An Associated Apology

So, I got a call from Team Associated today.

Before we get to that, a bit of back story is required: Around two years ago, a customer brought in a Monster GT 8.0 nitro truck for us to repair. At that time, we were still working on nitro engines, and he couldn't get the engine to start. So we took it in and started working on it.

Long story short, we couldn't get it started either, even after 4-5 hours of work, which included taking the truck's engine apart and cleaning it (twice), cleaning the carb (twice) and checking the fuel tank for air leaks. The engine wouldn't draw fuel, but we couldn't figure out why.

So we did something that we almost never do: we boxed up the entire truck and shipped it back to Associated, detailing the repair process up to that point and expressing our befuddlement.

A whole month passed, and we didn't hear anything. Finally, I got a call, maybe a month and a half from when we shipped it out. And this call didn't go well.

Without going into detail, the tech claimed there was dirt in an engine we cleaned twice, and that was the cause of our misfortune. Which didn't make any sense, both from the standpoint that we cleaned it, and also since that wouldn't cause the symptom.

I told him this, and he replied that it didn't matter: Team Associated could not do anything for us. I wasn't going to let it sit at that, and we proceeded to lightly argue about it. For over an hour.

By the time I got off the phone, I wasn't very happy. Suffice to say, it did not end with him changing his mind on the issue. One regret I have is that I did not get his name – I was too caught up in the argument to have the presence of mind for that.

The final part of this story is that, about a month later, we got a brand new truck from Associated. Great news for our customer, but at that point, the damage had been done: I was so thoroughly annoyed with the company that I vowed to never again put an Associated vehicle on the shelf again.

For two years, I've held that grudge, and told that story to countless people who shop at our store – not to purposely vilify Team Associated, but just something that has come up in conversation. But something that happened earlier today might just change how that story goes.

I happened to be talking to my dealer rep at a distributor today, and we were discussing some of the new vehicles that were coming out. Somehow, the conversation turned toward the aforementioned experience I had with Team Associated. My rep took it in stride, asking a few questions here and there, and we moved on to other things.

Proving that the hobby industry has all the privacy of a locker room, it just so happens that my dealer rep is best friends with a sales manager that works at Associated, and e-mailed her a brief breakdown of the conversation.

Which brings me back to the beginning: I got a call from Team Associated today.

This sales manager (who shall remain nameless in the interest of privacy) proceeded to ask me about the bad event. We chatted about it for a while, and she reacted honestly and sincerely. And most importantly, she apologized.

Look, I know that she has business interests for doing so. I'm not a complete idiot. But, in the six years I've been working here, I haven't once had a rep call me to apologize for something. Ever. It struck me as a hell of a sincere move. She didn't have any idea whether or not I was going to be decent about it, or if I was going to be an ass. It was a completely cold call going in, and the fact that she took action pretty much immediately (within two hours of my talk with the distributor) speaks volumes.

And, being appreciative of her honestly and candor (she admitted that, when she started at Associated, their customer service was very sub-par), I was honest with her as well. Truth is, her call meant a lot to me personally, but it won't really do much to get Associated cars on my shelves – the market still determines what I carry, and Traxxas is the name of the game right now.

But that call did remove any sense of anger or resentment I've held against the organization. And that vow against ever having their cars grace my shelving? Well, I'm going to have to eat crow on that one.

And with the end of that rather pleasant phone call, I realized I made a mistake – and it's a mistake that many people make on a daily basis. I characterized an entire organization – a company that employs over three dozen people – by the interaction I had with one customer service technician that had a bad day. I'm not exonerating that guy – he still screwed up royally. But my mistake was painting a bad picture of the entire company because of one bad experience.

I'm sure that there are those that have had bad experiences in our store, and never come back again. And they probably say bad things about us to their friends or family or what have you. And that makes me sad – but that's the funny thing about karma. You get what you give.

And so I felt that I owed it to Team Associated to write this. Because while one of their employees made a singular mistake two years ago, I've been continually making a mistake since then, and it has done a disservice to them.

So, Team Associated, please consider this my sincere apology.

And to my readers, please remember that one bad experience shouldn't define your relationship with a company or an individual. Life is a series of singular events, but is the sum of those events that we should be defined by, not the idiosyncrasies of individual occurrences.