In The Shop: Farmer Personalities
May 29, 2011
Working with the public has dramatically changed the way I behave when I am the consumer dealing with a salesman, tradesman or other business person. I still get outraged at high prices, frustrated by poor service, or annoyed by incompetent staff, but I now temper my behavior due to things I've experienced when I was on the other side of retail negotiations.
For example, I've known customers (now dead, so don't take any of this personally, if you're in my dealership's area) who came unglued every time a machine broke down. It didn't matter if it was a flat tire, a broken drive chain or a blown engine, ANY interruption to field work earned a foot-stomping, arm-waving, profanity-laden temper-tantrum just short of throwing themselves on the ground like a 2-year-old who didn't get the lollypop he wanted. Once they went through the ritual they usually calmed down and I could deal with them, but they apparently had to waste 15 minutes to a half hour being a horse's behind and making me and anybody within earshot feeling like we were thieves and the worst sort of pond-scum.
Another customer, when confronted with mechanical problems, actually used to apologize for adding to my daily workload. He would hover around while I worked, offer soft drinks, call his wife to bring a sandwich if we had to work through suppertime, and was almost difficult to work with when it was time to make decisions about the repairs. "Whatever YOU think it needs," was his constant answer to any question I asked about alternative ways to fix a problem. That put the burden of whether to cobble and fix it cheap, or go the whole nine yards and spend lots of money, on me. The saving grace was that I knew that whatever decision I made on his behalf, he would never later second-guess me and blame me if things didn't work out right.
I got along fine with both guys. I enjoyed working for both of them, because over time I developed relationships with them and we both understood the "dance" we had to go through to get their machines repaired. In a perfect world, I'd prefer to work with customers who are somewhere in the middle on the passive-aggressive scale. Fortunately, the majority of farmers are in that middle ground, pleasant to deal with and easy to work for.
I have to admit, whenever I take the wife's car to a dealership for repairs, or hire a plumber or electrician to fix things in our house, I'm now more aware of how I behave when they give me an outrageously expensive estimate or when things go awry during their work. In the past I tended to be excitable, prone to outbursts, with the philosophy that maybe if I shouted enough, it would change the price or situation. Maybe I've matured as I've grown older. Maybe I've learned from my mistakes. Even though my inner impulse is to be angry at mistakes, be enraged by extra cost, or to second-guess actions that cost me extra money, I'm more calm than I used to be. I remember all the times I've been on the receiving end, and try my best to, "...do unto others as I'd like others to do unto me."