Just when you get to thinking that all must be well on the consumer front, it doesn't rain, it pours. Consider these three coffee-curdling examples of how not to win friends or influence people.
Brenda Hann lives in southern Prince George's County, so it was no small hike for her and husband Russell to visit a Ford dealer in northern Virginia. And it was for no small purpose.
The Hanns had phoned the day before, and had arranged to look at a new Ford Courier pickup truck. They were seriously interested in buying it, which was music to the ears of the truck salesman with whom they dealt.
One problem, though: The salesman said he wouldn't be there the next night, but he'd leave the keys with a car salesman, who would be glad to help. Fine, said the Hanns.
They arrived the next night at about eight o'clock. Six salesmen were sitting around the showroom, drinking coffee and chatting with each other. No customers were in the place. Yet none of the salesmen offered to help the Hanns.
Finally, they asked one of the salesmen if the truck salesman had left a set of Courier keys for them. Distractedly, he said, "Here, try these."
They turned out to fit a much larger pick-up truck than the one the Hanns had discussed the previous night. So back inside they went.
The salesman who had given them the wrong set of keys was nowhere to be found. Again, no one asked if the Hanns needed help. Again, they had to ask for help. Again, begrudgingly, they got it from another salesman.
His keys fit the Courier, all right. But the battery was dead. Nearing the boiling point, the Hanns came back inside the showroom once more and reported that they couldn't start the engine.
"Well, other than that, how did you like the truck?" the second salesman asked.
Whereupon all five remaining salesmen started laughing as if their sides were going to burst. Whereupon the Hanns headed back to Prince George's with a squeal of rubber and a vow never to enter a Ford dealership again.
Ditto a Prince George's County pizzeria and Lew Bloch of Alexandria. He tells this puzzling tale:
One day in September, Lew had lunch at the restaurant in question, which is located in a popular shopping center. Absentmindedly, Lew left his umbrella behind. He realized it when he got back to his office, so he called to ask the management to hold the umbrella for him.
The man on the other end of the line -- evidently the manager -- was as helpful as could be, and agreed to hold the umbrella for Lew's arrival sometime after 5 p.m.
"At precisely 5:17, I showed up at the restaurant," Lew writes. "'Umbrella? What umbrella?' the manager asked me. 'I don't know who you spoke to, but I will certainly look into it. Give me your number and I will contact you as soon as I have some information.' "
Of course, Lew's phone hasn't rung yet.
Did the first pizzeria manager lie just for the thrill of being mean and nasty? Did he help himself to Lew's umbrella? Was it the second manager who did that?
Regardless, Lew says he won't be eating Prince George's pizza any time soon.
And for gall, it's hard to top the woman with whom Sally Hunter of Alexandria recently crossed swords.
"I stopped in a bookstore on King Street," Sally writes, "to pick up a copy of a weekly picture magazine which usually is put out Tuesday afternoon in the store, but this was Friday afternoon, late.
"I couldn't find it in its usual place or anywhere else among the vast display of magazines. All the while I was looking for it, a woman had been standing, engrossed in a magazine. Although I couldn't see the cover, it occurred to me that she might be reading a copy of the one I was looking for.
"Yes, she was. Where did she find it? She pointed. Evidently, it was the last copy. When I said so and asked her if she was going to buy it, she said she wasn't. 'Then I would like to buy it,' I told her.
" 'Not until I am finished with it,' the woman said."