My Dad worked at a big firm not too far from our garage, he was the first one to buy an Opel from us, he became the proud owner of an Opel Kadett B and soon a few of his mates followed suit and converted to the Indestructible tanks that were German Engineering at its best. Our Parts man knew my Dad by sight but he didn’t know his colleagues, and when a couple of them had told my Dad they had been to buy parts and our Parts man had told them that they should have rung as he just happened to have that particular part at home in his garage and he could have sold it to them cheap, my Dad put two and two together and rang me to tell me he thought we had a thief in our midst.
It was hard for us to believe and we thought my Dad was wrong, our Parts man was in his 60s and looked like Mr Magoo, we all liked him and as far as we knew he was doing a good job. He had also just returned from a holiday to Majorca which he had won from Bosch for selling the most spark plugs for us, looking back we should have been suspicious then as we had a very small service department and he’d beaten one of the largest service dealers into second place.
Mr Magoo wore the Lab Coat style overalls and even though he didn’t really get dirty he used to change them every day, and take his “soiled” coat down to his car, he always did this just after dinner. A few days before my Dads warning, I was returning from Lunch and I was coming through the back door, as usual, I was rushing about like a bull in a china shop and I had bumped into Mr Magoo and sent him flying, he dropped his lab coat and several boxes of spark plugs fell on the floor, quickly he said “oh I have a misfire on my car and I’m just going to put new plugs in while I’m on my Dinner hour, It never crossed my mind that this wasn’t the truth and he was actually stealing them.
I wanted to give Mr Magoo the benefit of the doubt and didn’t want to confront him as he was a good Parts man, neither did I want to upset him and have him walk out but I needed to know if we could trust him. Armed with our old “Quality Street Tin” which was full to the top with all the old spare keys that had never been given to customers I went to his car, It wasn’t long before I had opened his boot with one of the keys and right in the middle was his Lab Coat, his lab coat was full of stolen parts.
My Illegal search wouldn’t have stood up in any court and knowing my luck I would have probably got sent to prison for breaking and entering, the other side of the coin was that the parts department was upstairs, it was freezing and there were spiders the size of Tarantulas up there. The only time I went to the Parts department voluntarily was to sleep off a hangover (this was acceptable behavior as Sales worked 7 days a week from 9 till 7) and having a nap until a customer came in was better than going AWOL and staying at home in bed. I knew that if we sacked Mr Magoo I would be left to fill in till we found a replacement and trained them, I didn’t want that.
We called Mr Magoo into the main office and he confessed immediately, his excuses were that he was getting divorced, his Son wasn’t well, etc, etc so we felt sorry for him and decided not to sack him but to give him a written warning instead, we told him he would be dismissed if there was a “next time”. We had a Type Writer for official documents but I wished I had given him a verbal warning as I couldn’t type to save my life, neither could any of my bosses, Mr Magoo could so he ended up with the added embarrassment of having to type his own Warning Letter.
Over the next few weeks, Mr Magoo started to act very strangely, I kept a close eye on him and went into the parts department one day to see what he was doing, he was just staring into space, suddenly he turned to me and said “You know we could sit here all day and this plane wouldn’t take off” the pressure had got to Mr Magoo, he’d left the real world of Opel Kadett’s and spare parts and joined the Imaginary World of the “Space Cadets”. I didn’t know a lot about Mental illness or how to deal with someone who had it so I told him that “all flights had been canceled” and he may as well go home, he was off for several months with his health problems.
While he was recuperating I had to take over as Parts Manager and it was then I discovered that Mr Magoo had won his holiday for hiding Spark Plugs, I had sold a Halogen Headlamp Unit and when I pulled the large box off the shelf I was surprised to see hundreds of spark plugs behind it, and they were also behind all the other big boxes, he hadn’t sold the plugs he’d bought them and hidden them, in the process he had cost us a lot more than if we had sent him on an all-expenses paid Caribbean Cruise
The more time I spent in the parts department, the more discrepancies I discovered. The global scale of our problem came to light when I got a phone call from Opel Parts Headquarters in Germany, they asked me to send a Clutch Cable for a Left Hand Drive Opel Rekord B that we were showing in stock to their customer who was in South Africa, Opel themselves hadn’t got any, we were a tiny family firm and we were the only dealer in the World who were showing one in stock, to make matters worse we didn’t just have one we had four, according to our Parts Index system we had never ever sold one, which didn’t come as a huge surprise to me as cars in the UK are Right Hand Drive and these cables wouldn’t fit.
I found parts hidden everywhere, Mr Magoo couldn’t be bothered making a new card out for them so he had just hidden them at the back of other boxes, we had no record of what we had actually got and it was down to me to sort it out. The only way I could be sure of finding every part was to empty everything off the shelves and carry out a detailed stock check before replacing them in my newly configured map reference system, sometimes we had struggled to find parts in the past that we actually knew we had, but with each shelf in our 7 rooms now numbered and lettered as grid references I could walk to within a foot of them.
The task was costing me a small fortune I had been working every day for at least 6 weeks in the Parts Department but because I was paid commission on any cars I sold I was losing out as I was upstairs and not getting to see any customers. Fortunately, the end was now in sight all the parts that were left on the floor were the ones that had been hidden and the ones that we had no stock cards for, didn’t know we had, and therefore would never be able to sell them, However, I had run out of time, It would take me another couple of days to finish the job but I hadn’t managed to complete the task before my yearly pilgrimage to the South Of France for my Holidays. I left strict orders not to move anything, I also put a big sign with a skull and crossbones on saying “Do Not Touch, Or Else!”
Three weeks later I returned from my Holiday and I walked into the Parts Department to finish the job, but the floors were empty. I knew that no one else would have done the job for me so I flew down the stairs to find out what had happened, it transpired that my bosses Wife had had occasion to go into the Parts Department, her Daughter had been upstairs to get a headlamp bulb for her TR7 and had seen a “Girlie Calendar on the wall (not mine), and even though it was nearly a full-time job for us keeping her TR7 on the road, she never missed the chance to drop us in it if she could, and she had grassed on us to her Mum who was a lovely Lady but she was a total prude. As soon as soon as she heard about the “Smut” she had marched upstairs and ripped the Calendars off the wall. While she was in the Parts Department she had also noticed that it was untidy and there were a lot of Parts on the floor.
She went ballistic and told her husband off for employing perverts, allowing them to display such filth on the walls (no customers could see them), and also for allowing them to work in such an untidy environment with stuff all over the floor. My Boss thought the World of his Wife, he was also frightened to death of her (as were we all) and would do anything to make her happy, or shut her up, so without thinking he got the valeter’s to pick all the un-cataloged parts up off the floor and pile them back on the shelves, then they had to search the garage destroying anything that had scantily clad women in. My 6 weeks of grafting in the Parts Department was undone in a few minutes. We were back to square one and that’s where we stayed as there was no way I was going to do the job again, and everyone else was too lazy.
Weeks had passed but I was still furious with my Boss and his Wife. Although my Boss was a great character, a nice guy, and I had been working for him since I was Twelve he could never remember my name so instead, he had taken to calling me “Walt”, he also had another annoying habit, he would go home early but every night he would wait until the Lancashire Evening Post newspaper was delivered and take it with him before anyone had chance to read it.
The Lancashire Evening Post was normally printed in broadsheet format but coincidently on a Friday night it was reduced to the exact same size as the intellectual masterpiece that was the Sun Newspaper. I saw my chance to teach the Boss a lesson I intercepted the Paper Boy at the end of the forecourt, raided the mechanics supply of well-hidden Sun Newspapers removed all the page 3’s and replaced the inside local news stories of the Lancs Evening Post with a collection of Topless Pictures of all the Young Ladies who had posed naked and who wanted World Peace, to Travel and loved Animals, then I placed the doctored newspaper on the showroom floor as if the Paper Boy had just delivered it.
That night my Boss sat down after his Tea to relax and read the newspaper, when he opened it he was unable to believe his own eyes he flicked through the pages like a man possessed, beads of sweat formed on his forehead and he went into a blind panic as he tried to think how he could explain the collection of naked pictures to his Wife, he knew that she would want to read it next and then he’d be in trouble, apparently he almost ran to the bin, tore the paper up into tiny illegible pieces making sure that even Warren Beatty couldn’t recognise any parts of a woman’s anatomy, he buried all the LEP confetti with his bare hands right at the bottom of the rotting garbage which was in the bin, then he went to the petrol station up the road to buy a new copy so his Wife wouldn’t be suspicious.
It didn’t quite make up for destroying all my hard work in the Parts Department, but it still brings a smile to my face when I think about him checking through the contents of the Newspaper every night before he took it home, then he would look at the office to see me grinning back at him.