By William Thomas
Here’s how the world is supposed to work: Last fall, I got a “pay up or else!” call from a collection agency in Hamilton concerning a $100 debt owed to a pest control company in St. Catharines. There were missed messages and a mix-up, in which I thought I was owed an extra application.
Tired of walking face first into cobwebs first thing in the morning, I needed to get rid of spiders the size of the ones Indiana Jones had to use a machete on in The Temple of Doom.
The previous outfit that did the spraying became expensive and they stopped guaranteeing their work. So I contacted Truly Nolen out of St. Catharines and they handled our problem better and cheaper than the previous company, with no charge for second or third visits if these tarantula-like creatures return.
Steve in collections had the kind of low, dead voice that could scare the chocolate coating off an M&M. Remember the DJ Wolfman Jack, he of the gravelly voice they claimed could only come from gargling razor blades? Well, “Collections Steve” makes Wolfman Jack sound like a choir boy going through a voice change.
So I call Steve at the number he left, and I must admit I did not take the situation of a hundred dollars too seriously, and pretty soon I have Steve laughing on the phone, especially when I worked out the amount owed to a buck per spider and offered to pay the debt off in insects.
And not only do I convince Steve to repeat the “pay up or else warning,” I get him to promise to add that great Mr. T tagline so that just before he hangs up on a delinquent customer, he says: “I pity the fool! I say, I pity the fool who does not pay up!”
I swear if I had teenagers, I’d have Steve call them and warn them about the dangers of smoking, drugs and sex. Two calls from Steve and I’d be living with a couple of Mormons.
So Steve suggested I call Tom Davies, the boss at Truly Nolen, to straighten the matter out. I do, and Tom, as Steve assured me, is a very reasonable, very personable guy. I explain how the rain washed out the last spraying and suggest that he either have the guys come out and complete the job properly or just nullify the $100 invoice.
Tom took my information, called me back within minutes and said he’s going to do both – have the final spraying done in a day or so and rip up my bill! Noticing that I was the one who lined up other jobs in the neighbourhood, he did not want to lose my business on this inconvenient mistake.
Wow! At this point Tom has just earned himself a customer for life and I’m trying to figure out a way to get him to run for prime minister. Courtesy, common sense and decisive action – all things that are quasi-illegal in Ottawa today.
Great, thank you, see you. I phone Steve back to thank him and beg him to say “I pity the fool!” for me one last time. (Every time the man talks, dead people in Mount Pleasant cemetery start mumbling about noise control!)
And here’s where it gets interesting … sitting at my desk next to the Truly Nolen invoice is a proposal for a series of newspapers who want to run my weekly column, but need a sponsor in order to do so. So I call Tom Davies back and tell him about this great opportunity to sponsor my column, associate his pest control business with a humour article that quite often gets read, talked about and even clipped and sent around to friends and family. And Tom, who appreciates a good deal as much as he enjoys watching a squirrel eating through your eavestroughs or termites reducing your kitchen cupboards to sawdust, said “yes.”
And that, to me, is the way the world should work. What could have turned into an ugly situation involving harsh words or even legal repercussions and even more dire warnings from — this guy could cause terrorists to go deaf over the phone — Steve.
Now I can’t resist. I telephone Steve back and tell him the whole story of how a pesky payment problem has ended happily with a business alliance between William Thomas Writing Services and Truly Nolen Pest Control and …
“And the best is, Steve, you could wind up working for me!”
“Really? How so?”
“Because Steve, if I have any problems with Truly Nolen, I’m sending you in to scare the crap out of Tom Davies!”
I know Steve is now laughing pretty hard at this point because I can feel my chair and desk shaking here in my office. I had to beg him and he said he’d only say it once but yeah, I got him to say: “I pity the fool who does not pay William Thomas!” I don’t think I’ll ever forget those words mainly because the ringing in my ears will never stop. This column’s brought to you by Truly Nolen and my confidence in a world that works has almost been restored.
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