Challenges and Rewards
Did you ever get the feeling all the effort you put forth out in the shop or at the office doesn't amount to a whole lot of gratification from the people you're trying to help? Sure, we've all had those moments. You work your tail off diagnosing some weird problem, only to have the customer decide it's going to be too involved or too expensive to repair. A lot of times the total hours spent on the job doesn't even begin to equal the effort you've put into it. Then there are those days the smile on the customer's face is the greatest reward you could have ever wanted.
Sometimes I'll make comparisons with other "blue collar" trades. There are so many different skilled professions out there that don't have as many changes or diversification as the automotive repair business. Of course, a lot of trades have equipment they use, or skills they need that hardly ever change. In some of those trades, once you've mastered the tools or the techniques of the trade, your skill level only increases with every new job you take on.
In the automotive repair business there are those times you can step back a bit and see your handy work in front of you. You can admire that beautiful paint job, or listen to the purr of a well-tuned engine. But, there are times when what you've done is hidden under a dash or below a valve cover, completely out of sight from you or the customer. Still, there are those times when what you've done does make an impressionable difference. Such as a car that has a severe miss in it, and you've managed to bring it back to a smooth running engine again, or those squeaky brakes are now silenced. I wish I could say that is true in every case, however, things like putting in a new timing belt, or changing the oil doesn't have the same outward reward as hanging a new shiny fender. More times than not, as a technician, your efforts can end up as part of the criticism or scrutiny of the vehicles owner.
Some of the typical responses range from: "It cost more than it should have."… "It took too long."… "I found out that another shop would have done the same job cheaper than you."…. "I found the same part on the internet at half of what you quoted me." …. So on, and so on. After the countless hours I've spent under a hood I sure have heard a few. Then there are those responses like: "This is awesome; it's never run so good." … "I knew you could take care of it."…. "Boy, they told me you were good… now I'm sure of it." …"Thank you so much… you've been a great help." Yes, it is a challenge, and yes it has its rewards. It's all part of the job.
But for those people who tend to complain about things, I find that they tend to be the kind of people that complain about everything. I wouldn't doubt it if these types of people that challenge the technician's results or prices are the same ones that would question how much the plumber, the HVAC guy or the carpenter charged them too. (Some days my reward is not having to deal with people like that.)
Then again, unlike some of the trades we all use from time to time, the product an automotive technician services is constantly changing. Which means constant studying, more information, new tools, new equipment, and new techniques to be learned and mastered. (Only to see those techniques and tools become obsolete with the next new production models.) I've been around long enough to have seen the change from points and condensers to solid state, to computerized engine controls. No doubt more changes are on the way, which only means more challenges for every technician out there. One of these days I'll have to sit down and add up all the tools, training, and dollars I spend each year to do the same job I did the year before. (I'd probably be in shock at the amount.)
Customers who stop by your shop on a regular basis are the ones most of us are grateful for. They show their appreciation by coming back time and time again. Even some of those once in a while customers' have a place in the shop, and are extremely grateful for all that you do. But, as seems to be the norm, we tend to dwell on the customers with poor judgment, or even worse behavior at the service counter. It's a challenge to keep it all in check, that's for sure.
Facing the challenges in this crazy world of automotive repair is a huge challenge, to say the least. Between the cars, the components, and the people it's a wonder how any one of us ever make it to a ripe old age and retire from it all. For now, I think I'll keep accepting those new challenges; I'm not ready to retire just yet. I've always been one to learn something new and take on those new challenges. The reward for me is meeting those challenges, and meeting some really great people from both sides of the counter.
Yes, there are challenges, and yes there are even more challenges on the way. The rewards are few and the challenges are many. No matter what trade you're in or what challenges you're facing, try and take that step back and view your accomplishments and take pride in what you've done... you deserve it.