June 27, 2022

The Haggler: A Customer Who’s Always Satisfied

WHO is Lucas Fayne?

A very happy customer of Kent Elliott Roofing in Burleson, Tex. — that is certainly one answer.

“We were very satisfied with the service and efficiency of your company,” Mr. Fayne wrote on Kent Elliott Roofing’s Web site, in the testimonial section. “Getting the quote was quick and easy, and your staff started on time each day and worked hard. We are very confident with the job you did and have been recommending you to all of our neighbors.”

But let’s not diminish Lucas Fayne by describing him as merely a man who is delighted with his new roof and is living, according to the site, in Irving, Tex.. Because he is much more than that. Mr. Fayne is also a gentleman flat-out tickled by the work done by Pro West Remodeling, a construction company in Stow, Ohio.

“We were very satisfied with the service and efficiency of your company,” Mr. Fayne wrote on the testimonials section of Pro West’s site. “Getting the quote was quick and easy, and your staff started on time each day and worked hard. We are very confident with the job you did and have been recommending you to all our neighbors.”

That compliment was paid when Mr. Fayne lived in Akron, Ohio. At some point — it is not clear when — Mr. Fayne lived in Belmont, N.H., and invested in yet another home improvement project, this time with a company called American Exteriors in Manchester, N.H.

“We were very satisfied with the service and efficiency of your company,” he wrote.


If you are like the Haggler, at this point you have questions. Like, why does Mr. Fayne move around so much? And why can’t he find novel language to rhapsodize about all these companies?

Before answering, let us take a moment to appreciate just how nomadic Mr. Faye is, and just how eager he is to share the good news about the contractors who have worked on his 50 homes.

That’s right — 50 homes. Just Google “Lucas Fayne” and you will find that the first five pages of results are nothing but huzzahs for the gifted men and women who have enhanced his houses in states across this nation. There is Mr. Fayne in Chesterfield, Mo., lavishing praise on Haddim Construction. There he is in Bethany, Okla., spreading the word about Metro Tech Maintenance and Home Improvement in Oklahoma City. And that’s him in Minneapolis, rejoicing about the fine efforts of Guarantee Exteriors of Denver.

By the time the Haggler was done browsing through all these testimonials — most of them word-for-word copies — he had begun to entertain some doubts about Lucas Fayne. And then the Haggler noticed that these sites had more in common than just one elated customer. All were created with software by Intuit, which offers services for building Web sites.

Time to call Intuit, the Haggler thought. A spokeswoman, Elisabeth Gettelman, said Lucas Fayne was indeed an invention of a software writer, one who worked at Homestead Technologies, which Intuit acquired in 2007. “Lucas Fayne” is part of a Web site template for small-business owners, one that has been bought by thousands of companies over the years. Obviously, companies are supposed to swap out the fake name and fake blurb with a real customer and a real blurb.

But many, as we have seen, do not.

So, what is with all the Lucas feigning?

The Haggler called around and discovered that many Fayne-endorsed companies prefer not to discuss the nation’s most omnipresent, fictional customer. Others, like William McVicker of Pro West Modeling, gave an answer that might be more appropriate for a phone solicitation:

“I’m really not interested but thanks anyway,” he said before hanging up.

Somebody who identified himself as Bona — just Bona — at AB Stone Innovation in Madison, Ala., said, “I do believe we have a customer named Lucas.”

Bona then checked with the people who run AB Stone’s Web site and called back to say that he was embarrassed to have a made-up person fawning over his company.

“It bothers me,” he said. “We’re going to change it.”

Well, that’s nice. The Haggler, meanwhile, has been trying to figure out if there is any deeper meaning to the ubiquity of Lucas Fayne. And a thought occurred while looking at the Web site of Diamond Roofing, which is based in Manhattan in New York and has been commended by you know who.

(Actually, “Michel Belair” was recently swapped for “Lucas Fayne” on the site, though oddly enough the full “We were very satisfied” quote stayed intact.)

As the Haggler talked to John Luciano, owner of Diamond Roofing, he noticed that the company’s email address is weshowup@hotmail.com. It turns out that “we show up” has been a company motto of sorts, Mr. Luciano explained when asked about the phrase. 

The Haggler read that and thought: Oh, come on. Is customer service in this country so benighted that it’s enough to simply boast that you will “show up?” Not “show up on time,” “show up with the right tools” or “show up, do the work and charge you the amount we agreed on before we got there”?

This motto vowed only that someone from the company would be physically present, at some point.

“And you know what,” Mr. Luciano told the Haggler, “there is another company using that same slogan in Brooklyn,” adding that he was trying to stop that business from doing so.

Mr. Luciano would not elaborate in a terse follow-up phone call on Friday. To be fair, the Web site seems also to have long pushed a far more ambitious phrase, “We get the job done!” But  can you imagine, dear reader, companies  fighting over a motto that promised the bare minimum of customer service?

Only one man could hear about this tussle and find it anything but sad.

You already know his name. 

E-mail: haggler@nytimes.com. Keep it brief and family-friendly, and go easy on the caps-lock key. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=66e5b0b7417988f1efe0543e936c4c42

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