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Old August 22nd, 2003, 06:56 AM   #1
Magic Mtn Dan
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Are you old enough to remember this?

Remember when they were SERVICE Stations not GAS Stations?

Platinum service for a little more copper — it’s not a thing of the past.
by Douglas Flint 8/18/2003

I have a friend, Joe, who manages a service station in a prestigious part of Montgomery County, Md., one of the richest counties in the United States. Recently he sent me a hilarious videotape from a talent show sponsored by a local civic organization. One of the skits was about his service station. It was titled “Glen Echo Exxon, Ka-ching of the Road” (sung to the tune of the classic King of the Road), alluding to the fact that their gas prices are generally a good 25 to 50 cents higher than anyone else’s.

It was all in good fun and he wasn’t offended at all. As I pointed out, if they do skits about you, they must really like you.

Mayberry 90210

You see, his is a kind of Andy of Mayberry fillin’ station, except it is for really rich folks. The staff really checks the oil and the windshield wipers, and will pour the washer fluid in for you, and pump the air into the tires for you instead of pointing you over to a pump that probably doesn’t work.

They do a brisk auto service and repair business but they provide so much more. If your daughter gets a flat tire on the way to school they will either fix it on the spot or put the spare on and send her on her way, and they won’t leer at her or treat her disrespectfully. And you can pay the bill when you stop in later. Or if your wife’s minivan won’t start and the kids absolutely have to be picked up at 3:00, they will rush over and jump start it, and if that doesn’t work they’ve been known to take your wife to get the kids while the van is being towed in. The same goes for the flock of nannies who are all employed locally and have cars in need, too. In exchange for your loyal patronage you get a crack team ready to leap into action when mechanical things start acting badly.

Their level of service does not end with the repair of the car or the pumping of the gas or the arranging of a ride. They have gone to people’s houses and dug their cars out of the snow, replaced sump pumps in flooded basements, fixed leaks caused by a clogged gutter.

Point taken

Please stay with me here. There is a point. In the 20th Century, we lost our connection to the land and the animals. I know no more about growing food or raising chickens than I do about flying the space shuttle. Maybe less.

Now a new generation is losing the connections to all things mechanical, and Joe acts as a sort of conduit between his customers and the physical world. These are people who have passed the bar in five states but don’t know why an air conditioner has to drip water, and what will happen if it can’t. They can read 100 pages of economical data and know how a 0.05-percent interest rate change will affect Brazilian exports, but really can’t change a tire, much less find where the spare is. And when you’re wearing a business suit and running late, it’s really nice not to have to get out of your car, or to arrive at a meeting with the smell of gas on your hands.

But such a level of service does not come cheap. To keep a competent staff really capable of running such an operation is tough. You’re not going to get it for $8, $10, or $12 an hour. You have to pay real salaries with benefits. The oil companies that hold the leases on all such operations are forever pressuring the owners to dump the service bays, lower the gas prices, and put a Minimart in with a Slurpee dispenser. Oil companies don’t get a cut of the service bays, you see. Aren’t there already enough 7-11s? Will a Slurpee dispenser help you when your car breaks down on the way to work?

If you are lucky enough and wealthy enough to have such an operation in your neighborhood, I have some advice. Patronize it often or you won’t have it. I know some of you “cheat” on your locals when you think they’re not looking. You buy a battery at the discount chain. You slip off to Muffler Maggots to get a cheaper low-quality exhaust system. But you still want Joe and his team to be there to rescue you or your family, hoping to skate on the patronage of others. But I assure you, they won’t be there for long if you take them for granted. And the only thing I can think of more expensive than patronizing them is not having them at all.

source: Car Connection
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