisor to plan my day. It was mine. By no means am I saying this advisor shouldn’t have called me. He should have. He didn’t perform his job to the fullest. But I have to ask: Is it his fault I had a plane to catch, I had to pack that day, or that it rained? Was it is his fault I procrastinated and took the car in late?

This was such a great reminder that there are two people in every transaction. We need to be responsible for our part of the deal; in all facets of life. To lead, we need to remember ultimately what happens to us on a daily business is our responsibility and we need to take ownership.