By The Way --- While it's here…
I'm almost done filling out the new work order for Gus. All I have to do is log the job into the computer. He's in for a routine front brake pad replacement, nothing all that complicated. Gus is in a rather happy mood. I always wonder about people who come to a repair shop… "Happy"… there's something up. Most people are glad to see me… but, not "Happy" unless they are trying to butter me up for something else.
Then he asks, "So while it's in the shop could you look at my radio for me, also could ya check the right headlight, it's a little dimmer than the other side. Oh, and by the way, could you look at the wipers, they sometimes don't come on… and could you take a look at the power seat… can't seem to get it to move any more., and since you have it on the lift could you check the driveshaft... been getting a lot of vibration lately. I'm also having a problem with gas mileage too; wouldn't hurt to pull a plug or put it on one of those fancy machines you've got. Shouldn't take long, you know… since it's here and all."
As it seems to be the norm, these requests are for something that isn't even remotely associated with the original work order. It just so happens to be something he thought about while he was standing there. Not that he's overly concerned about having any these other issues repaired. More than likely he's trying to save a buck on repair cost by bundling things together. I tend to look at it as; "if" these other somewhat minor problems were a real issue old Gus would have made arrangements to bring it in a long time ago.
The problem I have with these "by-the-ways" is each of these systems can be extremely involved and not just a "look-at". These days there are so many interconnected computer devices incorporated with just about everything under the hood or dash that a "by-the-way" can eat up a lot of labor time. Time is money, and being in private business as long as I have there's one thing that gets tighter than time itself... and that's money. I might be able to run a quick scan for a trouble code or take a quick glance at the operation of a power seat or wipers and even in some cases be able to check the overall operational controls with a scanner but the actual diagnostics for a lot of systems may take some time or even more in-depth testing than a mere "look" could even begin to cover.
I looked up at Gus and said, "Not a problem, I can look at all this stuff but just to let you know there might be some extra costs involved to get it diagnosed." As usual that gets the "by-the-ways" scribbled off the work order pretty quickly. I don't want to be mean or non-caring… but, I provide a service… this is a service oriented business. Charging a fee is how I pay for all these tools and equipment and how I keep the shop doors open. Oh sure, I sell the parts too, but Gus didn't come here to buy parts. He came to the service counter. Now I might be going out on a limb with this explanation… but I think… he came for service. Now were talking! … That's what I do… I sell service. So when Gus asks me to "look" at something what he's really asking me for… is service. Oh, and "by-the-way" that's my job.
It's not the cars that worry me so much when it comes to performing the repairs. I can attend classes, watch instructional videos, take tests and basically get educated on how to perform those services needed. But, who's educating the consumer on what the cost, time, and expertise needed to do repairs on today's conglomerations of rubber, glass, plastic, wire, metal, and computers that roll down the highway. The days of having good old Uncle Hank pop the hood in the driveway and take care of something are all but a distant memory. Sure they still try… and in some cases it might even be possible. Then again, I've seen enough bailing wire strapped engine parts, spray can painted body panels, duct taped and garbage bag covered windows that I don't need any more help from the peanut gallery… honestly… take it to a professional.
Let's face it, most people shop for a car based on its MPG, performance, comfort or the bells and whistles the manufacturer provides for that particular model. They'll make their payments, keep it gassed up, change the oil and do what needs to be done when it needs done. Then the car gets a few miles on it, a couple of parking lot scraps, a few rock chips, a little oil leak, then a warning light or two… and by the time it really needs some serious work done those "by-the-ways" start adding up.
I suppose with all the sci-fi TV shows and computer savvy people out there they believe there is some magical machine that I can attach to their car and everything will be answered in one swift click of computer key. As a friend of mine puts it, "On the first page of most diagnostic charts it shows "Required tools or tools needed to perform this repair". I don't recall ever seeing a gadget listed that says it will tell you how to solve this problem, and that problem there, and that problem over there, and that little bitty problem over there. Oh, and by the way… that problem right there. It still takes a tech to physically tackle the problems.
This is one of those things about the automotive repair business that is just a myth that I'm sure Gus thinks is reality. In most cases the myths, wives tales, hearsay, or whatever you want to call them, are the norm for the novice consumer. So educating the customer on what it takes to repair things right, do the job correctly is just as important as the continued training in the field of automotive repair. I guess the way some people see it, adding additional work to a job can't be that big of a deal.
By the way, from my side of the counter… it can be.
Just another day in the life of the auto repair biz. Nothing surprises me anymore... but, people think they are the first to ever try stuff like this. Sorry, it might be the first time for them... but it sure ain't the first time for me.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think of the story. Not all make it to print... but most do. Look for my column in the automotive trade magazines you get at your shop. Don't forget to leave a comment on their websites too. Every bit helps. Thanx... Gonzo