Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Bedtime stories for detailers

March 17, 2010

Today’s Management Tip is a collection of stories from Gina Budhai, managing partner of Car Pool Detail in Richmond, VA, and 2006 Detail Person of the Year. Budhai was inspired by a previous bulletin board post which asked detailers to share their best detailing experience.

The stories, some funny, some touching, some practical, all show examples of good customer service, excellent employee management and ideas for improving profits at your carwash business.

Feel free to share your own story on our bulletin board.

There are so many best detailing jobs and best experiences over the course of running a business. Each of these experiences are unique and brings an entirely different reward and pride in the work we do, what we accomplish, and the people we have had the wonderful opportunity to encounter and serve.

Not many occupations allow you to meet such a disparate range people, one moment you could be speaking with a United States Senator, a CEO of large fortune 500 company, a person from almost any country or remote village in the globe, an author, an actor, a student, a professor, a news reporter, a singer, a uuber mom, an auto transporter, a lawyer, a doctor, a soldier back from the war, and even a real live to goodness Indian Chief of a tribe. I have even met people from the small town where I was born that knew my parents.

You get to work on all types and modes of transportation, airplanes, buses, trucks motorbikes, Rv’s, classic and exotic automobiles, daily drivers and even the saddle of a horse. You are asked to deliver service to beautify a vehicle for competition, to save a marriage, to restore a neglected vehicle back to near new, to eliminate a scratch that mars an otherwise perfect vehicle, clean gross filth, remove indescribable odors and expose ourselves to unhealthy environments. We have seen the most bizarre problems, from restaurant septic lines bursting on vehicles and eating through the paint, vehicles which have been driven over chicken sludge with the most horrific smells, a dead snake burrowed in the body of a vehicle, rat infestation, homicides with blood saturation throughout, rotting food, gross filth, vomit, defecation,urine human and animal, maggots, lice, fleas, etc,. Most of these problems require the use of protective gear like gloves, masks, breathing apparatus, disposable body suit and specialized tools and chemicals. Of course we also work on beautiful clean vehicles.

The experiences help to shape us and rewards can be inspirational and uplifting such as the reward when your peers judge your work and says it is the best in a competition, when you have solved a customers problem, when you have aided a customer thru due diligence, when customers travel from great distances to have you work on their vehicles, when customers are overcome with emotion at the improved appearance of the vehicles…when they keep coming back year after year.

Unable to select just one story here are a few of the stories that have become part of the history of our detailing business and helped to shape our experiences.

AWARDS:

Over dozens of local and national Concours d’Elegance awards – The most rewarding was “Best of Class” at Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance 50th anniversary MB-300SL roadster. Our client asked us prepare his vehicle to “win” and asked us to travel to the show to do any final work before the vehicle was driven on to the field….Unfortunately we were unable to attend due to previous family commitment and we were also quite sure the vehicle would win – The roadster competed against Gull Wings and won! The customer brought us back a gift of a beautifully framed display case which contained the actual Blue Ribbon, The program and a picture of the vehicle and America's First Formula One Champion, Phil Hill presenting him with the award. This was the first of many trophy’s and pictures our clients have given us in appreciation for our work on winning entries.

REUNITING FAMILY:

We received letter from a client thanking us for reuniting him with his son. The letter was simply to thank us for placing a St. Christopher’s medallion on his rear view mirror. We had found the medallion between his seats and as usual whenever we find something of value we either hang it from the rear view mirror or leave it in the cup holder. The client was shocked to find the chain… you see he had severed his relationship with his son because he believed that his son had stolen the gold necklace for drugs. As a result of the find he apologized to his son and the family was reunited.

FINDING A BROTHER:

After detailing a client’s vehicle we got to speaking about many things and he shared with us some anecdotes about his father…the stories sounded remarkably familiar with another client who had the same last name. We decided to introduce them and after sharing stories .. it turned out that they were brothers born to the same father in different cities..

SAVING LIVES:

We are asked to detail a vehicle that was being shipped overseas on a diplomatic assignment. The customer had recently purchased it so we decided to remove all the interior components to give it a good cleaning. On removal of the carpeting we smelled gas and discovered the entire floor board was completely rusted through and barely being held together. The vehicle was on its way to Africa and any slight bump would have spilled all the occupants in the roadway. Needless to say the client quickly purchased a new vehicle

GETTING A NEW PAINT JOB:

Years ago a client brought in a vehicle with oxidation that appeared under the clear coat.. Despite polishing the finish the cloudiness would re-appear sensing there was more to this we did some extensive research and determined that there was a manufacturer’s defect. We detailed our findings in a letter on behalf of the client to the dealer and manufacturer resulting a completely new paint job at no cost to the client.

GETTING A NEW ENGINE:

A client was having engine problems and explained she had taken the vehicle to the dealer who advised her that there was sludge and gelling in the engine and that she needed to install a new engine. I remembered a re-call notice in one of our industry magazines…did some further research, found the recall notice a copy of class action suit settlement, innumerable complaints and resolution about the same problem, prepared an extensive file for her to take the dealer and they immediately agreed to install a new engine at no cost to her.

FIXING A WATER LEAK:

Client came in with a severe water leak… the vehicle was like a sieve… plug one leak another would develop finally we did as much as we could to repair the vehicle and were about to loose our minds. Since we realized this was a no win situation the client’s expectation was unrealistic and not wanting the customer to come back with this vehicle we decided not to charge him and hoped he would go away…(ouch)… well some 6 months later we saw a big article in the newspaper naming us “Best Service Provider” we had been selected best service in our area based on a letter the customer had written to the newspaper about us..

GETTING A NEW AUTOMOBILE:

A new vehicle with 1000 miles came in to us from the dealer horrific smell occupant had been complaining about bloody nose and severe headache. To ensure proper cleaning we decided to do a 3rd party testing which included swabbing, and indoor air quality testing in vehicle. The mold count was off the chart and the vehicle also had airborne amoeba. Once the dealer received the report the manufacturer purchased back the vehicle immediately and put the client in brand new vehicle and we were still paid for the job.

CUSTOMER ACCUSES US OF DAMAGE:

Customer had just purchased a M6 BMW and for unknown reasons I just did not feel comfortable with client. We removed the seats for cleaning and shortly thereafter customer called and asked for our insurance number number as.he was filing a claim for over $5000.00. He had taken the vehicle to a mechanic who suggested that when we removed the seats during the cleaning process…we must have caused one of the wires to burn the wire-harnessing all the way to the dash-board. Co-incidentally in the very same week while reading an industry magazine there was an article which gave advise on which used cars to avoid and one of them was the same year M6…the advise was to be aware of a defect with electrical wire-harnessing fires. End of claim.

NO SPEAKERS:

After detailing a vehicle a customer was visibly upset. He claimed that his speakers no longer worked and that it was working before. We decided to remove the door panels and there was absolutely no speakers. Our response no wonder it does not work you have no speakers!

NOISE:

A customer had just recently purchased a Jaguar and we detailed the exterior and interior and no engine. When he came to pick up the vehicle he said the car does not sound the same the engine or motor is making a noise. Are you sure the fan did not suck the cleaning towels from the floor while you were cleaning inside. I responded don’t you think if the fans were so strong you shoes and pants would be sucked up into the motor also.

MAKING AN IMPACT ON CUSTOMERS:

Recently had a client who came into my business asking to have his brand new vehicle detailed. Since most consumers use the term to describe hand washing or even waxing, I proceeded to inquire if the customer knew what detailing services entailed. He was delighted to share with me his understanding of detailing which included a precise explanation of protection to paint and fabrics. I responded that that was the best explanation I had heard from a customer and wondered where he had gained his information. He advised me that when he was a student without money he stopped in to detailing facility and a man explained all the details to him and he decided that when he was able to afford such a service he would have it done to his new vehicle. I asked him exactly where this person was located and it turned out to be my own father’s detailing business located in another city two hours away and both businesses are not connected.

A HUSBAND’S PASSING

A client called from several states away from our business, and said she had re-located and her husband wanted her to drive the car to us for detailing. The drive took her some 6 hours and when she arrived she brought a picture of her husband to show us and we inquired how he was doing. She replied that he had passed away but while they were stationed in Belgium and he was dying he prepared a list of things to do and one of them was taking the car back to us to have it properly detailed. … needless to say everyone was in tears.

9/11

Shortly after 9/11 we were working on a client’s vehicle of middle eastern background and while working in the trunk we saw a manual titled Pilot training progam… in a panic we scuttled about thinking what to do… what do…we tried reaching another client who worked with the FBI but he did not answer the phone… so we went back and opened the manual and it had nothing to do with air planes or flying it was an initial training marketing manual (pilot) is another word used to describe this.

Gina Budhai is the managing partner of Car Pool Detail, the detail shop location of Car Pool, Inc., a seven-store chain based in Richmond, VA. Budhai can be reached at