Ever notice there a lot of medical shows with names like: “Diagnostic Unknown”, “Medical Mystery”, “Untold Stories from the Emergency Room” ?… you know, if I didn’t know any better it sounds like these highly trained doctors are having a tough time diagnosing certain “medical” problems. I can relate to tough diagnostic problems myself.
Now, I’m only a mechanic, not a doctor, however in some respects we do the same type of job… that is: diagnose and repair. It’s like the old joke: “What’s the difference between a doctor and a mechanic? Answer: A doctor does his work with the engine still running.” True, but I’ll bet he can’t get his patient to go 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.
These days the equivalent technical abilities of a practicing doctor and a mechanic are getting closer and closer than ever before. Granted, I don’t need to learn as much as they need to know, but the concept is basically the same. Even though a technician doesn’t need a degree to repair cars… he might as well have one with the way the automobile has evolved.
The one thing I have a real problem with is how the news portrays the automotive repair industry. There’s always some repair shop that has botched a job for a customer on the ten o’clock news. Usually with the customer looking for sympathy, and the news reporter doing his part by showing how fouled up the repair was made. I’m not saying we (the guys and gals in the repair business) don’t make mistakes, but it sounds to me after watching some of these medical shows that doctors can botch a diagnostics up just as easily. The only thing is the repair shop gets the evening news, and the doctor gets a national syndicated television show. Now for the next half hour they explain how some weird medical problem came into the emergency room, and how they eventually solved it. Quite frankly, if there was a show about some of the weird problems that I’ve seen in the automotive repair business, I know I’d sit down and watch that program.
You hardly hear a thing on the news about someone getting over charged or falsely diagnosed at the physician’s office. But leave it to an automotive repair shop or body shop… it’ll make the evening news for sure.
There are other comparisons to think about. Did you ever notice if a doctor has a problem with a patient they’ll refer them to a specialist? Sounds just like what we do in the auto industry doesn’t it? The big difference is the first doctor is still going to send you a bill. Then again, if we send a job on to a specialist we very seldom get paid for our time that we’ve already invested into the customer vehicle. Maybe if mechanics had an “AD” (Automotive Doctor) at the end of their title things might be different. (Or whatever it would take to be recognized as a professional and not one of those wrench benders, who are only out to take people’s money and do subpar work on a customer’s car. Which, only degrades the entire industry.)
I get calls all the time from people wanting to know how much to fix their car. All they want is an over the phone estimate. Since I mainly do electrical repair, rewiring a complete car is nothing new for me, although an estimate is another matter all together. I find it hard to just throw a number out there and be anywhere close to what it is actually going to take. I sometimes think they believe that I should have a “one size fits all” price. The automotive wiring system is far more complex than a single price per foot or length of time that I can give over the phone. I want to know the extent of the “rewire” before giving out any numbers, or I’d like to know a little history about the vehicle, so I can at least get close to something in the way of an estimate. Some of the usual drawbacks are whether or not someone has already worked on it, or it’s completely torn apart already. (That always throws a curve into the estimate.)
Now, how does that work if I call a doctor for an estimate? Can there be a price difference between doctors? Should I question him on what he/she is charging based on what the physician down the street is charging? Should I tell the doctor that so-and-so worked on it before? From what I gather it’s an insult to ask a doctor how much a procedure is going to cost other than the cost of an office visit. (Of course, there are those unmentioned fees that seem to always creep up when the final bill comes in) Insult or not, I find it rather amusing that there is such a difference in prices from hospital to hospital and “Joe-public” doesn’t have a clue or seems unconcerned about it before hand or during the “procedures”.
Then you get into the issue where “Joe-public” will attempt to repair things themselves. This un-professional approach is probably the same thing a doctor will run across when someone tries to take care of a simple problem, or tries to use the internet to diagnose what they think is wrong with them, only to have it end up as an entirely different problem. However, they still won’t ask the doctor “How much?” Of course when the bill shows up in the mail their chin drops to the floor and gasps at the cost. (I wonder if a doctor has ever had a call from a recent client stating their prices are way too high compared to the last guy they went to.)
Maybe it’s a good thing people ask me how much a repair will be. At least then, it’s not as much of a shock to their pocketbook or to their physical health. Human life still outweighs anything in regards to an automobile. It’s a poor comparison to even suggest any kind of comparison. It’s not really the “human” side of it that I’m trying to compare; it’s the dollars spent, and how each and every one of us tend to be misled by pain and suffering vs. cost and contentment.
I’ve got to hand it to the medical profession, insurance companies and the like. They’ve all manage to make a buck on everyone who’s in the need of repair. Too bad we couldn’t get the same kind of coverage on a car. I’m not talking about extended warranties, or some aftermarket company that covers certain aspects of auto repair. I’m talking about a real health insurance policy for the car.
I doubt too many people would call me up asking for prices on repairs then. I’d bet the caller on the phone would most likely say, “It’s covered. I’ve got great insurance… just get it done.”