JIM LUFF REPORTS: It was Friday afternoon and the day could not have been any busier both in my business life and my personal life. As the president of a children's charity, I was preparing to throw our biggest fundraiser the next day: A party for 6,000 people. I was feeling overwhelmed already when I was informed that we had a major emergency involving one of our cars in Paso Robles.
My heart was pounding as I went to take the phone call from my chauffeur. He told me that the hood on the limousine had just come completely up and over the car. The front windshield was shattered and had covered the chauffeur in glass. The hood was destroyed and he needed help in continuing the wine tour for his passengers.
These types of incidents are troublesome. You have to get your passengers to their final destination. You have to get your vehicle and your chauffeur home. There is compensation needed for the passengers in most cases. There is an expensive tow bill to get your limousine home from out of town. There are the repairs to the vehicle and the downtime with no revenue on the car while it is being repaired. All of these thoughts can easily leave you with a sour stomach.
Our company policy and training teaches our chauffeurs not to panic in an emergency but maintain their professionalism and formulate a game plan based on the situation and request the resources needed in the order you need them. Sometimes the vehicle requires an immediate tow due to the breakdown location and sometimes the passengers can be taken care of first if the vehicle is in a safe place.
The chauffeur indicated that he could and would proceed to a nearby winery at a slow speed so the passengers could sample wine, use restroom facilities, and have access to food and water during their wait. I coaxed myself into remaining calm and thinking about my options.
I called Ken Martin of Stardust Cruises Limousines in Santa Maria. They are located one hour south of Paso Robles. Ken and his wife Susie are active GCLA members, never miss a limousine show, and are past recipients of LCT's Operator of the Year Award. I had met them many times and given them several jobs over the years after learning just how exceptional they are.
True to their exceptional reputation, they were with my passengers just over an hour later and the wine tour continued with just a minor inconvenience to the passengers who were forced to sample a little more wine than they probably intended. Ken wanted to know where our car was. He had no interest in talking to me about money or payment. He only wanted the details to complete the job. Not that I was in any kind of position to be bargaining with Ken anyway. I really didn't have to ask as I know Ken and Susie to be extremely fair and reasonable.
Susie called back a few minutes after my initial call for help to tell me that they were on their way to rescue our clients and what the approximate drive time would be. Exceptional communications as always.
Here is the best part: I called Ken and Susie to square up my bill yesterday. I just about fell out of my chair when he gave me the price. It was pretty much what it cost him in cash expenses to rescue me. Not the retail rate. Not a discounted rate. I'm talking cost!
When you are down behind the eight ball and somebody does this for you, words cannot express my appreciation and gratitude. In some strange way, I felt something had come full circle for me. Recently, a San Diego company had called me regarding an overheated limousine with passengers an hour out of town from us. The very same chauffeur who had the hood incident left our shop to rescue the San Diego limousine. It took about two hours total time and we got their passengers to their destination. I charged the company $50. When they asked why it was so cheap, I told them if it ever happened to me, I would hope someone would cut me a break. I could only wish that all operators would help each other financially in a crisis like we did. Thank you Ken and Susie, and I will certainly pay it forward again.
Don't let your guests down. Here are some things to think about before the event starts.
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