My beautiful Ford CMax plug-in hybrid car got towed by the ugly Lew Blum.
Oh, of course, it was my fault in the end. I am not writing in public to duck that responsibility. Rather, my purpose is to examine how the Lew Blum business experience is the exact opposite of what a human business owner should strive to create for their stakeholders, and thus to provide some thought-fuel for those readers who own, or wish to own, a business.
What happened is, one day after work and a doctor's visit I went to pay a shiva call to the family of a patient who had died. In Judaism, this is the custom of visiting the bereaved family at home during the week-long immediate mourning period that is observed when someone dies.
I was upset, having known both the deceased as well as her family and certain friends. There was not a single parking space to be had in all of South Philly, so it seemed. I saw a parking lot for two businesses on Washington Avenue. The businesses were closed and the parking lot was more than half full. The "UNAUTHORIZED PARKING PROHIBITED! VEHICLES WILL BE TOWED BY LEW BLUM TOWING CO." sign was very small, and maybe in my great upsetness I felt authorized, or gained boldness by the others parked there, or something, I don't know. I was sad. Anyway, I parked, and when I came back, my beautiful CMax was parked no more.
Shortening the trajectory of my tale, I walked back to Walnut Street, hailed a cab piloted by a magnificently empathetic driver, and ended up dropped off on a dingy, desolate side street that is oddly just off the vibrant, energetic Parkside Avenue that is often a part of my daily commute.
And now, it was time for the Lew Blum Experience.
Every visual and physical cue of the facility is fine-tuned, precisely engineered, to intimidate and to dehumanize the victim and the business experience itself. Oh, I understand the need to protect the Lew Blum employees from violence--every single one of their customers is, by definition, wildly furious at them. The implacable workings of the law of averages dictates that from time to time, Lew Blum employees would be harmed if left unprotected.
Still--did it have to be this cold, harsh and metallic-sterile?
Even the fittings are terrifying in their soulless defective-machine melancholy. I expected a Cylon to crash through the payment window and follow through on its programming to eliminate all sentient biologic life--starting with me.
Ah, but what lurks behind that dust-pitted, exhaust-dulled bullet-proof glass that can no longer rightly answer to the name 'window' is no doubt something far less terrifying and infinitely more banal than a Cylon mechanized warrior. Staring at the dull grey opacity, only able to make out the vague outlines of what might possibly be a chair, one imagines the Lew Blum employee's workroom being fitted out with grimy 1970s-era Playboy calendars, cigarette butts strewn across the floor, and a pot of what once was coffee but what is now some evil black semi-liquid so burned, so altered, so slagged that the only legal way to dispose of it would be to call the EPA and request the assistance of government agents in full environmental suits.
But then again, the Lew Blum workers probably drink it.
For nothing less can account for their stunning orneriness. I asked, "And how do I know you didn't scratch my car before I pay for it?" and received gruff-grunts in reply. My keys were demanded, as was two hundred dollars, four percent more if one paid by credit card. Which I did. Through this:
I was then made to wait. For quite a long time. Eventually, the anonymous shadow behind that exhaust-dulled glass (was it a Cylon after all?) barked that I should go outside and wait for the garage door to open.
My phone battery died at this point so I could not obtain the final picture. What presumably happened was that my car was started by the Cylon, driven off whatever battered contrivance had towed it there, and steered through an inner garage door into a starkly empty room, a sort of barren shuttle bay, whose outer door remained closed. With me standing on the street outside. I heard the rumble of that inner door and then, after a few minutes of further street-standing, voila! The outer door ground upwards.
There was my CMax, forlorn after her misadventures but delighted to see me again, if I may wax anthropomorphic for a moment. And she was the only thing that was in that void; that oft-swept, barren, sandblasted garage. I doubt that any bacteria even had the temerity to live in there.
Sure I was being observed on video, I made a lengthy, twice-round inspection of my car and actually didn't detect any scratches. Say what you want about inhuman Cylons, but they are precise. Off I drove, two hundred dollars and several hours of my life poorer.
Now let us examine how the Lew Blum Experience stands in opposition to all that a bespoke business owner strives to do. Some time ago, I wrote this post:
I know, it's idealistic. But so am I, I suppose; a somewhat cranky idealist in a world gone over to limitless cynicism and snark. Here, then, are each of my points. Please take a moment to reflect upon what Lew Blum does instead.
The purpose of a business is to be remarkable.
The purpose of a business is to make profits. For its owners or shareholders.
(Well, we concede they do this one all too well.)
The purpose of a business is to solve problems for its customers/clients/patients.
The purpose of a business is to delight its customers/clients/patients with its products and services.
The purpose of a business is to provide a place where its employees can exercise their creativity and reach their potential.
The purpose of a business is to free its employees (and owners) from the crushing weight of having to compromise their ideals.
The purpose of a business is stewardship of the community in which it resides.
The purpose of a business is to be aware of its externalities and not let them cause harm to others or the environment.
The purpose of a business is to continually raise its own bar.
The purpose of a business is not just the second one listed here.