Naturally, I have always been on the consumer’s side being a consumer myself. Where there has been a manufacturer’s fault I have always said so in my report and made sure that swift action was taken by my company.
There was a Mrs Pendlebury, an elderly lady who seemed to have, despite her age, a lot of energy.
‘Please, Peter, go out and have a look at her vinyl flooring – I can’t find a thing wrong.’ These were the words of her harassed flooring retailer. ‘And she hasn’t paid me yet!’ the latter was being said with an anguished voice with a soupçon of pleading.
‘Of course, Simon, I’ll gladly help you!’ I had a busy day but this kind of service took precedence over everything. ‘I shall phone your customer now and ring you straight back about our appointment. And don’t worry, Simon, if it is a manufacturer’s fault, I shall say so!’
‘Thanks, Peter!’ came his grateful reply.
At the appointed time, Mrs. Pendlebury received me well enough, opening her door widely and giving me a gesture of welcome. ‘I am terribly disappointed with the floor. It is not as I expected and looks awful, especially with the spot I told the retailer about. I cannot remove it, no matter how hard I try……..’
She took me through the large, clean house to the back door and there, her bony finger pointed at the floor:
‘There!’ she looked at me accusingly.
‘I am sorry, Mrs Pendlebury, but I can’t see anything wrong. What exactly is it? I had put my trusted microscope on the floor and lying flat on my stomach, ascertained that the pigmentations and pores were without blemish.
I had to force myself to keep calm because I had two architects already waiting for me who wanted to discuss business. I had the habit of living in ‘airtight compartments’ as I termed it. Each matter is being dealt with thoroughly and satisfactorily without any thoughts of other tasks that are awaiting my urgent attention. Only when one task was completed would I move on the next one!
Suddenly Mrs Pendlebury started to tell me how she saw the spot every time, but only from a certain angle – I could not follow this explanation and asked her to be more specific.
‘Perhaps, it would be best if you would demonstrate to me how you see the spot that is so annoying you.’ I suggested.
She nodded with determination and her rimless glasses showed some reflecting light, giving her a piercing look. With a commanding gesture she stepped ahead through the house with me following her, slightly confused.
She opened the door to a toilet.
‘There!’ she played her trump card. ‘When I sit here, with the door open, I can see through the passageway into my lounge room, and there, at the other end, near the back door, I can see this spot! Very irritating – I am not putting up with that!’
‘But we were there and there is no spot!’
‘If you sit down you can see it!’ she exclaimed.
‘It could be a light reflecting of something – even my microscope showed nothing.’
‘Sit down and have a look!’ Her voice sounded hostile and I realised that time for diplomacy had come.
‘I have noted everything down and taken photos of the area at your back door and shall complete my report as soon as I get to my office. Further, I shall phone everything you said to my office in advance to speed things up. I only want to quickly measure the distance from the back door to your er…..seat, for accuracy sake.’ Pulling my measure tape from my belt I quickly took action.
She seemed to be satisfied for the moment as she had got more reaction from me than from the other people she had complained to before.
Back in my car, I had this unreal feeling I occasionally get and took a long gulp from a soft drink bottle.
The next complaint I had to inspect was actually justified. There was a smeary substance on the floor’s surface, making it extremely slippery and holding dust and dirt.
Mrs. Mandel turned out to be a proud housewife. She wore an apron and the smell of delicious food wafted through the rooms of the house, wonderful and, yes, appetising! She showed me through the entire house which was in a spotless state, decorated with Jewish religious objects which seem to gleam with pride.
Walking through her lounge room she briefly introduced me to a young student from Israel she had staying with her. He seemed to be immersed in religious studies, judging by his orthodox attire, his pale face and the book he had in his hand.
Her large dining room was a showcase and I noticed from the way she talked that he had trust in me, which I found a rare feature among complainants. Most of them would treat me with caution and expect the worst from me.
Mrs Mandel, in her polite way, started to talk about her flooring whilst I opened my clipboard and made notes as she talked.
‘As you can see, the floor is unusually slippery, very slippery.’ And she started to act out a recent incident.
She swept her hand over the long, old-fashioned oak table and the high-backed chairs, neatly positioned as if inviting me for a meal.
‘A few days ago I had guests here. When I came into the room from the kitchen with a full tray I slipped and nearly fell on top of the rabbi!’
My head went deeper into my folder and my writing hand shook a bit as I pictured the scene.
In this case I could recommend a floor-stripping solution in the mopping-up water, easily obtained from any supermarket and an acrylic-based surface treatment instead of the wax-based solution she had been using. Writing down the brand names on a piece of paper, like a doctor writes prescriptions, I left this place with the good feeling of having actually been of help in a genuine case!