Henry and the tale of the disappearing VW Golf

Perhaps one of the most amusing tales about customer “experience” I ever heard was one I was actually involved in . Way back in the 90’s I used to ply my trade at a busy little independent car dealer in north London. They would regularly bang out 50 used cars every month and although they specialised predominantly in higher end German, specialist 4wd and sports, they weren’t averse to selling anything that could potentially turn a nice profit.

On this particular day all the sales guys were busy handing over cars to excited customers and the driver “Henry” was being kept very busy making sure cars were cleaned, taxed and fuelled. As there wasn’t much space at the premises, organisation and communication were critical to the smooth running of the business and to ensure that customers paying large amounts of money received the proper ‘treatment’ which this dealership in particular prided itself on.

Well at about 3pm Henry was about to do his umpteenth fuel run of the day, when one of the sales guys, who was just finishing the boring bit with his customer, enquired as to where Henry had parked his car so that he could get the customer on his way.

Henry scratched his head and pointed to where he “thought” he had parked the car and which was now an obviously empty space. Not panicking at this stage it was all hands on deck to find the missing Golf and its distinctive bright green colour meant it shouldn’t be too long before someone spotted it, or would it?

After half an hour or so and having left no stone unturned in the search panic finally started to set in, as well as the realisation that this vehicle had now been registered in the new customers name and paid for in full.

Thinking on his feet the sales guy organised a courtesy car and promised the rather flustered and bemused customer that he would call him once the car had been found and that he was very sorry about the inconvenience.

They then called the boss over to see what could be done.

Being that this particular part of London was not, how can I put this, the most salubrious of areas they had installed CCTV at strategic locations so the boss suggested they take a look at the tapes and see if they could pick up anything untoward.

After watching for about an hour or so and just before they were about to give up they saw the Golf come into view at the side of the road with Henry at the wheel. They watched as he got out, went into the showroom and proceeded to get into another car and drive off.

So the car was parked exactly where Henry said it was at some point, so where was it now?
Still watching the tape they notice, about 5 minutes later, a young guy walking past the Golf and then 10 seconds later walk back, jump in and drive off.

The horrified boss and the sales manager let out a joint cry of anguish when they realised that the car had been left engine running on the side of the road and stolen in a heartbeat by an opportunistic thief who must have thought Christmas had come early.

Panic was replaced by doom and gloom and Henry was summoned to the office to explain himself. They took him through the tape and when it got to the best (or worst) bit they gave him the opportunity to explain himself.

Moving uneasily in his seat Henry then unbelievably said “how do you know that’s me?”

The boss and the sales manager looked at him incredulously and said almost in unison ‘how many blokes with bright ginger hair, 6ft 5 tall with a limp work here and have access to our cars?!

Henry, realising the game was up, looked down at the ground and fell on his metaphorical sword. The guys were all sad because Henry really was a nice bloke who just got himself in a muddle and it cost the company a lot of money and good will and probably a customer.

The story however does have a happy ending however as the car was recovered a few days later with the addition of lots of empty take away boxes, some beer bottles, a couple of burn holes in the front seat and a couple of hundred miles on the clock. Remarkably the customer still took the car and received 3 years free servicing and a new CD player fitted for his trouble.

As for Henry, well he was relieved of his driving duties, given a bucket and leather and told to stay out of harm’s way and where to the best of my knowledge he still resides to this day!

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