Editor’s note: Ed Hanson, who has been bending exhaust tubing since the early days of the Huth Bender, has a habit of making a great first impression when he meets a new customer. The story he tells goes back several decades, but I was at his shop visiting a few years back when he used the same technique on a potentially new customer. It’s been paying off for years and I highly recommend that you try it, and of course, add your own personal touch to it.

The year was 1985 and I had just opened my very own shop. I admit it was a struggle at the beginning, but I did keep myself busy trying to drum up business.

The first shop was an old gas station building, not quite large enough or tall enough for a lift, but it was a beginning. The neighborhood was an older community with lots of retired couples surrounding my shop. All my exhaust work was done on the ground, an asphalt parking lot, but in the beginning there were the odd welding jobs that I took in. Elderly ladies would bring in an ironing board that needed a leg welded. No charge I would tell them. I knew they were struggling on a fixed income. Beside the occasional ironing board, there were bed frames and favorite chairs. I became known for being able to weld just about anything that was precious to them. Those older folks (which I have become) had a special place in my heart and I would almost never charge them for my services.

There was this old guy named Jake, who would repair the neighborhood kids’ bicycles. Jake would bring in the broken frames for me to weld. One day Jake came into the shop with a bike frame tucked under his arm and said, “I want to fill out one of those invoices this time, and I won’t take no for an answer, Ed.” So, I filled out an invoice and told him I would call when I was done. Jake was determined to pay me something for my services, and I was determined to help this old guy out, without offending him. This was the beginning of a tradition at my shop, which brought joy to my heart and sometimes a little confusion to my customers.

Jake got his call and arrived. I handed him a “no-charge” invoice with a dollar bill stapled to it. Boy was he confused. Jake asked me what this was all about, and I answered: “Jake, this will be the only shop that you leave with a dollar more than you came in with!” He tried to give me the dollar back, but I told him to do someone else a favor and present the dollar to them, that dollar will come back to me later. Jake left after we both had a laugh.

This tradition carried on. We had many military wives and husbands whose spouses were overseas and they needed their vehicle repaired so they could take the kids to school, church, the doctor and grocery shopping. The look on their faces when they received that “no charge” invoice and the dollar stapled to it, made our day. My employees had big hearts too and would donate their time to help, if I would donate the parts.

I can’t tell you how many of those dollar bills I stapled to “no charge” invoices, but every one of those dollars has returned 100 fold! I have had many customers return to my shop and start off their conversation with, “I remember the time when you did not charge me, and stapled a dollar to my invoice. I will never forget that, and I will never take my business to any other shop, because of that act of kindness.”

A single dollar, an act of kindness, will plant seeds that will help grow your business.

“Do you have a dollar, kind sir?”