Expecting Perfection

This month, I thought we might cover an important topic and share with you some common sense. Let's talk about "expectations", the one word that should express what you expect from someone. I learned about expectations from the customer's point of view recently while contracting people to work on my house.

I always begin by telling those that I deal with that I am a perfectionist and want things done the right way; or else I will have to do it myself. There is a moment of thoughtful silence, followed by them acknowledging me with an obligatory nod. Then I tell them I will not haggle with them about the cost, but if the job is not right that I expect them to do it over until it is right. They will then give me another one of those nods.

Last year, I hired a contractor to install wood floors in my den. I went through "the speech" with him and he assured me that he could do everything to my satisfaction. I then reiterated to him that by perfect I mean perfect, not better than average. He then gave me one of those nods back. Everything was going great; the floor was in and two coats of polyurethane on. I paid the gentleman in full and went back to work. The only thing left was a light sanding and a final coat of polyurethane. Should be no problem, right? Upon getting home that evening and turning on the lights, I saw swirl marks so bad they gave me a migraine. What happened to perfection?

I contacted the contractor the next day and he came over. After looking at the floor with me, he said it wasn't really "that" bad. He then sarcastically asked me if all I did all day was look at swirl marks and scratches. I gave him a moment of thoughtful silence and then one of those nods back (I guess he didn't know what I did for a living.) I subsequently caught a lot of flak from my friends for being a guy who spends all day polishing away swirl marks from exotic cars and at the same time having them on my floor.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "What the heck does this have to do with keeping my car looking good?" Everything! When you take your car to a body shop, detailing shop or repair shop, it is your responsibility not to just tell the folks working on your car what you expect, but to make sure they also understand. Do not expect them to read your mind; they can only guess your expectations, which in many cases can lead to your disappointment. As an example, let's talk about body shops. Whenever I take my own or a customer's car in, I insist they mask off all the areas that are not going to be painted. In addition, I tell them to tape the masking film to the floor, so no overspray gets on the undercarriage or the wheel/tires. If it costs a little extra, I'll pay it. I usually get a funny look back and then they'll tell me it's not necessary, because they have a downdraft booth.

I don't care whether it's up, down or diagonal draft. All I know is that I've seen overspray get into places that you would think impossible. I also insist that the car not be cleaned up (that's my job) and they not buff out the rest of the car to make it shiny (I don't want unnecessary buffing marks from their wool pads.). I'm not saying these should be your demands. What I am saying is that you should clearly verbalize your expectations, because, as the saying goes "If you don't ask, you don't get"; and you can't blame someone for not reading your mind.

Great Expectations

Moving on, let's examine that new car you just bought before you drive off and take ownership of. You're excited about your new toy, so I suggest you bring an impartial friend to help you look over everything (trust me on this one, I've missed major flaws on a car I bought because of the same reason). Just because a car is new does not mean it's perfect and the proper time to point anything out is before you take possession.

I mention this because in the past few months I had to polish three brand new Mercedes to get rid of buffing marks on them (and of course they were all black. How'd you guess?) The point is that new cars should not need to be polished and you have to ask yourself why they were buffed in the first place. As it happened, two of these cars had panels that were repainted, but the buyers were never informed of this fact.

So, back to "expectations." You have to inform the salesperson that, if you are buying a new car, you expect it to be new. And if it isn't, take it back and let them know. In some cases, they'll even pay for the detail. So, next time you have work performed on your car, or decide to purchase a new model, take a few moments to share your "expectations" and you'll probably build a much more pleasant relationship with the people working on or selling you your car.
As always, should you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at 516-747-4114. May the wind be always at your back and may you achieve your pursuit of detailing perfection!