Working the system

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IMG_3966My dad’s a “working the system” guy.

Your brakes are squeaking?  “You call my friend, Dave!”

Wondering where to go to get your llama neutered? “Hang on, let me tell you who you need to get in touch with.”

Your furnace is making a funny noise and the kids are feeling lightheaded? “Pick up the phone and call your Uncle Ronnie. He’s got a friend who’ll take care of you.”

Here’s the problem though: I’m not a “working the system” guy. I’m not even much of an “interact with people in the real world” guy. So when I get these directives from my dad, I’m never sure what the end game is. Know what I mean?

Sure, let’s say I call my Uncle Ronnie. And let’s say he says, “Yep, I know a guy named Larry over at HeatPro.” And let’s say he gives me Larry’s number and I call him.

What’s next?

“Hi? Larry? Um… My name’s Greg. My dad, Tom, told me to call my Uncle Ronnie, who’s a friend of yours…”

At this point my inclination is to pause. I guess I’m waiting for Larry to say, “I love Ronnie! And you’re Tom’s boy? Hang on, give me your address, I’m on my way. And don’t you even think about trying to pay me or I’ll have your Uncle Ronnie kick your ass!”

But that never happens. In a case like this, I’ll usually get the patient ear of a pretty decent HVAC guy and we move forward from there. My question is, How am I better off this way than if I’d just looked up HVAC companies in my area? It seems to me like I’ve just wasted time with a phone call with my dad and a phone call with my Uncle Ronnie before making the same phone call to HeatPro that I could have made on my own. (Though, let’s be realistic, I probably would have called AAAA Heating, since they’re listed first.)

I understand endorsements and recommendations. I’ll give those myself sometimes. And maybe that’s all this is from my dad. It’s just that he seems so much more emphatic. When he’s telling me this, it makes me feel like there’s some sensational deal waiting for me with just a phone call. So I’m always left wondering if someone just forgot to give me the secret password or something. Totally frustrating.

Anyway, that long lead-in is intended to get to this story: A week or two ago, my dad was over and was talking about how he was in the process of buying a new vehicle here in St. Cloud. “I found [make/model] here in St. Cloud, over at Southwood Motors,” he said.

“Oh,” Corinne replied. “We love Southwood. They’re really fantastic. We’ve bought three or four vehicles there and always had great luck.”

Immediately, the working-the-system gears in my dad’s head started turning. He grabbed for his phone, pulled out the business card and dialed the number. He got voicemail.

“Scott?” he said to the answering machine, “This is Tom Skoog. Say, I’m sitting here with my daughter-in-law and she says that she’s bought three or four vehicles from you. Give me a call when you get a chance.”

That’s all I heard. I wasn’t there for the callback. So I don’t know if there’s some sort of Jedi mind trick that Dad used to get another 10 percent off the purchase price of his vehicle. Logic tells me there isn’t and he didn’t. So I was left wondering if the phone call was a complete waste of his 45 seconds.

And then the mail came today. Scott at Southwood sent Corinne and I $30 worth of passes to Summerland just for being nice enough to refer a friend. I suggested a place and Dad mentioned my name. End of story.

All of this, of course, begs the question: How much time are Ronnie and my dad spending at Summerland?

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