What happened after my van was broken into (or how you can harness a customer’s negative experiences for good!)

My van was broken into the other night.

Someone removed the front front side window, from the outside, without breaking the pane. They took a dashcam and walkie-talkie but kindly left the window pane in the gutter unbroken!

The [passenger side] window in question - right above the door handle!
The [passenger side] window in question – right above the door handle!
I’m ok, all is well but I had a problem:

  • I had a van with no front, forward, drivers side window
  • I had a pane of glass, and empty hole in the seals where it should be

What were my options here?

1) Fix it myself – if it just ‘came out’, it must ‘just go back in’ – how hard can it be?

Result: Had a go. Turns out, quite hard.

2) I drove to my favourite garage to get them to fix it.

Result: They were busy until Friday and I got the sense they didn’t really want to look at it.

3) I drove to my second choice garage.

Context: This is the garage that my parents always used to use, but recently the long-time owners retired and some new mechanics took over. I had no experience of them at all.

Result: When I arrived, the lead mechanic was busy doing an MOT, but told me that when his colleague got in in 15 mins time, he’d put him straight on it. I was happy to wait!

20 minutes later, with creative use of string, dishwasher fluid and elbow grease, my window was back in the frame where it should be. And I was standing there in awe, very glad to have outsourced that to the experts – and convinced it’d have taken me several hours of blood, sweat and tears to give up – without the same techniques.

I went to pay – happy to be in one piece again and be able to move on with my life.

But they wouldn’t take any money off me. The lead mechanic said “you’ve had a shit night – it’s nothing – I won’t take any money off you”.

I was floored. I was insanely grateful. Almost uncomfortably grateful. For the next half hour I kept wondering – how do you repay something like that?

Analysis: If we look at what he did through a business lens: They’re in a situation where perhaps they are re-establishing and want more business. The customer (me!) has had a poor experience – and at no fault of garage. The garage does something expected – and offers timely fixing – then does something unexpected – and does it for free. The customer is very happy.

But perhaps they also know that the customer will talk about that poor experience (everyone talks about getting broken into) and that for a relatively small cost (perhaps time that wouldn’t have been used anyway) they could position themselves, in that customer’s story – as the one’s who came to the rescue when things went wrong.

No-one tells their friends about an MOT they just had, but a story of how “someone stole all these things, but then the garage were so lovely afterwards” – that’s a story people do tell!

And from a human angle, it’s win-win too. Everyone loves the feeling of doing something that someone is profoundly grateful for – so it feels good too.


The garage in question was Fairways Motors on Arundel street in Glossop.

If you visit them, feel free to mention this story. I don’t imagine they’ll do the same thing everytime, but for what they did yesterday morning, I’m truly grateful.

Will they become my first preference garage? Well, at least now I’ll consider them. ;-)


I wonder where else you’ve seen this used? Do you ever have sad customers coming your way you can help? I’d love to hear more examples of this kind of thing – tell me your stories in the comments!

2 thoughts on “What happened after my van was broken into (or how you can harness a customer’s negative experiences for good!)

  1. Have you left them a review on google? That’s probably worth way more than 20 minutes of their time.

    FWIW, I’ll now be recommending this garage to my parents if they ever get in a pickle near Glossop, they live close so it might just happen.

    Glad you’re okay – I’m relieved you weren’t in the van when it happened!

  2. I had an issue with my engine cutting out in my Golf, i called VW and they didn’t sound confident, they suggested it would probably need a new battery (clearly wrong) and they would charge me X. I called a garage that i had used for my last MoT test and who was recommended by my car loving neighbour. They said they were very busy and couldn’t guess what it was, but when I suggested to them that i would have to call VW again they said “oh no, call Audi VW Specialist Leatherhead and they will sort you out.” The next day i dropped my car in, the day after it was ready and a difficult to find relay was changed. Respect to them for finding it and respect to my new garage for recommending a competitor. So, Joe’s Repair Shop in Epsom gets my repeat business out of respect and i know where to turn to if it gets specialist!

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