Pick Up Truck Litmus Test

        A couple posts ago, I told you of Mr. Charles Franklin Thombley IV, negotiator extraordinaire.  It is true he uses a pick-truck to help him in his business. Given he is in a very intense business enviroment, you might wonder how this old truck could come into play.

        Indeed the truck is a bland as Thombley is spectacular.  It is a 1979 Ford F150.  It has an in-line six and and tows okay, but has no frills or options of any kind.  There is no carpet, but only rubber flooring.  You can work with it on the farm and then wash off the red clay with a garden hose and then leave the windows down and let it dry out.  Right near the clutch there’s a big hole, and you can watch the highway roll by through the floorboard.  The vehicle never had a bed-liner, and is rusted out in spots,  It burns some oil, but only a quart between changes.  It has an AM radio but it hasn’t worked in years.  

         When Mr. Thombley meets a new client and is not sure of their character he often uses the truck as a litmus test.  He’ll find out if a potential client has any need for a truck.  They often do because he deals with a lot of professionals in transition in between offices. They often say, “Oh yeah sure, I have a man moving me this weekend.  I’m sure it’d come in handy.”

           Mr. Thombley will say, “Well, I have access to one you can borrow.  It belongs to an old farmer who helps me out on the south pasture.  He just asks that you bring it back in the same shape as when you picked it up.”

        “Okay. Thanks.”

         The he lets them take it for the weekend. 

          Invariably when the potential clients return it they fall into one of three categories.

          Some of them bring it back filled up with gas and washed.  Every so often one will even wax it.  He has never entered into a business relationship with anyone in this category and regretted the decision.  To a person they proved to be good clients.

          Some bring it back with the exact same amount of gas.  They might not wash it, but they get most of the mud off.  They might make adequate clients, but have to be watched with more care.

         A few bring it back dang near out of gas, mud-stained, and sometimes even dented.  Charles will mention it to them and they might say, “Hell, he’s just an old farmer.  He doesn’t have the time or the money to deal with me.”  Mr. Thombley always tells these people his schedule is jammed and he had to stop taking new clients until he can get caught up.

        “Bibey,” he told me.  You can always tell what a man is made if by how he treats people who are not in a position to defend themselves.  If he is going to be fair to some old farmer he doesn’t even know, then he will be fair to the people he enters into business with.  If he’ll take advantage of them because he thinks he can get away with it he’ll be too much maintenance to deal with on a fair basis.  You can arrange a fair deal with guys like this, but it takes too much time and energy, and they will back out on you at the first opportunity.  It just isn’t worth the trouble when there are so many good people out there to work with.

        I was always good to fill up a man’s truck if I borrowed it.  Often I’d run it through the car wash too. After I met Charles I try to wax ’em if I get a chance.  You only get one chance at a first impression and if die tomorrow I want people to remember I did my best to be fair to them.

       As I am sure you know, there was no farmer.  Mr. Thombley kept the truck just to be sure what folks were made of.  He bought it new in 1979, and said it has been one of his best investments.

Dr. B

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8 Comments on “Pick Up Truck Litmus Test”

  1. Dear Dr. B,

    Firstly, thanks for notifying me on your posts.

    I am fully in-line with what Mr. Charles does. While I have seen people who have observed the point in reference – the way of negotiation – they have hardly been successful in getting a fair deal. Much of it is attributed to, as you may guess, the client selection.

    I appreciate Mr. Charles for the pre-test, and you more for bringing it out. I am, personally, an advocate of this message, the needless nature of what we may see as contemporary negotiations.

    However, the point that we missed in presenting Mr. Charles is probably his ability to be content with the business he gets to his hand – whether he accepts or decides otherwise.

    In most cases, the negotiation is an exercise that happens at a higher level called NEED. And that is a level where the scope of conducting such a test is narrow, and even the test result has a poor link to the needy’s decision. Thus I see that the ability to satiate the needs and be content, retaining the power of choice is the greatest secret of successful negotiator.

    Remember, no matter what – in a negotiation – power shifts is a continuous process, and that is the game. That who has the power to start the game, more often ends winning the game.

    Vinay Chaganti

    • drtombibey Says:

      Mr. Chaganti,

      When I ran across your blog I knew this was an area of expertise you were into deep. I appreciate you dropping by. To this old doc the world of negotiation is very mysterious but I enjoy reading about it and trying to express my understanding of it from a layman’s perspective.

      I like what you said about retaining the power of choice. I believe this is also one of Mr. Thombley’s secrets.

      Again, I thank you for sharing your thoughts with me and my readers.

      Dr. B

  2. Felix Miller Says:

    Doctor B., This post made me think of a Tom T. Hall song, “I love…” with the line,

    I love little baby ducks, old pick-up trucks, slow-moving trains, and rain

    Maybe the Negotiator just needs to ask prospective clients their feelings on Tom T. Hall. The answer could be just as helpful to him. If the prospect asks, “Who is Tom T. Hall?”, the Negotiator could save some time.

    I love old pickup trucks, by the way.

  3. Karen Says:

    Dr. B., one of the things I love about my husband is his determination to return something in better condition than when he borrowed it. When he was in Youth Ministry we used to run camps at various facilities. He always drilled into the kids the importance of leaving it cleaner than we found it. I think it’s one of the true tests of character. The Negotiator has just cottoned on to a short cut method to finding the truth – for the rest of us it can take a lot of time and sometimes a lot of heartache to discover the same.

    • drtombibey Says:


      You and the Negotiator both speak the truth; the way your husband does is a sign of a good man. It is not a bad thing for a young person to observe in those courting years as that decision is even more important than the business of the Negotiator.

      Dr. B

  4. Cindy Carter Says:

    You can always tell a person’s “personality” by how they handle borrowed things. And, also by how they treat their own things.

    Your buddy knows a good person when he sees one!

    We all have our measuring sticks….But, whatever it is, it almost always works.

    • drtombibey Says:


      You are so right. How they treat things usually will reflect how they will treat people. About the only folks in the world I get mad at are the ones who mistreat people. (and animals too)

      Later today or maybe in the AM I’m gonna post a ‘thought of the day.’ I hope you will check it out because you are one of my most loyal readers. Next to my family, my patients and my readers mean the most to me and I value your opinion.

      Dr. B

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