This morning, as I contemplate buying a new dehumidifier for my basement, I envision stopping at Lowe's to buy it.  Why Lowe's?  It's the same reason that I eat at certain restaurants, shop at specific stores, fill my car with fuel at certain stations, and have it fixed at the dealership - even though rumor has it that the dealership is more expensive.

At Lowe's, my friends Matt and Adam are managers there, at the same store in Hilliard, OH.  Why would I shop there?  I want their store to do well, I want them to get the quarterly bonuses instead of others and promotions to new positions for a job well done.  Plus, it never hurts to know the manager if you have a problem.

Why do I eat at Black Creek Bistro, the Food Corner, Minelli's, Grinders, Chipotle, and Rooster's?  Most are locally owned, one sponsors our church basketball and softball leagues, they're in or near my neighborhood, one employs a member of our church in an executive position (and we all need jobs), and it's important to me that these companies remain in business and do well.  If they do well, I do well.

I buy toys for kids at Larson's Toys on Lane Ave. because it's easy to get in and out, they're experts on what my nephews and niece will like, and they're family-owned and have been for years.  Great, expert service.  Yes that's important, even with toys.

I buy gasoline from United Dairy Farmers (and ice cream, too).  The Lindner family from Cincinnati have supported my  alma mater Judson University with millions of dollars over the past 25 years.  Why wouldn't I buy what they sell from them? Plus, they have the best Cookies & Cream ice cream on the planet.

And the dealership.  Toyota West in Columbus, OH saved me $2500 when they didn't even know that they knew me.  Several years ago, I bought a vehicle from a Florida auto auction, sight unseen.  A friend of mine who's an auto broker picked it, and it was beautiful.  There was just one problem.  It was delivered without the master key.  To make the story short, you need a master key to make additional keys.

After 3-4 phone calls to different dealers and plenty of disinformation, I called the service department at Toyota West (the dealership closest to my home and the one I assumed knew the least about my vehicle).  The service manager looked up the parts in his book, confirmed that the price would be $2500 or so to replace the main computer (plus the cost of the keys themselves - about $375 each, plus programming labor) and to issue a master key due to the type of chipset.

The service manager could have stopped there, but he chose to tell me that, even though he could make no promises, Toyota used to offer courtesy replacements of the computer for just such occasions (lost keys) only if I bought two new keys and paid the labor (which I had to do anyway). He had me over the proverbial barrel, but he chose to do what he'd want someone else to do for him.  All of the other dealerships were ready to collect the repair fee and move on.

I called the toll-free number for Toyota parts, and was connected to a human who promptly shipped the new $2500 computer at no charge, along with two new keys. I paid $875 for what might have been a $3375 repair.

Seven years and 85,000 miles later, I still drive that Toyota (and it's still beautiful), and I have all of the service work done at the dealership because I was treated honestly right up front - and because Toyota West keeps treating me right, and keeps the vehicle like new mechanically.  And as it turns out Scott, the service manager, is the sister of a girl with whom I attended high school, and the dealership employs a couple other old friends, too.

It never hurts to know the service manager, and when I buy my next Toyota, it'll be from Toyota West.

Think about those businesses that are important to you.  Why would you buy what those businesses sell anywhere else?


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