The Need Of Helping Hands

The small dump truck delivered two yards of black mulch in our side yard last Saturday. The resulting dark pyramid was w-a-a-a-y bigger than I thought it would be. The driver dropped the mulch in the dead center of the blue tarpaulins I had spread on the ground.

“You’ve done this before,” I kidded him.

He grinned. “Yeah, practice makes perfect.”

The black mulch is the finishing touch for our summer gardens and landscape. One last step – only a month late. We were late – not the mulch.

In fact, I called the supplier on Saturday of the holiday weekend. I expected to leave a phone message hoping for a Tuesday delivery. Five minutes after I left the message, a friendly woman called back with great news. “My husband will be home soon and can deliver it today.” Wow!

She gave me the price quote, about two-thirds of what I had heard elsewhere. “I’ll have him call you for directions … should be 20 or 30 minutes.”

He called 20 minutes later. “I’ve already loaded the truck. Be there in 10 minutes.” Yoiks. I scrambled to find the tarps and my checkbook.

After he drove away, I realized that from phone call to delivery took less than an hour. And the whole deal was both pleasant and professional.

As I wrote in my checkbook, I thought about the great service I’d just received. When this happens, I chalk it up as one of our small-town joys. But it’s more than that. This particular family business knows how to serve their customer base: They had a very informative message on their phone. They responded quickly. And here is the most important factor – they followed through and did exactly what they said they would. On a holiday weekend.

Years ago, I wrote about our plumber. We awoke one Saturday morning to no hot water. I called his office at 9-a.m. to leave a message for Monday. Unexpectedly, he answered the phone. “What are you doing there on a Saturday?” I asked.

“Just some paperwork, whatchya need?”

I told him about the water heater and he said, “I’ll be right there.” Ten minutes later, he stepped into an inch of water in our laundry room …and trouble. Mostly to our pocketbook. The short version of this story is that he removed our clothes washer for access, then the water heater. He drained the heater, took it to his shop, fetched a new one, installed it, and put the washer back. All alone, and before 10:30. Dear Richard got a hot shower before lunch. That kind of service, in addition to knocking your socks off, builds a business. And in a small town, it builds solid reputations, nice relationships and contributes to a strong community.

When I need help in the garden, my old plant wizard, Tom, always comes. Or he tells me when he can bail me out. Then he shows up as promised. Always. Seems so simple, doesn’t it?

And Doug returns all my calls for help at the house. Last week, it was a post light, a birdhouse and a door lock. Annie fixes the clothes I am too inept to sew myself, works amazingly fast, and always calls. And Rick is the same with my car. Dependable. Professional. These are people that I rely on to help me and be fair with me. They have understanding and humor. But they also believe in personal responsibility, respect, and take pride in a job well done. There are dozens more like them in our community.

And then there are the others. We all know a few, and the frustration of dealing with the tradesperson who simply doesn’t get it.

“But Joe, last month you said next week. That was five weeks ago, and I was wondering ….” I was talking to Joe’s voicemail. Again.

Do you think he might call? Nah. After another month or two of “next weeks,” you give up. And then they show up. “Well, I’ve been wildly busy. Everybody wants me.” Really?

I want to talk to them like a Dutch uncle: “Take responsibility, do what you say you are going to do, and don’t make excuses. We can be patient. JUST KEEP US INFORMED.”

The best guys really are the busiest, and they all have mastered the art of communication with their clientele. They respond to inquiries. They return your call and schedule the job. And they come. Or when things happen, they call you when they can’t come – and reschedule.

And sometimes, they even leave a black pyramid in the side yard. Its size has gone down, but at a slower pace than I wish. I just might have to call Tom. I have his cell number on speed dial.

Marcy O’Brien can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today