Helpful neighbors and great customer service

January 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm 3 comments

tahoe 2tahoe 5tahoe 4tahoe 1

I’m in Lake Tahoe, CA for the first time this weekend with a few friends. It’s beautiful, and we’re having terrific weather. Unfortunately, I’ve been pretty sick this week, so I’m not going to be doing much snowboarding. However, that didn’t stop me from getting my fair share of entertainment this morning.

Everyone woke up a little before 8am to get ready for the slopes. I was sleeping in the living room (the couch is my typical spot) so this meant it was time for me to get up too. I sat up, checked my email and surfed the net while everyone else was showering and preparing for the day.

Finally, everyone was out the door, so I curled back up on my couch, lifted the sheets up to my chin and began to get lost in the glory that is extra sleep. 15 seconds later I heard the distinctive sound of tires spinning in the desperate search to find dry asphalt. I pretended not to hear. Sleep is all that concerned me right now. Eyes closed…starting to drift…then LOUD SQUEALING! There it goes again. I climbed off the couch and walked to the window. I couldn’t see anyone. Maybe it was the neighbors. I headed back toward the couch when Chris walked in.

“We’re stuck.”


“Need help?” I asked, then letting out a small cough to give the reminder that I was sick and helping really would not be in my best interest.

“No, I think we almost got it,” he said.

Great, I was free. Chris walked back out the door, but as I turned around to head back to my sleeping throne I saw his girlfriend trying to push the car off of the snow bank. I officially felt guilty. I changed out of my pajama pants and into some snow-worthy gear, then walked out the front door. I don’t know how they got themselves into this situation, but it was ridiculous. I wish I had taken pictures.

tahoe driveway

  • The driveway leading up to the house where we were staying was long, curvy, uphill, and covered with ice (0 for 4).
  • The car’s owner, JZ, took the chains off his tires…(0 for 5)
  • …right before backing out of the driveway…(0 for 6)
  • …in his front-wheel drive Acura (0 for 7).

Nothing was in their favor.

I have observed that when someone gets themselves into a tough spot, those coming to “help” them unfailingly do two things:

  1. Point out everything the person could have done differently to not have gotten themselves into the situation to begin with.

    I played this role to a T:

    “How’d you even get it like that?”
    “Why’d you back out?…it would have been easier to pull out forward”
    “Sucks that you took those chains off”
    “You didn’t bring a vehicle that has four-wheel drive?”

    Perfect pitch, tone and placement for maximum annoyance, and all while shaking my head with condescension.

  2. Just as the person begins to reach maximum frustration, point out how bad the situation really is.

    In step the neighbors.

    Fifteen minutes into useless squealing, revving, slipping on ice, falling in snow and pushing, an older couple walk by holding the leashes of their two brown-and-white Shih Tzus. They stop at the bottom of the driveway, contemplate the situation, and then peer up with judging and disappointing looks.

    From the husband:
    “You really got yourself stuck, didn’t you?”
    “In that position, it may even be impossible for a tow truck to help”
    “Putting down salt or sand helps with ice on the driveway, but I guess it’s too late for that now, huh?”

    His wife’s incredible follow up:
    “Do you have the ‘Three As’?”

    We look at each other confused, and then look back at her.


    “Yes, it’s really helpful, you should really get yourself a ‘Three As card’.”

They walk away. We look at each other, shake our heads, and call AAA.

AAA: “Hello, this is AAA, how can I help you?”
JZ: “Hi, my car is stuck in a driveway in Lake Tahoe.”
AAA: “Sorry to hear that. What part of New York did you say you’re in?”
JZ: “New York? I’m in Lake Tahoe.”
AAA: “Oh, very sorry. I thought that you were in a physical location. I didn’t realize you were stuck in water.”
JZ: “I’m not stuck in water. I’m in Lake Tahoe, California. It’s a city…umm, physical location.”
AAA: “California? This is the New York office. Let me transfer you.”

AAA: “Hello, this is AAA, how can I help you?”
JZ: “Hi, my car is stuck in a driveway in Lake Tahoe.”
AAA: “Is that in Florida?”
JZ: “I’m looking for the California office.”
AAA: “Oh, OK, please hold.”

AAA: “Hello, this is AAA, how can I help you?”
JZ: “Could you send someone out to Lake Tahoe, California to help me get my car out of the driveway?”
AAA: “Sure thing.”
JZ: “Great”
AAA: “Where in Lake Tahoe are you?”
JZ pulls out the address and reads it off to the AAA agent….
AAA: “Where is that?”
JZ: “What? Do you need directions?”
AAA: “That would be great.”
JZ: “I don’t live here. I’m just staying here for the weekend, but I can try. We’re off 89.”
AAA: “Can you give me a cross street?”
JZ: “Yes, West Lake Road/89.”
AAA: “Is that one street?”
JZ: “Yes, that’s one street.”
AAA: “Which grocery store are you near?”
JZ: “Grocery store?”
AAA: “Yes, so that I know where you are.”
JZ: “I have no idea.”
He turns to us.
“Does anyone have a receipt to the grocery store?”
We shake our heads.
AAA: “Did you see a Chambers?”
JZ: “I don’t know what Chambers is. I don’t think so. Wait…OK, yes, supposedly one of us may have seen a Chambers at some point.”
AAA: “Are you near the Chambers?”
JZ: “We might be. I have no clue. Aren’t you AAA? Do you want me give you the Google directions we used?”
AAA: “That would help”
…he does…
AAA: “Oh, I know exactly where you are.”
JZ: “Thank god.”
AAA: “So that I know we’re in the right place, what kind of car do you have?”
JZ: “An Acura 2.3 cl”
AAA: “And what color?”
JZ: “Color? It will be the only car that stuck across this driveway, I don’t think you’ll get confused. OK, OK, it’s red.”
AAA: “Thanks, we’ll be right there!”
JZ: “Great!”

JZ hangs up the phone, turns to us, laughs, and says, “There’s no way they’re gonna make it here. I think we’re on our own.”

After about 10 more miraculous minutes involving firewood, top soil and what shall henceforth be known as ‘The Mat of Glory’ the car was freed. We called to cancel with AAA, vowed to never use them again (though we will), and then the group headed off to the mountain.

Lessons learned: always carry salt, love thy neighbor, and trust in the ‘Three As’

Entry filed under: Yeah that happened.

Start with a clean slate The teenage years

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About Me

I'm a San Francisco-based strategic thinker who believes that life is only as great as the people you choose to interact with. I love people, and studying business has given me greater insight into how to most effectively develop myself, and my personal relationships. I look forward to discussing people and business with those that find this area as fascinating as I do.

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