I don’t know if it is the maturity that comes with being a few years into my thirties, or sheer necessity, but I am finally ready to become a businesslike woman. Several transactions of which I have been apart recently have made me reconsider my dealings with service providers. In short, if you are billing me, I do not need to be your friend. I will be polite, respectful and honest with you, but the overly friendly thing has failed me one too many times.
As an extremely extroverted military kid, I moved a great deal and became very good at making friends quickly. Part of that success comes from wearing my heart on my sleeve and holding nothing back. Whereas this seems to work in finding dear friends and even a soulmate to marry, it comes back to bite me in business dealings. For instance, we were trying to have an antique typewriter repaired for my quirky ten-year-old to use. I met the older typewriter repairmen in a parking lot because he could not gain access to the Army post on which we live. He was endearing… a Vietnam vet who has been repairing typewriters for 39 years. We chatted friendlily, but he DID get a great deal of information out of me. He learned my husband’s rank. He learned that we thought this typewriter had been the one my grandmother had used to help my Admiral grandfather write his Naval fitness reports, etc. We parted ways, he took the typewriter… said he couldn’t give me an estimate, but that “he believed he could get this thing working.” I reported happily to my husband and mom what a charming older gentleman Mr. S. was and how much he seemed to enjoy his job. Well, imagine my surprise when my phone rang just three hours later and Mr. S. was on the other end to inform me that he had repaired the machine and we owed him $205.74!! I was dumbfounded and told him so. He then showed his true colors and became indignant and angry that I was unwilling to pay such an unreasonable amount. I could do nothing but allow him to keep the typewriter. The repairs have been made and there is no way I am putting a $200 machine in a bedroom with a child.
What I learned from my interaction with this repairmen, as well as several men that I saw take advantage of my well-heeled and well-intentioned parents over the summer, is that it is dangerous to befriend people whom are billing you. Flat out. I reflected a great deal on how chatty and nice I had been in the parking lot to Mr. S. and I was hurt because he used that time to get human intelligence out of me and then overcharged us as a result. Gardeners and plumbers regularly stand my parents up because the service providers are never held accountable and the men know my parents like to hire the underdog. I understand that- as a Christian- I must treat my neighbor with love and respect, but surely we don’t have to get walked all over. I have resolved that if you are billing me, you are not my friend. I will bite my tongue, stick to a discussion of the matter at hand, and also, compare options if possible (but man is life busy.) I keep wracking my brain for some Biblical story in which Our Lord gives an example of how to deal with business people and I can’t think of one. You guys have anything?