|Ebenezer, or Ben, as friends would’ve called him if he’d had any friends, was the co-owner of M&S Motors. His partner, Jacob Marley, had recently passed away, leaving Ben as the sole proprietor of the Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) dealership.|
Ben had never been a pleasant man, but since Jacob’s passing, he had been even more of a thorn in the side of Bob Cratchit, the collections manager. You see, Ben disagreed with the philosophy Jacob had espoused, that they should work with their customers to help them through any obstacles they might encounter. “BAH! Hook it!” Ben would shout anytime Bob suggested they hold off on repossession.
If Ben was stern with the customers, he was even tougher with Bob and the other employees at M&S Motors, demanding they work seven days a week, bell-to-bell. This was especially hard on Bob, whose son Timmy competed in the Special Olympics. You see, Tiny Tim was not only vertically challenged, but he also was born with a severe limp. He had a heart of gold, and Bob hated missing his competitions. In spite of everything though, Ben slept like a log every night until one Christmas Eve…
Ben awoke from a sound sleep, startled by a noise in his room. He sat up in bed and saw a figure in his bedroom. “I am the Ghost of BHPH Past,” Ben heard it say. “Come with me!” Ben followed the apparition to a place that seemed vaguely familiar. Then he realized that he was at his dealership, but everyone looked much younger. Not only that, but there was a buzz of excitement and enthusiasm among the team that Ben hardly recognized.
He smiled when he saw a $500 ACV car being sold with $500 down for a one-year term. His smile quickly faded, however, as he saw his former partner working out a reduced payment arrangement, so they could keep their vehicle through a temporary layoff at the factory. “BAH! Hook it!” he thought. He was even more dismayed when he saw Jacob allow Bob to take an extended lunch break, so he could take Timmy to a doctor’s appointment. “Spirit,” Ben cried, “I cannot look at this for another second. Take me back at once!”
Suddenly, it was dark and Ben was back in bed. But he looked up, and saw another strange sight. This time he heard, “I am the Ghost of BHPH Present. It is time for another journey.” Next thing Ben knew, he was at the dealership again. He thought for a moment that he was still seeing the past when he saw a deal that still had $500 down, then quickly realized otherwise when he saw the ACV of the vehicle was $4,500. “BAH!” he exclaimed.
Ben also noticed for the first time that nothing there seemed festive or exciting. There were neither balloons nor banners on the lot, and no decorations or music filled the showroom. Worst of all, there were no smiles on the faces of the people. Ben spied Bob, who held a phone in each hand. He was saying into one phone, “I’m so sorry I missed his race, honey, but you know how Mr. Scrooge feels about that. Tell Timmy I’m proud of him. I gotta go.” Then, Bob screamed into the other phone, “I don’t want to hear your excuses; I want the money or the car!” Bob slammed the phone so hard that it made Ben close his eyes.
When he opened his eyes, he was once again in bed. As he slowly peeked out from under the covers, he saw yet another figure in the darkness. “I am the Ghost of BHPH Future,” it said. Then it touched Ben’s hand, and suddenly, they were flying through the sky over the city.
Ben was aghast when they flew over M&S Motors, which looked so dull and lifeless and had not a customer in sight. “No pun intended, but it looks like a ghost town.” the spirit groaned. Ben observed that there were more vehicles in the repo bullpen than there were in the front line. Worst of all, right next to his lot stood a Wal-Mart Auto World that had customers stacked three-deep!
As they kept flying, they came to the Cratchits’ house, where Bob and his wife had just finished packing Tim’s belongings into the car before he headed off to college. He heard Bob say, “Tim, I’m sorry I didn’t make it to your events growing up. I really wanted to be there.”
Timmy answered, “It’s OK, Dad. I’m sure it must’ve been very important if Mr. Scrooge needed you to stay at work so much,” as Ben flew out of earshot.
Finally, they came to a cemetery, where a funeral was just coming to an end. As they approached, Ben realized that not a single person had attended the service. “What a tragedy,” thought Ben, as he stepped over to the grave marker. He then gasped in horror when he saw the following carved into the stone:
“Nooo,” Ben screamed at the spirit, “Please, I can change! I can change!” He lay down on the ground and sobbed. As he lay there weeping, face down in the grass, he began to hear a beeping sound. He slowly lifted himself up and opened his eyes to see where the strange noise was coming from.
He was confused to see his alarm clock. Then, he realized he was back in his house again. He threw open the window to see that it was Christmas morning, and he had a chance to do things differently.
From that day on, Ben was a changed man. He spruced up the facilities and made his dealership an exciting place people wanted to visit ... and buy from. He focused on people (helping his customers when he could), being more flexible with his employees’ schedules, and sharing his profits with charities and the community. He even started a new tradition by inviting the Cratchits to Christmas dinner each year, where upon hearing Bob finish the prayer before the meal with, “… and we thank you that our friend Ben could share this meal with us today.”
Tim would add with a smile, “And God bless us, every one!”
Merry Christmas from the Linnehan Family to yours, and may God bless every one of you in 2008!
An anonymous source told Bloomberg that no new tariffs on foreign-made vehicles will be announced until after a Commerce Department report is finalized in February.