Thursday, November 04, 2004

Sunbelt, part 3, or TC vs Gehl

We got started early Thursday morning. I ambled around and talked to lot of people, including one of the regional sales guys for Ferguson that I happen to know. This was the first news I've heard about Agco buying Valtra (wonder if they're going to shut them down and move operations to France like they've done with everybody else?) and he told me to come on out to the field and drive one. I agreed to collect TC and come out there whilst he was there (he and TC had went to school together back in the day).

I located TC and we rode the shuttle out to the field and spent some time driving around a couple of different machines out there (tooooooo many electronic gizmos on these new ones. Don't get me wrong, they are nice, but I am so accustomed to crap I have to work on all the time I worry about maintenance on this new stuff).

Gehl was set up right across the road from Agco. After we finished test driving the Valtras, TC made a beeline for that tent. We looked around for a minute and a fellow with Gehl came up to us and started talking to us.

Now, TC is having a bit of a parts problem right now. He ordered parts for his round baler about three months ago and has had a time getting 'em. Now, all it is, is a little plastic gear that costs eight dollars, but for some reason his dealer can't seem to get this particular part. Probably because he wants to sell TC an entire assembly for $475 instead of a gear for $8. The dealer has never bothered to call TC one way or another to let him know what his order status is either. TC is not happy with Gehl or this particular dealer right now.

I'm not sure exactly what the fellow said to TC (probably, asked TC how he liked his baler upon finding out that we both owned Gehl balers) and TC just sort of came off the hip with "I like the baler fine, but I don't like like your parts warehouse worth a sh%t." Those were his exact words to man who was some sort of muckety-muck with Gehl. Then TC said the dreaded words that make most everybody else in the implement bidness cringe.

"I had to borry a baler to finish my hay this year and I'm a-fixin' to trade my baler in on a new John Deere."

About this time an older gentleman (also with Gehl, probably the first guys boss) who had been listening, came up and touched TC on the shoulder and said "That's how you get their attention."

The Gehl reprsenative asked "who is your dealer?" TC told him and he reached in his pocket, pulled a cellphone and called the dealer and told him "I'm at the expo right now and I have one of your customers in front of me and he is not very happy right now. What seems to be the problem?"

Naturally the dealer blamed the parts warehouse (and of course the parts warehouse blamed the dealer).

The rep proceeded to ream the dealer out good, (I could tell he was pissed) then, for good measure, he called the parts warehouse and raised hell with them for a good thirty minutes. I'm sure no one, no matter what business they are in, likes to be confronted at a trade show about screwups they have no control over.

Unfortunately, so far, this doesn't seem to have helped. This has been over two weeks ago, still no part. I think he will end up getting his parts, but unless it happens soon, when the time comes he won't buy another Gehl baler, despite the efforts of the company rep.

Now, why on earth would this guy take the time to help out somebody over an $8 part? Because word of mouth can kill you with this stuff. Unless the buyer is a commercial operator who trades machines every other year, a buyer who makes a 10k-20k investment on a baler plans on keeping it and using it for many years to come. And if this buyer hears any hint that there may be problems getting spare parts, he will more than likely opt to do what TC threatened to do and buy Green, because he knows that he can parts and service from Deere, come hell or high water.