Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It's Customer Appreciation Day At The Gas Company...The Complete Story

If you've been following along for the last several years, then you know that I enjoy a special relationship with my local gas company. On more than one occasion I have received the worst customer service imaginable from this company but for some reason I keep going back.

Am I a glutton for punishment?

Am I such a loyal customer that I will stay with them no matter what?

Or maybe, I'm just plain dumb?

All three could possibly be correct, but when I saw a handwritten sign driving past the local office one day advertising an upcoming customer appreciation day, I thought if anyone needs to feel like they're appreciated, it's this customer.

A week or so later, I was at my mom's house in the next town up the four-lane and mentioned that I wanted to go to the customer appreciation day. I had driven past the office where I had originally seen the sign earlier in the morning but nothing was set up except the handwritten sign. Pitiful. And typical. The gas company has another office in her town and I had driven past it and they had a big tent, balloons, stacks of cases of Cokes and free hot dogs and brownies for anyone that showed up.

We put it on the list of things we were going to do that day and more than once I griped about the office in my town and how they hadn't set up anything near as comparable to what the office in Mom's town had. We giggled about it and soon found ourselves visiting one yard sale after another and when my stomach growled Mom remarked she was hungry. It was slightly after two o'clock and when we pulled up to customer appreciation day they were out of hot dogs, Cokes and were already taking down the tent.

"Had a huge crowd," said one of the workers in a friendly voice.

"Shoot, we missed it," I said.

"I think they've got a balloon over there you can have," Mom said helpfully.

I looked where she was pointing and there was a man in a clown face rubbing a balloon all over (I mean ALL over) his body trying to create enough electricity to make it stick to his head. It was weird. And gross. "Um, I think I'll pass."

"You can always check out the one in Jasper," said the worker.

"I went past there today and they didn't have anything up but a hand-written sign. I was disappointed but not surprised," I said. "I haven't had the best service from them."

"Hmm," she said, "well, they probably didn't have anything but the sign because their customer appreciation day isn't until next Saturday. I'll be up there, too, passing out the free Cokes and $25 gift certificates. Don't forget to bring a canned good for the food pantry to get your gift certificate. I'll see you then...

Yes, you will.

In the middle of the week, I rode out past the gas company and there wasn't any sign of customer appreciation day. In fact, the hand-written sign wasn't even there. Typical, I thought.

Saturday morning, Mom called and wanted to go to a movie, but I was working around the house and didn't want to go. She reminded me of the customer appreciation day and told me to call if the hot dogs were any good, (we have no problem dropping everything and driving 25 miles for a good hot dog) and I said I would. 

I ran a few errands around town and it was exactly noon when I approached the gas company. Traffic was heavy (as it usually is on a Saturday morning in town) but I was surprised to see a line of cars in front of me waiting to pull into the drive of the gas company. 

The place was packed. They had a big tent outside with the same stacks of Cokes I'd seen last week. The delivery drivers were manning the grill. The nice lady I had spoken with the previous week was minding the serving table and the picnic tables under the tent were completely full with people enjoying the food. I found a place to park in the side yard in front of  the big propane tank (no problem parking in the grass, it's so dry because of the drought that vehicles were parked everywhere; however there was a guy smoking a cigarette nearby) when I was more surprised by the sight of a clown coming out of the back of the building. He saw me, gave me a wave and started the rubbing routine with the balloons and headed the opposite way.

I did an about face, nearly ran into the guy smoking right beside the no smoking sign and made my way to the serving line. "Nice crowd," I said to the nice lady from last week.

"Yes, not as big as last week, but still good. I see you made it in time for the food. Where's your momma at?" she asked looking around.

"She couldn't make it today," I said.

"That's too bad. She was nice people--I felt like I knew her," the lady said.

"Well, she does get around," I said. The woman looked at me strangely and I continued "She goes to a lot of yard sales around town."

"Maybe," she said handing me a plate. "Go ahead and fix yourself a plate and when you get done, take your canned goods inside to the donation box and they'll fix you up with your $25 coupon."

"Thanks," I said looking at the spread in front of me. CANNED GOOD? Oh, no. I had forgotten to bring any cans for the donation box. The smell of the grill and platter of hot dogs soon had my full attention and I focused on dressing up my dogs (straight ketchup) (I ain't messing with mustard, chili, slaw or onions), grabbing a bag (or two) of chips, a chocolate chip cookie (or two) and two cans of Diet Coke and made my way to one of the tables. (I got seconds with my firsts because I didn't want people to see me getting seconds.)

I was enjoying myself tremendously, (the food was good) and keeping a wary eye out for the clown. Different people came and went--some stopping for food, but most seemed to be carrying canned goods and with a wave from the lady manning the paper plates hurried up the  steps and inside the building.

"Mind if I join you?" asked a voice. "I noticed you was eating alone."

I looked up and standing there in front of me was the clown that I had seen earlier, except he didn't look like a clown. He had changed his clothes and now wore a biker jacket, a "Jesus loves me" t-shirt, jeans, and a belt with a big buckle that might have resembled the state of Texas, but I couldn't be sure because my gaze was drawn to his head. He had a balloon stuck on his head. Actually, it was in the shape of a snake and it wiggled every time he moved his head.

"Sure," I said. "I'm just finishing up. I want to get one of those $25 coupons before they run out."

He sat down and we started chatting about the drought, the upcoming election and the crowd of people at the customer appreciation day. "I'm surprised how many people are here," I said. "I'll have to come to this every year. I haven't had the best luck with their customer service, but this almost makes up for it. How long have you been a clown?"

"I've been clowning for 50 years or so. I just moved to the area and this is the first time I have performed in North Georgia," the man said. "The gas people had another clown in another town last week but they got a few complaints about him or something. I don't know what the details are..."

"I heard about that," I said. "Well, it was nice talking to you, but I need to be going. I forgot my canned good so I'm gonna run up to the Dollar General and pick one up for the donation box so I can get my coupon."

"It was nice talking to you, too, but you don't need a canned good, just tell 'em the clown sent you. I hope I see you around town."

I waved goodbye and went inside the building waiting my turn to approach the counter. "I forgot my canned good but the clown told me to tell y'all that he sent me," I said.

"I thought he left a while ago," one of them said. "I don't know why he told you to say that because several folks didn't bring a can and that's all right, too. But hey, this is customer appreciation day and we want to thank you for being a customer, so here is your $25 coupon."

"Great! Thanks," I said. "I didn't think I was going to get to see you guys this year after the mix up last spring."

"What mix up?" one asked.

"Oh, when I ordered gas in March, I only ordered 100 gallons, but I got 400 gallons instead."

"That's where I remember you from," one said. "Well, we're glad you came to see us today and that we got that all worked out."

"Don't forget to use your coupon," one hollered after me as I walked out the door.

I walked to my car and was surprised to see something through the back window. My stomach dropped a bit when I saw what was on the hood of my car. It was the balloon I'd seen earlier on the head of the man that asked to sit with me. I picked up the balloon and looked around but saw no sign of the clown. There was a note attached to it that read "I remember you and your mother from last week. Hope you got your coupon."


Really weird.

Later in the day when I was recounting the story to Mom (who thought it was weird, too), I picked up the $25 coupon from the gas company and read what it said. Mom was telling me about the boxes of books she picked up at a yard sale for only a buck when I made the oddest noise she had ever heard.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

"They've done it, again," I said.

"Who did what?" she asked.

"The gas company."

"Oh, my. What happened this time?" Mom asked.

"Listen to this," I said and read the fine print on the coupon. "This $25 coupon is good off the purchase of 150 gallons or more of propane."

"So, you always get that much, don't you?"

"I normally do, but remember they filled the tank up by mistake last year."

"That's right. I  forgot," Mom said. "Well, you can always use it later in the winter."

"Not hardly," I said.


"It expires December 31, 2016."

"Oh, well. Look on the bright side, you won't have to spend $500 right before Christmas. Maybe, you can go to Vegas or somewhere," Mom said....

What a great idea....I think I will.

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