Last week I learned a few more valuable life lessons and wanted to share the experience so others could benefit. A few weeks ago my oven broke. It’s a very nice commercial oven, and as I have a passion for cooking I tend to be a little (VERY) sensitive about my equipment. Replacing it would be very costly; after some research, fixing it seemed to be the better option. This decision, as you’ll soon learn, caused a great deal of uncertainty. That’s when all the fun started…
A costly repair…
My stove is a Garland, 6-burner gas range with a huge oven (I can cook 3 large chicken roasts simultaneously). It’s common in restaurants, yet not sold in retail outlets. While it’s considered by some to be the best on the market, it can be difficult and costly to find replacement parts as well as a service technician to do the repairs. Initial estimates to fix the problem ranged from $300 to $900. Unfortunately, I soon learned the process involved some trail and error that would challenge the initial estimate.
Three times a charm…
We started by replacing a sensor switch. The total cost to fix was $300. While the part was antiquated, and needed to be replaced, we soon discovered a faulty gas safety valve (don’t want any explosions). This required an additional $600 for parts and service… oh goody. Once we had the new valve installed we had to test the thermostat. This shuts down the oven based on the set temperature…otherwise the oven won’t stop heating up… After running a few tests (now that we could), we soon realized the thermostat was shot. This was the reason the other parts failed. Fixing it required an additional $725 for parts and service. Now the total cost is at $1,650… The feelings of “buyers remorse” as well as “ripped off” were starting to set in…
Nothing like “Self-doubt”
There’s nothing like the regret of a wrong decision. My feelings were compounded by my gut instinct telling me the repair service was robbing me. This caused some (A LOT) tossing and turning. I hate it when a situation gets the best of me. Fortunately, instead of letting the problem fester… I decided to take action. Lesson one learned.
Time to take action
Instead of complaining, I decided to do some research. I spoke with a number of parts suppliers, technicians and contractors. While it took some time, I soon learned that my oven had parts can be both costly and difficult to obtain. While there was some evidence I was being gouged, it was still uncertain. Nevertheless I put together my case and decided to have a discussion with repair service…
When the technician arrived, he started his work. I took a look at the parts, one of which was $500 and noted the make and model number. When I checked on my computer, much to my astonishment, the price he was charging me was actually LESS… Now the self-doubt went the other direction… Was I wrong? Was I actually getting the correct price? Was the guy being honest?
Let’s have a chat
If there is one thing I’ve learned when dealing with conflict is to not be emotional… stick with the facts… be cool and relaxed. I this case, I had evidence that I was being overcharged with one item…but I was uncertain. This requires a delicate approach. You don’t want to accuse someone of impropriety and be wrong. Then you’re the bad guy. I generally prefer to avoid conflict as the benefits rarely exceed the costs. In this case, however, I was quite bothered and needed to air my concerns.
When technician completed his work I brought out my research. I had a detailed excel spreadsheet breaking down the costs and markups. I also had price references from different websites that were cross-referenced with the item numbers on his invoice. It was clear and concise so a 6-year old could understand it. My voice was calm and cool, no emotion and had a tone that was non-confrontational. That’s another lesson, always give people the benefit of the doubt. Remember, there are ALWAYS two sides to every story.
After I presented the information I asked him what he though. Note, I am transferring the argument to him. What would you do? How would you feel? This presents the opportunity for me to hear what he has to say. You can usually tell what someone’s thinking by HOW they react. I have over 15 years experience in negotiating contracts. I usually tell when someone is being honest… The technician’s answers were straightforward and he didn’t get defensive. I could tell he was being honest. He agreed to look into the matter and told me to hold off on the final payment for the part in question. The conversation was very easy and more importantly, I felt much better.
I always try to learn from experience. Here’s a brief overview of the lessons learned:
Lesson One: When facing a conflict, stick with the facts and take out the emotion. This can be challenging if you’re upset, but arguing with emotion is dangerous and can make the situation worse. A case with facts is sound…you can’t argue them.
Lesson Two: Give someone the benefit of the doubt. There are always two sides to every story.
Lesson Three: Be proactive. If you think something wrong. Don’t let the problem fester. Take action, do your research. By channeling your energy in a positive direction you’ll feel much better.
Lesson Four: Get things off your chest. In this instance, the issue wasn’t as much the money, but a feeling of uncertainty. I needed to have this discussion. Whether I won or lost didn’t matter as much as having the conversation. Once it was over, I felt MUCH better and was able to move on.
If you find yourself in similar predicaments learn from my experience. Be proactive, stick with the facts, give people the benefit of the doubt and state your case without emotion. While you may not get what you want, you’ll likely discover that simply airing your concerns is enough to make the take the anxiety away… Think about it…