Member: Sideband

Working for a small private company in my early days in the trade was an education for the different types of people you encounter.  Most customers were very good and appreciated the help and service we gave them. Others thought that we owed them a favour or that they were doing us a favour by coming in for advice or service. Some were just downright rude…..

One afternoon while Harry and I were busy doing our normal repairs in the workshop, there was the sound of feet running up the stairs and the door burst open to reveal Reg (the shop manager) clutching a portable radio. ‘Any chance of one of you having a look at this urgently? It’s just been knocked into the bath and it doesn’t work anymore’!

Well Harry had his head inside a colour TV and I was putting the finishing touches to a radio. ‘I’ll have a quick look in about 5 minutes’ I said. Reg left it on the side bench and went back downstairs.  A few moments later I picked up the radio and noticed a puddle of water underneath it. I opened the battery compartment which was also very wet and to make matters worse, it had a built-in mains power supply as well.  Taking the back off revealed a sodden mess. There was water everywhere including the tuning capacitor (one of those little square plastic things with trimmer caps and solid dielectric). The speaker likewise was soaked and at this point I called Harry over.  He took one look at it and said ‘Write-off’! ‘You’ll never get it working reliably, if at all’ he added..’The I.F coils are saturated, the tuning cap is saturated, the speaker is saturated and the mains pack will be unsafe even if you can dry it out properly’ (there was water dripping out of the mains transformer). Harry picked up the radio with the back off and went downstairs to show the customer the damage. What followed was almost unbelievable.

I was first aware of raised voices and then shouting.  I started to go downstairs and looked over the banister rail to see the customer shouting at Reg and Harry calling them all sorts. He was swearing and calling everybody c…..s and when he saw me looking over the rail he added ‘Ah well that explains a lot…if you employ kids as cheap labour who don’t know anything….I suppose you got him to drop it into a bucket of water so you could write it off and then expect me to buy a new radio eh’?? ‘It only wanted five minutes with a hairdryer and it would have been fixed! Well it won’t work with me. You’ll be giving me a new radio. I’ll get you shut down you conning b…….ds’! and with that, he left the shop taking the still-dripping radio with him.

It’s difficult to know how to respond in cases like that and when the customer had left the shop, Reg locked the door (it was lunchtime anyway) and we went down the pub. This wasn’t the norm but we felt we all needed a drink after that. It was the talking point for several hours after we got back but Harry and I just got on with repairs as normal even though the usual banter between us was lacking for the rest of the day.

A few days later Reg buzzed up to the workshop using the intercom and asked us to come down into the shop for a moment. Odd, but down we went. A middle-aged woman was standing behind the counter who I vaguely recognized. ‘Hello’ she said, ‘I wish to apologize for my husband’s disgraceful behaviour the other day. I understand he was rude and abusive to all of you’. The next five minutes was her apologising for him and she explained that the radio had in fact been in the water for about ten minutes rather than just ‘being knocked in’. Apparently he’d run a bath, left the radio balanced on the edge of the bath and then had to answer the doorbell. During the ten minutes or so while at the door, the radio slipped off the side of the bath and into the water and it stayed there until he came back and discovered what had happened.

Why he couldn’t have told us this we never knew but apparently the radio belonged to their son and he was at uni. Anyway his wife ended up buying a new radio from us and that was the last we heard of it.  We’d done service work for her before which was why I vaguely recognized her. She seemed absolutely fine but the husband never came in the shop again.

It takes all sorts!

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