ONETIME- Run, baby: The stove really wasn't gonna blow

Thomas Huggins, Davis Appliance

One time, one of our technicians was going over to fix a washing machine for a Mexican woman who didn't speak English. I called her ahead of time, my intention being to let her know that we had someone on their way over to fix her washer. 

But the actual word that I needed to use, "reparar," sounded so much like the English word "rape" that I couldn't bring myself to say it to her. And I kind of slurred it so that it came out like "rapar" which means "to forcibly steal." So I basically told her, "We're sending someone over to forcibly steal your washing machine." 

"Que?!?" she said, panicked. 

So I backtracked and explained that we were sending someone to repair it. 

Mistakes can be made because when I'm asking a customer a question I have to make assumptions about how they understand it. With some people, it's clear that we're talking about the same thing in the same way, but not so with other people. 

A lot of people will call in and say that they need a knob because that's the thing they see when they turn something and it doesn't work. But the knob is only the handle that you hold onto. The switch is the mechanical component— just because something's not starting doesn't mean that the start switch is where the fault is. 

When they call in with a set of descriptions of problems, we usually know based on experience what the problem will be with a certain brand, make, and model. The more complex a machine is, the less we can guess at because there are too many variables. 

One problem that we run into is that people call in, and they don't really have any experience in observing what their machine is not doing. They'll often start out by telling me what the machine needs. What we really need to hear is: what is the machine doing that it's not supposed to do, or what it's not doing that it is supposed to do. Because we can usually figure out what to do based on that.

 One time, we had a little misunderstanding. One of our former technicians was working on an elderly woman's gas stove and he was short of time and needed a part that was out on his truck. So instead of just walking out to the truck, he raced out to it to get the part. And he turned around and the old woman was standing there out of breath. 

He asked her why she was there, and she said, "When I see someone running from a gas stove, then I'm gonna run too!" She thought it was going to explode!