Dr. Gleem Carwash Card

This happening began October16, 2004, 'though I did not know it until January 22, 2005.

On October 16, I presented my Dr. Gleem Car Wash card to the cashier. Four of the five circled numbers across the bottom had been punched out. That meant today my car wash was free. I planned to purchase another card. A large 9"x12" sign beside the cash register told of a better bargain. If you pay $175.84 for 16 car washes, you get 9 free! I had been buying "pay for 4; get one free." That would be16 washes and 4 free. "This is a good buy," I told the cashier. "I'll take it." She said, "Yes! You'll save a lot of money."

When she handed me the new attractive plastic card, I glanced on both sides, and said, "This doesn't have numbers to punch out. How will I know when I've used it up?"

"It's in the computer. We'll tell you how many are left every time you come in." I should have known. We live in a computerized world.

January 22nd: Finally! A week in Palacios at a church retreat; two weeks vacationing in Florida; the busyness of the holidays--shopping, gift wrapping, mailing 500 Christmas Cards; answering 200 letters received; getting out the 400 January mailings--NOW, I can use my new card at Dr. Gleem's. The attendants began vacuuming my Cadillac. As I walked into the building and to the cashier's booth, card in hand, I began reading the backside. "This card expires one year after date of purchase." I was shocked into unbelief! I confronted the cashier:

"I don't want this 25-car-wash deal for ONE year. This was NOT explained to me, and I did not read it until just this moment. I wouldn't even get my car washed 25 times in TWO years.

"There's nothing we can do about that. It's final. We can't change it."

"You're saying I must get 24 car washes in 8-1/2 months? That's three times a month!"

"Yes, that's right. We cannot make a refund once the card is purchased."

"I don't want a refund. I want to use this just when I need my car cleaned. I don't want an expiration date on it. I would NOT have bought this regardless of the price." She was so adamant, I asked, "Are you the owner?" To her negative reply, I asked to speak to the owner. He would not return until Monday morning, January 24th.

I was there at 11:00 a.m. I turned off Ella Blvd. into the left service lane. An attendant walked over to my car as I rolled down the window. "Where may I park? I just had my car washed Saturday. I want to speak to the owner." He took a speaker out of his pocket and said, "A customer wants to see to you." To me, he said, "Just wait right here. He'll be right over."

"I don't want to block a lane for customers. I want to go to his office. Where is it?"

He told me to park in a space under a long shed where they work on cars. Afterwards, I walked across the two traffic lanes and over to the side of the vine covered building. The atten- dant called for the owner again, and looked toward the back building where they change oil and do inspections. I asked, "Is his office over there? I will walk to it. I don't want to talk to him out here in the driveway." There were the noises of traffic from autos, trucks, and motorcycles, the revving motors, horns, screeching brakes. A tall, slender African-American gentleman approached. I asked, "Are you the owner?"

"I'm the Service Manager," he answered with a wide friendly smile. I shook his hand, said my name, gave him my calling card, and began my speech:

"My family has been using this car wash ever since we moved into the neighborhood in 1967. At that time, we just drove our cars through the washing cycles." He laughed, remember- ing those days. "This is where we had our cars inspected and oil changes. Now, my children are married and living far away. My husband is gone. I live alone. I always have my car washed around noon because I really like your chef's homemade sandwiches and the strawberry/pine- apple smoothies served in your food court. On the window sill of the huge glass wall, are boxes of inspirational poems, stories, lists--the kind of things I like to read. They are on letterheads showing your company name and address. I pick them up and make copies to enclose with my monthly letters. I sent you copies of my "Happenings" that enclosed your handouts. Over 2,000 people read them every month." He smiled in acknowledgment, saying, "Praise the Lord." I continued, "That's the GOOD news." He laughed and said, "Oh! Oh! What's the bad news?"

"Last Saturday, I used this card for the first time since October 16. That's when I read the expiration date on the backside. I was not told of an expiration date, nor did your advertising signs mention this. I would not have bought the card because my car does not get dirty every two weeks. I average driving it twice a week: On Wednesday to take care of errands within 15 minutes of my house and on Sunday to go to church, just 5 minutes away. I don't drive at night. If it is raining, I don't go out unless I really have to. The other days, the car is in my garage. My car may need washing every six weeks; maybe two months."

He said, "It DOES give notice of expiration on the signs at the cashier's booth."

"Really? I never read that. I just didn't see it. For YEARS I have bought the cards, pay for four, get one free. They do not have an expiration date. It never occurred to me this card would impose such a restriction."

"Yes, they do…in the top corner in small print is an expiration date," he informed me.

"I NEVER saw that." I am real depressed to be complaining in vain. I asked, "Just what does this new card entitle me to? I don't even remember what I bought."

"I'll check it in the computer. You wait here."

I couldn't wait there: I HAD to see the posters inside. I followed him. There they were at the end of the counter and on each side of the two cash registers--choices of deals to save money. No where did it mention that the card expired one year from date of purchase. I pointed this out to him. Then I asked the cashier for a card like I had previously bought for 4 washes, 1 free. She opened a drawer and handed one to me. I showed the service manager--no where on these cards is an expiration date. "I want you to put in your computer that my card does not expire! It is ridiculous for me to get my car washed 24 times in 8 months!"

The manager, with my card in his hand, said, "This card has been used twice."

"No," I replied. "I've used it only once." The cashier verified I had used only one of the 25 offerings.

He said, "The only thing I can do is extend the card for another six months. Anyone can use your card. It doesn't have to be for just your car."

"I don't have anyone else to use it. I live alone. Adding six months really is adding 2-1/2 months since the card has not been used in 3-1/2 months. I made a BIG mistake. If I had read the card at time of purchase, I would have demanded my money back. I can understand your selling the cards to create cash flow. But this is not a deal for me."

I was now losing my composure; so I walked out of the room. I was halfway to my car when the service manager hurried up beside me, saying, "You look like you are mad. I don't want you to be mad. You're a good customer. I want to keep you as a customer. Work with me: give a car wash as a gift to a special friend, a brother-in-law, a good neighbor for appreciation. I'm giving you six more months. There's lots of possibilities here."

"My social security check isn't big enough for me to buy car washes to give away. I must be very economical with my limited income. That's why I bought your card--to save money. My car is in the garage most of the time. Just out in the neighborhood once or twice a week. "Within five minutes of my house in the area bounded by 43rd Street, North Shepherd, 610 frontage road and Ella Blvd. are my Exxon station, Hoepfl auto mechanic, Sears, post office, health food store, my church, dermatologist, optometrist, Home Depot, physicians, Memorial NW Hospital, Dr. Gleem, dentist, Walgreens, Hallmark Card Shop, Dollar store, Radio Shack, Palais Royal, a library, my bank and Krogers. Everything I need. A dozen restaurants and 3 Luby's just ten minutes away. My car does not need washing every two weeks from driving in the neighborhood about four hours. I seldom get on the freeway in the midst of tailpipe fumes and smoke; automobiles and 18-wheelers stirring up dust and dirt. This card is for a car wash two times a month for 11 months and 3 times for 1 month. I can't handle that."

"Your car gets dusty sitting in the garage."

"I don't pay $20. to get dust wiped off my car." I turned the key in the ignition to leave because tears were welling up. I didn't want to endure the stress of finding someone to help me use up this card…like drumming up new customers. Nor did I want to drive into his place of business every week! I've been conned! All because I didn't read the fine print when the card was handed to me. I had to pay for the card before it was placed in my hand. Too late to cancel payment now after three months. As I slowly began driving away, the manager shouted, "Work with me! If you don't use the card up MAYBE I'll extend it another six months." I drove away thinking, "Maybe? Like maybe he won't even be there another six months. Even I might not be here another six months--I'm 84 years old."

Picture this: On October 17, 2005, I get my car washed and hand my card to the cashier. She says, "This card has expired." "What do you mean? I've only used 10 of the 25 car washes!" "It expired in one year, which was yesterday." I probably would have fainted. How many times has this happened to others? Am I the only one to use this card without ever reading it?

Every year, I go to the University of Houston law seminar. I studied business law in college, and it's interesting to keep informed. From the text book this spring, I looked up deceptive trade practices. If you don't know the law, this is good information for you, also:


Texas has a law that every consumer should know by name, THE TEXAS DECEPTIVE TRADE PRACTICES ACT. This is one of the most powerful consumer protection laws in the country. As you will see, it covers a lot more than you might think. Nearly every transaction you make, from buying a house to selling a toaster at a garage sale, falls within the scope of this law.

The Deceptive Trade Practices Act lists 25 things considered false, misleading, or deceptive. And unlawful. Basically, anything someone does that has the potential to deceive is prohibited by the law; and more importantly, the law is a no-fault statute.

No-fault means that in most cases you don't have to intend to violate the law--or even know you are violating the law--to be held responsible. For example, someone thinks a car is in excellent shape and, without any intent to hurt you, says, "This car is in excellent condition." If it turns out the car was in poor condition, the seller is liable under this law. It doesn't matter that the seller had no idea there was anything wrong with the car.

Anyone who violates the Deceptive Trade Practices Act may be liable for up to three times your damages plus all your court costs and attorneys' fees. The following list identifies all the things made unlawful under this law. The list may sound a bit technical, but that is merely because I have used the same language the law uses. (Item No. 23 affects me and Dr. Gleem):

23. The failure to disclose information concerning goods or services that was known at the time

of the transaction if such failure to disclose such information was intended to induce the customer

into a transaction into which the consumer would not have entered had the information been disclosed

As stated before--anyone who does any of these 25 things has violated the law, and you may have the right to recover substantial damages. But don't count on having to sue everyone. Once they know you know about this law, you will be amazed how cooperative some folks can become--and how quickly you can settle your dispute.


The following week brought sleepless nights and stress buildup with pounding in my head. In spite of my prayers to God to help me through these months of going to Dr. Gleem's whether my car really needed cleaning or not, I realized I was not physically or mentally able to handle the turmoil interfering with my otherwise peaceful days. Dr. Berman warned me to avoid stressful situations which could lead to another heart failure.

I put my faith in the Bible promises, especially Proverbs 3:5,6, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths." I typed this article ending with the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. I would give it to the Service Manager and see if this would soften his heart to relieve me of the contract for 25 car washes. I needed to try Isaiah 1:18 again, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord."

Wednesday morning, Feb. 2nd was a cold 40-degree day with the rain of yesterday threatening to continue. I parked my car in the lot of Popeye's, across the street from Dr. Gleem's. I entered the front door. As I walked down the hallway toward the cashier's booth in back of this building, I became aware of someone coming up behind me, asking, "Are you going to get your Cadillac washed today? I saw you park across the street." It was the Service Manager. I said, "I was just going to ask the cashier to call you!

As we passed the kitchen area, I asked, "When are you going to finish this remodeling? You've been on it all year. I have really missed it."

"We're taking our time to get it right. We want it perfect for you." At the cashier's counter, I pointed my camera to the sign "Buy 16 washes-- Get 9 Free," saying, "I need a picture of this for my files.

"You want a copy of that? Don't take a picture. I'll give you a copy." He removed the sign from its holder and asked the cashier to make a copy for me. "Is there anything else I can help you with?"

"Yes. I still have my problem, only it's worse. I can't go to sleep for an hour at night, bemoaning the purchasing of this card. I need to get rid of it. It is getting very stressful to me…makes me ill."

"Well, aren't your bringing this on yourself?"

"Yes, partially. I would not have the card if I'd been informed of the expiration date."

"The cashier was instructed to tell everyone about that when she sold the cards."

"But she didn't tell me!"

"Isn't that just your word against hers?"

"Yes. But given my circumstances, I would have declined the purchase right then."

"Look at it this way: You bought 16 car washes, and I gave you an extra six months to use them. The 9 car washes are a gift…a free gift. You don't have to use them."

"Whyyyyy would I buy a card for 16 car washes? I could just pay cash and not fool with a card."

"I can't do any more for you. I'll have to take this to someone higher up."

"Then let me talk to someone higher up." All this time, I thought I was dealing with the "higher up." He told the cashier to ask Kevin to come in. Kevin entered through a door in back of the cashier's booth. The Service Manager immediately spoke, "This lady bought a card for 16 car washes….."

I interrupted, "Sir, if you'll just read this, it will save a lot of time and talking." I handed him this article as typed through the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. I asked the Service Manger for his name, and said, "Here, Steve. You may also read a copy." I noticed a small table across from this hallway. I walked over to it. There were dozens of small stacks of white cards, like business cards, with black and red lettering of Bible Scriptures, inspirational thoughts and encouraging phrases. I read them all, and chose six, while the men were reading my "complaint."

Kevin said, "Wow! This is a great story. How long did it take you to write it?"

"I just typed it out on the computer. I'm a writer, so it's no big job. I want to still do business here. There's a rather new car wash built just a few years ago four blocks from my house: Mr. Car Wash. I've never even been there. I like it here--1-1/2 miles farther. No place has smoothies--except NW Mall!"

"The card you bought is meant for family use; for several cars. Not for you. We need the expira-tion date: Otherwise, the card could be used 4 or 5 years! By then, cost of supplies and wages will have increased making the card a great loss to us." Then Kevin said the most beautiful words:

"What can I do to make you happy?" For a very brief moment I was speechless, wondering if I really heard him ask that of me. I said, "Give me my money back on this card so I can purchase the Buy 4--Get 1 Free card. Does it have an expiration date?"

"How about one year?" Kevin asked.

"That's fine…just what I need." I looked at my watch. "It's 11:15. I need to be at my office by 12. They are fixing a Birthday Dinner for me today. I'm 84!"

"Congratulations!" Kevin said. "I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll refund your full price on this card, and the one time you used it can be for your birthday present."

"Thank you! Are you responsible for the inspirational messages on the window sill?"

"Yes, mostly."

"I use them. I've sent you copies of my manuscripts that enclosed two of them."

"Seems like I talked to you once about that. Did we meet before?"

"I really don't remember, if we did. I just give my writings away, and don't always remember who received them. I also have a children's writing ministry, and enclose cards similar to these." I showed him the six selections I made. "I get them at Mills Bible Store. They cost 10 cents each. Of course they are laminated and have pictures on them. I send them to the children. Could I buy 100 of each of these?"

"Just take ALL you want. They are free. Wait just a minute." He went into his office and returned with an armful of cards, scattering them across the counter. I picked out 10 bunches. He offered

more. I said, "I don't want to take more than I'll use. I chose the ones I thought were beneficial to children. These are really great, and I appreciate your sharing them with me."

Kevin handed me a refund check and said, "Don't you write anything bad about me!" He was the sweetest, nicest man! If there hadn't been a counter separating us, I would have given him a big hug!

Both Steve and the Cashier get a gold star for their job performance. I think they are duty bound to take care of customer's complaints and not bother Kevin with them.

Steve escorted me through the building and out the front door. He asked, "Why did you park across the street?"

"Because Monday of last week, we stood out in the parking lot to talk. Today, it's too cold. I wanted to be sure we'd talk inside. I was going to ask the cashier to page you."

Steve said, "You have a good heart. You love people. God will always take care of you. Here, give me your keys. You don't have to walk across the street. I'll bring your car to you."

I drove to my office, thanking God all the way! Praise Him! He cares for me…and for you!

A long time ago, I read a book, "You are Your Own Best Friend." It had a great influence on my life. This was a good example: To announce that Dr. Gleem has lost a customer, WHO is getting hurt? Not Dr. Gleem. I've been going there for 37 years and they didn't even know that! They won't miss me--

but I'd miss the free Christian literature, the healthful smoothies and good sandwiches both during and between car washes. They make beautiful car washes. I find notes on my windshield, "I want to buy your car!" Would I deny my best friend these pleasures? Be good to yourself. It means a lot!

Would I put myself through a stressful law suit? NEVER! Read what the Bible says about treating your adversaries. My doorbell rang one day and I was presented a summons to appear at a court trial. I immediately called my doctor. I couldn't be a witness--I loved both the plaintiff AND the defendant. I was sad about the law suit. My doctor wrote a letter to the judge for my dismissal because of my heart.

I arrived at my office. On my desk was a big bouquet of salmon colored roses and bright purple chrysanthemums. Peggy cooked my birthday dinner: luscious lasagna; prepared a scrumptious salad of mixed greens, carrots, avocado, chickpeas, tomatoes and cucumbers; French bread with garlic butter; and ice tea. She baked a pretty Italian Cream Cake and placed it on a cake stand in the middle of the table. The cake stand began spinning around, flashing lights on and off, and "singing" the Happy Birthday song! All eight of us just screamed with laughter. Yes, we had ice cream with that! Birthdays are so much fun. I love them! I also received a pretty card signed by lots of employees of Pedko Paving.

When we were in business as Walter A. Smith Paving Contractors, Inc., there was a bulletin board beside the back entrance door. Every week, we posted a colorful poster illustrating Bible Scriptures, inspirational phrases of encouragement. There was a tract rack of religious pamphlets free for the taking by employees and visitors.

Sheldon's Office Supply on West T. C. Jester also has a space on a counter where customers may take copies of philosophical stories, poetry, religious articles--similar to those at Dr. Gleem's on Ella Blvd

Businessmen who love the Lord witness in many ways. It thrills my heart. They will never know what a difference something they say with cards or letters will make to someone. It could be huge! It's like planting seeds. Sometimes God uses us in ways we don't expect. Philippians 1:6, "He (God) which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." I was wondering how long I should keep writing my "Happenings" -- I was called to write UNTIL OTHERWISE NOTIFIED! My writings are true and personal because people need to know of my adventures of God's deliverances so they can say, "If God can do that for her, He can do that for me."

People need stories. My bookcases are full of non-fiction reading. I don't care for a book that is not true! I don't have time for fiction. I constantly seek help from my magazines: Decision, Guideposts, Progress, Journey. Here's a recent bit of encouragement found on a plaque in a mail advertising circular:

"They may see the good you do as self serving. Continue to do good. They may see your generosity as grandstanding. Continue to be generous. They may see your warm and caring nature as a weakness. Continue to be warm and caring. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It never was between you and them anyway." Never measure God's unlimited power by your limited expectations.

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