A few months ago, this guy comes in for a screen replacement. He left the first Yelp! Tip of our business in April of this year. I tell him the price, and get this look – this terrible look like “WOW, OMG, RIPOFF!!” when we were about $5 less than anyone else in the area using an original part.
To pacify him, I offer him a knockoff screen for less money, but tell him the quality is not as good, for some lower price. I am clear about the quality being worse. The kid kept asking his dad for an original, and it made me feel like shit that I was giving him an inferior knockoff for his birthday, and that this discussion was taking place in front of the birthday boy. Yes, it was his kid’s birthday. Yes, getting his iPhone fixed was his present, and yes, he did barter the price down via a knockoff screen – which was explained to him as inferior – in front of his kid.
He gets it back and it has a slight imperfection on the side, and complains. Well, duh. I tell him after he complains repeatedly “sir, I’m not trying to make up some bullshit to get out of offering you good service – I clearly stated knockoff screens aren’t perfect, and you chose it.” (this is considerably different than his interpretation of what I said, if you read the Yelp! tip) He complains about my use of the word bullshit. Ah well. I didn’t exactly build a reputation around using G rated language. I eventually gave him $15 off so he’d STFU and get out of the store. He was having a discussion on the phone which, call me judgmental, alluded to the fact that ten or twenty bucks wasn’t going to make or break his rent. This reinforced to me that he was going out of his way to be a jackass about the entire experience, especially since his kid was standing right there – on his birthday – listening to his dad cheap out and get him some knockoff shit.
What bothered me here wasn’t that argument,or the complaint, or the discount. I don’t want that to be mistaken as the central point of this entry. I went back to memories of being a kid after this experience, and that’s where I want to take this.
My dad wasn’t always financially well off. My Dad was a good man, but had a string of bad luck with his personal health that kept him from making the same money my peers’ parents did. I still remember Chris Quadrino and Joe Zagami with North Face jackets and a new pair of Nike Shoxx every 2 months, openly making fun of the K-Mart clearance garments I wore to school. My dad didn’t have the money their parents did. He couldn’t afford to get me the best stuff – the comic book I wanted for my birthday in shrink wrap from the store. The Hess Truck in original packaging from the Hess gas station. However, if he were going to get me a birthday or Christmas present that were used or a knockoff in any way, he wouldn’t let someone explain out loud in front of me how his present was a piece of shit, then give it to me and say “There, Happy Birthday son. Enjoy your inferior knockoff.” How tactless is that? Is there any more effective way to ruin the magic of a birthday present?
My Dad would go through some trouble to make it special even if he couldn’t afford to do so. If the gift were used, he’d polish it off with some alcohol and a paper towel. He’d find some shrinkwrap from something else he had opened months before so that it could be passed off as a new Hess Truck, and find box to put it in so I’d have the same experience waking up Christmas morning as the other kids, whose parents could afford to drop hundreds on these gifts. He went through effort to make the best of a bad situation – to make the holidays extra special even if he couldn’t afford it.
Don’t get me wrong. Kids have to learn the value of a dollar. Kids have to learn that they can’t get everything they want – they have to learn that it is not their right to have the money they want spent on them, all the time. It’s not your job as a parent to keep up with the Jones’, and if you explain to kids the value of money, I think they’ll understand. They may not LIKE that they have a black & white 1989 Game Boy while everyone else has a PlayStation 2, but they’ll UNDERSTAND it. One of the reasons I have such an appreciation for my work – why I treat it with such respect, as my livelihood, is because I grew up in an environment where financial security didn’t exist. I don’t take having the ability to pay my rent every month for granted, and I don’t take my business for granted – not for one second.
That doesn’t, in my mind, make it any less asinine that this dude did what he did to his son. On the one day of the year your kid is supposed to feel special, his Dad was arguing to get a lower price after agreeing to have a shit part put in the birthday kid’s phone. Even if you are going to do this, IMO, it’s wrong on several levels to do this in audible range of your son. If we don’t go all out to make our kids feel appreciated and special on their birthday – than when do we?
Meeting that guy really gave me a deeper appreciation for the effort my Dad made to be a good parent, to make me feel special come those holidays even when he didn’t have the means to do so. My Dad went above and beyond to try and make sure I turned out ok. Where other parents beat their kids, punish, or ignore them – he taught me the real world consequences for my bad behavior.
The idea regular parents have behind punishing their children is that the child will associate punishment with bad behavior. When the kid turns 22, his dad won’t be there to punish him anymore – so he’ll do X as much as he pleases. Because of how my dad raised me, I had real world examples to draw from on what would happen to me if I acted immaturely, and as a result, I grew up better than I would have otherwise.
He also knew when to take the time out to make me feel special. We lie to our kids sometimes just so they can be happy, and I think that’s ok. When telling them about Santa, we lie. When you tell your kid that the aberration of random scribbly lines they drew for us looks great and hang it on the fridge, we lie. And if we’re upper middle class and looking to save ten or fifteen bucks repairing a $600 device for a once a year holiday – fuck, call me crazy, I think you should hide that from your kid. Or, dare I say it, spend that so your kid can feel special – the kind of special you don’t feel when your dad’s bartering and accepting a knockoff for your birthday. It’s just part of being a parent.
I know I don’t say it enough, but Dad, I love you. Thanks for not being a piece of shit.