“What exactly was in the bag?” came the response from my “First Call.”
I shook my head and after an unbearably long silence, responded:
“What was in the bag? How can I get you what was in the bag if I don’t know what was in the bag?”
On the surface it sounds like a legitimate question. How can you replace something that was missing if you don’t know what that something was? But, therein lay the problem: the only thing in the box was the manifold, which was right as in both designed for the right bank of cylinders on the Suburban, and “right” as in correct. And a small torn and empty plastic bag.
The box that held the other manifold had both a bag with “stuff” in it and the left side manifold. But, there was essentially no way of knowing whether the “stuff” that was in the bag in the box for the left side manifold was the same “stuff” that was missing from the right side manifold’s container.
Hence, the question: “What exactly what was in the bag?”And, my answer: “I’m guessing there were studs, nuts, washers and springs in the bag, but I have no way of knowing! That’s what is in the bag that came with the left side manifold. But how am I supposed to know if the ‘stuff’ in both bags was the same?”
I spent a half-hour or more on the phone and at least as much time trying to understand what happened and why. My technician spent a lot more time than that trying to communicate what he had found well enough so I could spend my half-hour productively and all this occurred while work on the vehicle effectively came to a screeching halt as everyone tried to figure out what had been in the empty bag.
There was no telling how much time was lost at the warehouse as they tried to figure things out. But when I hung up the phone there was a clear sense the meter was running!
The obvious answer: Because someone ordered a manifold, removed what they needed a hardware kit comprised of the required nuts, studs, washers and whatever put the manifold back in the box and returned it with the torn and empty bag safely tucked inside.
Who did it? I’m not sure. And neither is the warehouse because no one checked to see if everything that was supposed to be there was there when the manifold was:
A. Picked up at the shop responsible for ransacking the box;
B. Received at the warehouse;
C. Put back into stock;
D. Removed from stock to fill another order; or
E. All of the above!
I know the driver in most cases neither wants the additional responsibility of ensuring that everything that should be in a box being returned is, in fact, in the box. Nor, does he or she relish the confrontation that is bound to result when they open an opened box marked for return to verify everything that ought to be there is there. But someone ought to check and if not the driver, then who? And if not before it leaves the shop responsible for opening the box then, when?
I believe the time to do it is before the returned merchandise leaves the physical location of the shop responsible for the theft. And regardless of the polite euphemisms we choose to use in order to avoid calling what happened something other than that which it was, it is still stealing, plain and simple. And, while the parts in question may only amount to a couple of dollars worth of nuts and bolts, the havoc that follows and the lost productivity and revenue that results, is substantial.
And that isn’t the only cost to be considered. What about credibility yours as a supplier; and, mine as a
customer/client? After all, sitting where you sit, you have no way of knowing who the guilty party is me, or the guy before me, not unless someone checks before a box that has been opened and then returned is delivered a second time.
What would checking accomplish? If nothing else it would ensure the shop that ordered merchandise in good faith was not penalized for someone else’s larceny or lack of concern.
It would ensure the purchased product was delivered as designed with everything the manufacturer intended in the box. It would give you as a responsible distribution professional the information you need to determine which of your customers needs to be “eighty-sixed!”
That’s right, “eighty-sixed,” as in fired! Because I’d be willing to bet that a shop or a technician that would do something like that once is likely to do it more than once.
Mitch Schneider co-owns and operates Schneider’s Automotive Service in Simi Valley, CA. Readers can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.