I’VE had a bit of car trouble recently. Actually, if I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t my car, it was my wife’s, but needless to say, her problems became mine.

I suppose that’s what married life is all about.

Anyway, her difficulties started when she drove to a meeting at a site away from where she works.

Everything was fine until the meeting finished and she walked back to her car. Fishing round in her handbag (just what do women keep in their handbags, I wonder) she couldn’t find her keys.

Panic ensued.

Obviously, she couldn’t get into her car and the keyring also contained all her office keys and all our house keys.

Fortunately, there was nothing on the keyring to indicate where she lived or worked which is some consolation. But back to the immediate difficulties.

A frantic search of the area failed to locate the keys. She phoned the police to see if they had been handed in – they hadn’t. She then went round all the shops nearby but again, no sign of the missing keys.

A kind colleague gave her a lift back to her own place of work and it was at that point her problem became mine.

She was stranded at work and would not have been able to get into the house so being the gallant and chivalrous man I am, I jumped in my car and made a 50-mile round trip to take her a house key.

This is where things start to get a little complicated. My wife only had one complete key for her car – which she had just lost. The ‘spare’ consists of a snapped key containing the electronic transponder chip which has to be present for the car to start and a key without the chip, which actually turns the ignition.

To get the car to start, both bits of the key have to be present and lined up correctly.

With no sign of the missing keyring and with only one dodgy way of starting the car, it quickly became obvious we would need to get a new key cut.

So off I went to a well known high street chain of shoe repairers and key cutters. I had warned my wife that they would have to duplicate the chip and this would make the new key quite expensive but nothing prepared me for what happened next.

Patiently waiting my turn, I should have been warned when the customer in front of me angrily walked out without getting any keys cut because they were too expensive and more than he had been told they would cost.

Anyway, I presented my two bits of key to the man behind the counter and asked if he could help.

He popped the broken bit with the transponder chip into his machine and happily told me the software could read the chip, it could be copied onto a new chip and he could cut the key for me... at a cost of £90.

I blanched, thanked him kindly, turned on my heel and walked out. For goodness’ sake, her car only cost £350. It would appear that a quarter of the value of the car is invested in its key.

Not one to give up easily, I went on a search for another locksmith.

The ‘independent’ one I had in mind was closed for the day but on the off chance, I went into another branch of the famous high street chain.

I asked the same question and got the same answer. Yes, the nice man said, we can read the chip and will be able to cut you a new key for £35.

What? £35?

What about the £90 the other bloke from the same company wanted to charge?

Five minutes later, I walked away with my new key which, happily works perfectly.

But how, I wonder, could one branch of a company want to charge me £90 while two miles away, another branch of exactly the same company was content to do it for less than half that price.

If anyone has the answer to that, I really would be delighted to find out.

At around the same time, my wife’s old banger developed another problem. The windscreen washer bottle sprang a leak and wouldn’t hold water.

I booked it into the ‘back street’ garage we’ve been using for years on Saturday morning. I dropped it off nice and early and two or three hours later got a call to say it was ready.

How much? I asked when I picked it up. And the reply: “Oh nothing. I repaired it rather than replaced it so you don’t owe me anything.”

Now that’s what I call customer service.

Perhaps the man from the famous high street chain of shoe repairers and key cutters could learn a lesson from that.