Thursday, March 31, 2011


Once, upon answering the telephone, I encountered a voice on the other end that had sounded very agitated. It belonged to Frank Cunningham who ran a very large architects’ office in the town of Mayfair, Tasmania.
‘I have received several complaints from my client, the Crown Reception Centre. Your vinyl flooring is no good. There are black spots appearing everywhere!’
‘I am sorry to hear that, Frank. What kind of spots are they actually? I do not understand what you mean by “spots”.’
‘Well, little round black spots. I want you to come here right away and sort things out!’
That was tricky! I was asked to fly to Tasmania immediately - just to have a look at ‘spots’! Of course, spots do not just develop on PVC floorings. It must have been something to do with the floor maintenance or other external influences. Never had I received a complaint like that and I had kept thinking about it .A hectic day went by and I was still mulling things over when I received another call from Frank.
‘Peter, I want you to come over as quickly as possible! More and more spots are appearing.’
‘You mean there are male and female spots?’
‘This is no time for levity, Peter. I’ve seen the spots myself They are round and black and they are increasing as time goes by!’
‘Frank, I’ll phone my boss for permission to fly to you right away. You’ll hear from me in a few minutes.’
‘Okay, Peter. But remember this is urgent. I have a client who is very unhappy and probably thinks I’ve specified the wrong flooring. Remember, I’ve seen the spots myself. I will get no more assignments from him and of course I cannot specify your products any more in future projects. So, I am waiting to hear from you shortly.’ ‘Click’ and the line went dead.
Yes, it was the old blackmail again, I had thought bitterly. The real reason for getting me to fly to Tassie was because it costs the architect nothing! Since my company paid the costs for this service, it was easier to request my coming than to try a bit harder and find out the cause of the complaint themselves.
Still, it was my policy to attend to complaints immediately, no matter what, because if problems were allowed to drag on, they became magnified and in a legal dispute the motto seemed to apply: ‘blame the manufacturer unless he can convince us otherwise’.
Having informed my boss, I had booked a ticket and the next morning I was on my way to Tassie. Arriving in Launceston, I rented a car, phoned the architect to meet me at the site, the reception centre, and had driven off.
Upon, arriving at the Crown Reception Centre, I had encountered a whole group waiting for me - my ‘welcoming committee’, was the thought that raced through my mind. There was the owner of the Reception Centre, his manager, the cleaner, the architect and somebody from the Health Department.
I had to laugh ‘inside’ just looking at them. They all had grim faces and looked like a mob ready to lynch a ‘mainlander’! Regional patriotism was ripe everywhere, and I had found it particularly strong in the island state. Nothing good can come from the mainland, seemed to be their thought. Their polite greeting was extra stiff, as if they were welcoming a mass murderer. But then again, I may have been exaggerating, as usual.
We all went through the decorative wrought iron main gate and headed for the largest building. It was a very pleasant looking reception centre, a white complex in Spanish-style imitation; the owner walked ahead, followed by his manager and then the remainder of us, in a kind of pecking order.
The owner had then aired his unhappiness with the floor using particularly descriptive words, for my benefit, of course! There were indeed lots of small black spots on the floor which nobody seemed to want to touch. And as they walked along, they all kept nodding gravely to each other and every now and then, shot damning glances at me, especially the cleaner and the Health Department official!
I was hanging back as I had wanted to have a close look at everything, take photos, check the whole installation and basically take everything in as not only would I have to write a report to my company but also I would have to come up with an answer!
Like I said, I was hanging back from the group and had noticed immediately that the so-called black spots were in fact confetti from a wedding party. They were lying loosely on the vinyl flooring. The cleaner obviously did not sweep the floor with a broom before mopping and when he did mop the floor, he did not pick up the slurry but merely swished everything about and let it dry. Of course, the confetti on the floor went darker with every mopping! Another reason for my trailing behind the group was that I was busily picking up some of the dark confetti. And the heap in my hand grew bigger all the time.
The others were waiting for me at the end of their ‘excursion’, back outside their building. They looked at me with dark expressions that said it all: ‘Now what do you have to say for yourself? Isn’t your floor terrible!’ I went to the architect, my main contact.
‘Frank, hold out your hand, please.’ He did so with a puzzled expression. ‘Here are your spots’ I poured enough to fill his hands while he screwed up his face.

‘That’s confetti!’ he exclaimed, totally bewildered. The remainder of the group just stared at his cupped hands which were overflowing with the ‘black spots’ and every now and then one slowly drifted to the floor.
I had swallowed deeply and taken control of myself - no good making enemies! I tried to make light of it. ‘Now that this is settled, could I invite everybody for a cup of coffee? I am a coffee addict myself and am having withdrawal symptoms right now. Where is the nearest cafĂ©?’
The manager of the reception knew his cue: ‘Good idea, I will take care of this. Please come with me.’ He took us all back inside another building. A table was quickly covered with a fresh cloth and, with amazing speed, it was populated with coffee and plenty of hot scones, butter and jam.
We started to relax and talked about all sort of things except what we just had been through and soon we laughed together as if we were celebrating a reunion!
To be honest, I had always liked to go to Tasmania because the people there were genuinely friendly and their hospitality was always great. They seemed to look at you and see a person with feelings and not a title or position. In fact, I almost wished I had more complaints in the wonderful island state!

Peter Frederick

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