By Norris Chambers

             ďThe customer is always right.Ē I was very young when I first heard this statement. I always believed it to be true, especially when I was the customer and the business man thought I was wrong. Years later when I was the merchant and a dispute with a customer arose I felt that it was my duty to do my very best to keep the customer satisfied. In most cases I was successful even if it meant losing money on the job. I believed that the good will was worth more than the money.

            Soon after I opened my first TV repair shop on White Settlement road a set was brought in for repair. It had several bad parts and the repair bill was considerably more than the customer expected. He was very upset and accused me of overcharging for the repair. I explained the reason for the expenses, pointing out the different parts that had to be replaced and the time that was required for making the repair. But he was not willing to listen Ė the charges were just too high and he didnít intend to be taken advantage of.

            It was obvious that I was not going to be able to convince him that I was just an honest repairman and that there was a legitimate reason for the expense.

            After a little thought I said, ďWell, you say itís too much, Iíll make you this proposition. You just pay me what you think it is worth and Iíll be satisfied.Ē

            He looked a little puzzled and was slow to answer. ďI donít know what it would be worth. I just think it is too much!Ē That was his answer.

            ďIíve charged you what I think it is worth for me to make a reasonable profit. But because I want to do what is right and keep your good will, I will be glad to take whatever you believe to be right, even if I lose money on the job.Ē  He still insisted that he really didnít know what the price should be and that he just didnít have that much money. I told him that I would be happy if he would pay what he could afford and pay the rest of what he thought it was worth when he could.

             His attitude changed and he paid a small portion of the bill and said he would be back and pay more later. He came in and paid the balance a few days later. I did work for him several times after that and we never had a financial disagreement again.

            Another time a repair job did not have such a happy ending. I made a service call to repair a TV that had no picture. A few simple tests indicated that the picture tube was not working although it had the proper voltages and signal input. The tube filament was burning.

            In the early 1950s picture tubes often failed because an oxide formed around the cathode and prevented it from emitting an electron beam to produce a picture on the screen. The cathode was a coated sleeve over the heated filament of the tube and depended on the heat from the filament to release the electrons. The filament was activated by a 6 volt source and due to the unwanted coating there was not enough heat to make the tube work. A small transformer called a booster was available for making the tube work again. When plugged onto the end of the tube it raised the filament voltage a few volts and the extra heat burned off the oxide coating and the picture tube worked as well as a new one.  Since picture tubes were very expensive, when the booster worked it saved the customer many dollars. Usually the tube worked with the elevated voltage indefinitely. The transformer could be removed after a few weeks and the tube would continue to operate because the coating had burned off, but it could soon quit working again.

            A few months after the repair job another serviceman removed the booster and the set continued to operate. The serviceman evidently didnít know about this and told him that he didnít need it.  Of course his first thought was that I had sold him a part he did not need. I tried to explain to this man that the tube would work after the booster was removed but that it was likely to fail again. He was not interested in my explanation and still thought that I had sold him something he didnít need.

            I offered to refund the whole amount of the service call but he refused it. He said he just wanted me to know that he knew I was a crook. This bothered me because I had never tried to cheat a customer. I was unable to satisfy this man and I regretted it.

            Is there a moral in this old timerís tale? If there is it must be that you canít please everybody, no matter how hard you try. A smart man once said, ďYou can try Ė thatís all a mule can do!Ē

            I tried. Does that make me a mule?