Tales of a Traveling Airbrush

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tampa Spring Company John Messina

Dave Knoderer


Tampa Spring Company

John Messina Jr, President
8820 N Brooks St
Tampa, Florida 33604

February 25, 2016

Dear John,
I write this letter to you about my observation of the recent experience with your Tampa Spring Company with the intention to be helpful with a suggestion that will perhaps benefit your customers in the future, and express some of my gratitude. As you no doubt recall, when my RV trailer came to your facility to have the springs replaced, the workman placed the jacks under the rear of the trailer and lifted the entire unit off the ground while still attached to the truck, forcing the entire weight of the unit on the kingpin structure under the bedroom (that is only designed to support the tongue weight) resulting in disaster and certainly shortening its lifespan. The unfortunate efforts of the first man to tackle what began as a three hour job, as you know, ended up requiring the superstructure that supports the king pin to be exposed, diagnosed and repaired. At that time you assured me “we will take care of all the damage.”
At first, when I communicated with Howard about how handling this repair in a timely manner is of utmost importance, due to my upcoming route where the trailer plays an important role, he responded with “I don’t see a problem (with getting this done within two weeks so that you will be able to meet those obligations)” - but when the first of a series of welding repairmen began with their unsatisfactory efforts, and I had to participate to insure that structural integrity was restored, the professional relationship of service provider and stranded customer began to experience a paradigm shift.
I can only imagine that Howard and the men on the crew felt a number of emotions for having made such a negative impact and expensive mistake. Perhaps they felt ashamed, sheepish, perhaps foolish and confused. Then after being reprimanded – these emotions sank even further. True to human nature, and probably not knowing what was going on emotionally – they needed someone to blame and made me the bad guy. The series of steps required in the repair, no longer remained priority and passive aggression replaced what would have been appropriate in this situation. One welding guy actually told me that the unit would catch fire behind the area I insisted that he weld. His concern was not true. I explained that an aluminum tube was behind the broken flange and that wood was not behind it. Even alerted to this truth, no additional welding took place by that workman.
The round trip from Plant City consumed and hour and a half each time I drove to your shop to review the progress. About the fourth trip – Howard announced to me that he was too busy to come from behind the counter to consult with me about my real concern about the welding of simple “stitches” in a crucial area that had already been covered up by the cosmetic panels prior to my inspection. At that time, another man was assigned to the task of customer relations. I dismantled the panel myself to reveal the precarious and substandard repair that could have left me stranded along the road. Phil agreed with my strategy to introduce structural integrity with additional welding but before any work took place, he was pulled off the job.
The next day I received a request from Howard to drive in the rain into Tampa again, (my fifth trip) and from underneath his umbrella, he defiantly announced to me that he was not going to do anything else. I suspect that Howard uses a manipulative ploy to promote anger in his adversary so that he can justify his inappropriate and less than professional behavior and is the main source of derailing this project that should have been accomplished in three days. I remained calm and requested a conversation with you and discovered that I would have to return again the following week.
Upon returning the next week (the beginning of week three) with my friend Paul the fabricator, after looking at the precarious crucial area, agreed with me about the “stitching” being weak, he suggested with you a strategy that would work, that interestingly coincided with my tactic of the week before.
I am most fortunate to have been taught by the founder of Lazydays, during the fifteen year period I was the resident artist, in regard to customer dedication and service policies, the philosophy of regard for others and how these and delivering consistent outstanding service makes the company great.  I continue to utilize what I learned at Lazydays as I provide outstanding service to others on a route that takes me across the nation to customer dedicated Harley stores and motorcycle events. The name Letterfly is synonymous with an encouraging, positive demeanor and consistent, high quality output.
 As a public inspirational speaker and seminar leader, you would benefit from having me speak to you, your staff and crew about how the incorporation of a shift in perception of the workplace, task objectives and regard for your customers, can bring about a greater sense of purpose and productivity, resulting in greater happiness in the workplace.
John, I suspect that part of the paradigm that promotes dysfunction in your company involves an inability to have regard and listen with empathy for the truth of the matter at hand and having an honorable goal. I saw these characteristics alive and well in you when I was explaining exactly what happened structurally when the bedroom floor that is attached to the king pin structure acted like the blade in a shear and tore off the flange on the lateral connecting beam for several feet, as it tilted upward into the bedroom from where it was attached to the sidewall. (That HAD to be strengthened) this was proved when we went inside to see the cabinetry that was crushed. If this dynamic is being modeled by you, then the same behavior is affecting you by your workforce.
At the end of week three, I had driven into Tampa seven times and the interruption in my work flow had already cost me well over a thousand in lost income. I was actually surprised that I was charged anything by Tampa Spring for the original three hour job, prior to hauling the trailer over to the paint shop where my urgent situation and looming deadline was stressed but not realized. True to form, the estimator’s error required two days to correct – the job, being postponed, took until Friday, costing me the ability to make the first event on my route – the annual Harley Davidson Appreciation Party in Port Charlotte, where I typically depart the Wednesday before Valentines Day. Friday night I finally made it home with the rig. A month had passed. I had driven into town a total of nine times. I bet if I had been put up in a hotel for the duration of the repair at your expense, the work would have been completed faster.
As I see it, the instruction “let’s get this guy fixed and back into business” got lost in the tangle of various personal agendas, psychological dramas and perhaps pure prejudice that actually promoted defensiveness, defiance and procrastination in the ranks. And legal liability concerns took priority over what was the decent thing to do for the customer. With the “sign off” document at the conclusion of the debacle, I heard no “I’m sorry for what happened here, and for what it cost you” from anyone. This is another clear indication that there exists a goal within your company that is different from the functional service providers’ goal that I utilize in my profession – always striving to give outstanding service that exceeds the customer’s expectations. It would be insane for you to believe that this is an isolated incident.
Not only could the original problem have been prevented with capable supervision, utilizing an appropriate manner of lifting the vehicle without doing damage, but the repair could have been made in an efficient and timely manner if the focus of the attention of all involved remained on doing the right thing for the customer and discarding all personal agendas, defiance and prejudices that not only bogged the repair down to a crawl but cost the customer dearly with both additional needless expense, loss of income and inconvenience, not to mention shortening the lifespan of the RV.
Sadly, this tendency logically trickles down through the ranks from the top. Hopefully, this episode and what has been revealed is something you can learn from, and seek to incorporate ennobling tactics to replace what will only promote the demise of your company. The compromise of structural integrity, personal inconvenience and needless expense is something incalculable that I will eventually absorb. Thanks to you, this has been an expensive learning experience. Of utmost necessity will be to ongoingly monitor the condition of this unit, and move up the plan for its replacement.
I did mention that I wanted to express my gratitude. What I find to be the most appealing discovery of this fiasco is the realization that Howard works for you and not for me, something I will be eternally grateful for.
I wish you the best,
Sincerely,

Dave Knoderer