As one who many moons ago
(1970s) used to make service calls to people's homes (as an electrician), I can
relate to some of the stories like the ones which appeared in various issues of
Radio News magazine in the 1930s and 1940s. For that matter, most of
the trade magazines ran similar pieces. This saga of course is most likely not a
for-real experience, just a humorous tale of the kinds of scenarios sometimes
met by on-site servicemen. The laissez-faire attitude of the star of this story
made him deserving of the treatment he received from the customer. In fact, my
attitude was always one of extreme courtesy, respect, going beyond the call of
duty to do a good job, and performing my work as efficiently as possible. It put
me in good stead with my employers because of favorable comments from home and
business owners. One notable exception was one lady who sent me away when I met
her at the door with my pre-USAF long hair (barely shoulder length and no
ponytail). Otherwise I was clean-shaven and showered every day,; it was just
that Hippie long hair. My boss had a good laugh at that one, and simply sent a
more respectable looking guy in my stead.
"Hello, Radio Repair? Why is it that after six trips my radio still doesn't work
by Lee Sheldon, Chicago, Illinois
Remember a customer's home, to keep it in good shape, is an axiom every serviceman
The whole thing started innocently enough: a Mrs. Larsen phoned for repair work
on her Zenith. I came into her house as I come into all customers' houses; but from
then on, things began to be different.
Identifying myself as the repairman from Salutary Sales & Service, I strode
into the living-room. I noticed some junk on top of the console as I pulled one
end of it out from the wall.
"Oh!" said Mrs. Larsen, "do be careful!"
I paused for a moment and turned to question her with my eyes.
"The vase, the vase!" she answered. "Look - watch out - catch it -"
I grabbed, but the thing already had smashed. After she saw it had broken, she
took her hands from her ears and put them over her mouth; then sat heavily in a
chair and leaned back with her eyes closed.
"Has it ever been broken before?" I asked, while I picked up the pieces. There
were quite a few of them, and naturally I was a bit self-conscious.
She raised her head slowly, but said nothing. When her eyes opened, they had
a strange look - and it wasn't love. It made me nervous, though, and I began to
unload the top of the console very carefully.
"Don't mind the rest of it," she said, "- none of it's worth anything!" Then
she jumped up and left the room.
There was a little business with a soldering iron before I removed the chassis.
When I finished, I laid the iron firmly across an ash tray, on the floor. Somehow
it rolled off, but I didn't notice it was burning until I smelled the carpet.
Mrs. Larsen must have smelled it, too, for she came back into the room. This
time she held her throat and pointed.
"Pardon me!" I said lightly, picking up the iron and rubbing the burned place
with my foot, "I thought it was something you were cooking!"
She sat down again, breathing heavily, and waved toward the door. I put the speaker,
face down, on the chassis, and walked to the hall. Opening the door, I looked back
"Sorry about the vase and carpet," I remarked sympathetically, "but it's a small
world, isn't it?"
There was no answer, and the set was getting heavy.
"Well," I said, "let's let bygones be bygones. I'll see you Thursday evening."
I stepped briskly into the hall. That is, I thought it was the hall, but it wasn't;
it was a linen closet. I put my foot on a pile of sheets on the bottom shelf, slipped
so that my chin hit the third, and dumped the chassis on the second. Then we cascaded
to the floor together - pillow-cases, sheets, set, towels. When I found the right
door, I was glad to get out of that house!
Al sensed something unusual when I entered the shop.
"Have a nice dinner?" he asked, pulling a napkin from under my coat. Then he
noticed an 8-mike electrolytic had rammed through the speaker cone.
"How many times," he began, "have I told you not to pile -"
"I know, I know," I replied, "but this was an unusual trip. I was in a great
I knew a confession coming from me would sound better than a complaint from Mrs.
Larsen, so I told him everything that had happened.
"I'm ashamed of you," my partner declared. "Be careful in the customer's home!
To think that you, after all these years, would neglect to clear the top of a console
before moving it! And to put a soldering iron anywhere but back in your toolbag!"
I settled back for a long siege. "Tell me," he continued, "how long has it been
since you bothered to do all those little things that help keep a customer? The
minor duties, aside from merely filling the repair contract, that all set owners
see and appreciate. Do you clean the inside of the cabinet before you install the
chassis? Tie up slack power cords? Staple lead-in and ground wires? Tack down window
strips? Make sure control shafts don't scrape?"
"Sure," I said. "I also walk dogs, and do the week's wash!"
"I'm not kidding," Al replied. "Those things are the ones that hold customers;
if you neglect them, you lose good will. I'll bet more repeat calls have come as
a result of a little furniture polish on the front of a console than any good work
put behind it!"
"Nonsense!" I argued. "When a customer calls a repairman, he wants his set fixed
- quickly. Let 'em take care of their own furniture!"
"That's a good attitude to take with you," Al declared, "when you're going out
of business. Look here, fellow: I'm going to teach you a lesson. I'm going to deliver
the Zenith - you come with me and watch. In spite of the bum start you made with
Mrs. Larsen, I'll show you how to regain their goodwill - if there ever was any!"
He wasn't fooling. After he'd repaired the set, we drove to Larsen's house together.
When he stopped the truck he handed the speaker to me.
"I'll carry the chassis," he announced. "And always remember - the speaker and
chassis should be carried separately, even though it means making two trips to or
from the truck. C'mon!"
We rang the bell and I followed him upstairs, feeling sort of foolish. Al greeted
Mr. and Mrs. Larsen pleasantly.
"I have my junior partner with me," he explained, tilting his head backward as
he entered. Mrs. Larsen screamed as soon as she saw me.
"There he is again!" she shouted to her husband. "The boy blitz! Don't let him
in - lean against the door!"
"You'd better stay here on the landing," Larsen said, smiling. "For some reason,
my wife seems to be nervous. What say to a little drink while you're waiting ?"
That was more like it!
"Sure," I said, tickled to think Al would have to do all the work while I enjoyed
a highball. The door closed for a while and then opened about six inches. A glass
appeared; I took it, and the door closed again.
The first swallow surprised me. Root beer! I looked at the glass incredulously,
and noticed a drawing of Pinocchio on its side. Junior partner, eh? I swung my foot
angrily, and it caught on something. I looked down and saw I had torn the top edge
of the stair carpet from its moorings.
My feelings changed suddenly from anger to panic. This was no house to do further
damage in! Perhaps, I thought, I could tack the carpet back into place before Al
With this in mind, I poured the root beer into the umbrella stand and pulled
a few tacks from the floor. Muffled sounds of a successful installation were still
coming from the apartment while I worked feverishly on my hands and knees, hammering
with the bottom of the empty glass.
Just then the door opened behind me, and something struck me.
"Who's knocking?" I heard Larsen ask as I rolled downstairs. Before I started
down, I had grabbed the only thing handy - the top edge of the carpet. As I rolled,
it had wrapped around me, and I reached the bottom landing looking like a crepe
Al and Mrs. Larsen came out and peered into the cloud of dust that rose about
me at the foot of the stairs. When I stopped coughing, I replied:
"It's only me!" Perhaps it was my bad English, but ... "
"Good-bye," said Larsen, deliberately pushing the umbrella stand off the landing.
"Take this with you, old man - wherever you go, there's bound to be a storm."
It hit me squarely, but you can't hurt a man who is insulated by twelve turns
of stair carpet.
They attended Mrs. Larsen, who had been screaming hysterically, until a doctor
came; then they looked after me. They found I was so heavy I couldn't be rolled
back upstairs, and they couldn't extract me because I was in too tight. Finally
they had to cut the bottom of the carpet and carry me outside the house, where they
unwound me by kicking the roll along the sidewalk. They seemed to enjoy it.
Perhaps Al is right when he says I should be very careful with other people's
property. I wouldn't be surprised if we'd lost the Larsens as customers.
Posted December 16, 2021