How Close to Theft?
March 6, 2009
My wife and I bought a used truck. We made some mistakes in how we did so, even though Pandemonic warned us that automobile dealers cannot be trusted. Unfortunately, she didn’t warn us until after we made our purchase.. This is our fault, not hers, as I did not ask her advice in advance of making our rash decision.
Anyway, the dealer did nothing that would warrant hiring a lawyer or contacting a consumer protection agency. I will tell the story in a different post at a different time, if I live that long.
The salesman told us that the used pickup truck had new tires. He indicated that the tires were an unusual brand.
After we fixed most of the things wrong with the truck, I fretted about the tires. Yesterday, I was running errands, so I stopped by the tire dealer we use. (Unlike my experience with the auto dealer, I have used this tire company on a number of occasions and have never had a bad experience. (However, your mileage may vary.)
Recently, I bought a laptop from a computer store. (see next blog post) to replace the laptop my last employer let me take home and use. Laptops are a frequently stolen item, so I worried about my work laptop and I worried about my own laptop. I had my laptop in the truck. I stopped at the tire store.
A serviceman came out while I was parking the truck. “Can I help you?” he asked.
I said, “My wife and I bought this truck and we were unhappy with the purchase.” I added, “This has nothing to do with your store.”
I went on, “They told us they had put new tires on. I have my doubts about everything they did. However, probably the tires are fine, but I would like you to check them over for me. I expect you will say they are fine, and I expect that I will not buy anything from you today. But I have been very happy with your work and your products in the past, and I expect to be happy to purchase products from you when I need to in the future.”
He told me that he would be glad to examine the tires.
Although I do not distrust the tire dealer or their employees, I decided not to leave the laptop in the truck. I carried the laptop (in its case) into the tire dealer’s waiting area. I laid the laptop case on a table where they leave newspapers for customers to read.
I had not had lunch, so I had a bag of their free popcorn and a drink of their free coffee. Several people were waiting. One woman restrained two lively medium-sized dogs on leashes and kept soothing the excited dogs. I am more of a cat person than a dog person, but I get along with dogs well enough. I asked her, “Is it OK to pet your dogs? I ask because I don’t want to upset them if they are excitable.” She told me they liked being petted, and they seemed happy enough when I let them sniff me and then stroked them.
A television was showing President Obama’s meeting with his health care taskforce. He cracked a couple of good jokes and displayed good stage presence. There were several people, all in my age cohort-50s and 60s, in the waiting area.
A man in his 50s, very respectable looking entered the waiting area. He looked at my laptop case. Then he picked it up, carried it over to an empty seat, and put it on the floor next to the seat as he sat down.
For a few seconds, I stared in disbelief. Then I said, “Excuse me, that is my laptop.”
“Oh,” he replied perfectly smoothly. “I thought it was my wife’s laptop.”
I said, “No, it’s mine.” He picked it, walked over and put it on the table. He said a few more words about how much it looked like his wife’s laptop. I thanked him, and went back to eating my popcorn and drinking my coffee.
Was he telling the truth or was the respectable-looking middle-aged man trying to steal my laptop in plain sight of God and man and everybody?
After a while, the tire technician came into the waiting area. He told me he had parked my truck in the parking lot and handed me the key. He said, “The tires seem to be fine. However, I have never heard of this brand of tire.”
I said, “I expected that the tires would be fine. I am not surprised that you never heard of this brand of tire. Although you are probably familiar with every brand of tire on earth, the dealer I bought the truck from probably found a way to bring in tires from Mars. Although I am not going to buy tires from you today, I am pretty sure I will need to buy tires from you sooner rather than later, and this will be where I buy them. Thank you also for the popcorn and the coffee.”
I picked up my laptop (which had not been claimed by the man’s wife) and walked out to the truck. I started the truck headed out to the gym.
Next: How close to tragedy?