I went along to see the big garden that I mentioned before. It is clear that the diminutive German lady and the rather large husband, an English engineer, do not communicate. I came back prepared to cut up and take away a tree and I was instead given a big lecture about how much money they are spending on a house for the daughter and thus how little there is to spend in the garden. My immediate mental reaction was to say, well why did you invite me in the first place.
I said I would put the quote for the garden in writing but said I would deal with the tree, but the lady said she thought I should ‘leave it for now’. So I wasted an hour going to and fro. I arrived back to get her telephone message saying that I have now spoken to my husband and he wants you to get rid of the tree, would you come back. This assumes that I have nothing else to do than run after the customer. My reaction was that if she did not have the wit to ask her husband at the time, or was afraid to do so, that does not augur well for such a job especially a big one. If they haven’t learnt to communicate after 40 years marriage they certainly will not learn now.
Customers please note – traders have to make a very quick evaluation of whether you’re a time waster or not or whether you can pay. We listen to absolutely everything. One of the things I listened to was her saying that the previous gardener did not come back to finish work ‘although it has been four weeks now’. I later discovered that he was a tree surgeon who had had a bad accident and was therefore resting and recuperating. The lack of her ability to put two and two together was a very bad sign, terminally so. She has left messages for me to call her back but I’m afraid that once the trust is gone it’s gone. If a job starts badly it’s going to go on being bad and will not magically restore itself to some earlier stage. First impressions count.