Mr. I Don’t Know
Automotive repair has its ups and downs, just like any other trade does. Problems crop up on a car and mechanics fix them. There usually are only four types of repairs.
One - Where something has failed due to normal wear and tear or accident related.
Two - A manufacturer defect.
Third – Mother Nature’s lends a hand, either from natural elements or one of Mother Nature’s numerous friends, i.e.… bugs, deer, snakes, rodents, etc....
Fourth - The most common one, and regrettably sometimes the hardest to solve … somebody has worked on it before without knowing what they were doing.
You can sort out these different types of repairs at the front desk when a new customer arrives to drop their car off. It just takes asking the right questions. Most people when asked a few basic questions like; “What brings you here today?” or “What seems to be the problem with the car?” are generally straight forward with their answers. They’re usually very cordial, friendly, and quite sympathetic to the car’s condition and to the mechanic they are entrusting their pride and joy to for repair. Sometimes they’re just repeating what the last shop told them was wrong with, but that’s OK, it just might take a few more questions to get on the right diagnostic page. It doesn’t take long before you know what kind of repair you’re getting into. But, like anything else… there are extremes.
Two fellas walked up to the front desk and were met with the customary hellos and what brings you here today type of greetings. They seemed like nice guys, nothing out of the ordinary, but instead of answering with a description of their problem it was, “I don’t know.” It kind of threw me for a second, but I gathered my thoughts and proceeded with the typical evaluation questions to see if I could get an idea as to why they were here.
“Does it drive differently than it used to, or is there any warning lights on?”
“Is this something to do with it not starting?”
“I don’t know.”
Just to lighten up the situation, I tried joking around a bit to see if it brought out a different type of response, “Do you need wheel bearings or a battery? Maybe the wipers aren’t working? I’m running out of ideas here fellas, how about some hints as to what might be wrong with the car?”
“It has a problem.”
“What kind of problem?”
“I don’t know.” (I asked for that response, didn’t I?)
“Well, I need some clues as to what part or section of the car that isn’t working correctly. It’s not like I can check everything. Well, I could, but that would be rather expensive.”
“I don’t want to spend any money.”
“Then why are you here?”
“The other shop said you could fix my problem.”
“That part I can do… I can fix just about any problem… BUT, what is the problem?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can I call the other shop and ask them? What’s the name of the other shop?”
“I forgot their name.”
This went on for what seemed hours. Back and forth with the “I don’t knows” and not once did I get any idea as to what I was supposed to be looking at. It didn’t matter if I mentioned something about the check engine light or whether or not his bumpers were on straight it was the same answer. “I don’t know.”
I got a feeling this other shop that he unfortunately forgot not only the name of but where they were in town sent this guy my way just so they didn’t have to deal with him anymore. (At least it seemed that way.) This whole situation was getting way too bizarre even for my wacky standards. Time to send these guys packing.
“Sir if and when you finally decide on what needs repaired and realize no matter what is wrong with it that you’ll being spending a few bucks to get it tested and repaired then and only then bring the car back. Since that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen today I’ll have ask you to leave because I have other customer’s vehicles in the shop that have problems and who are willing to pay for my services. You’ve wasted enough of my time already.
“So, you’re not going to fix my car?”
“Why is that?”
(My turn) “I don’t know.”
With that the guy and his buddy headed out the front door and drove off. Haven’t seen them again since. Just goes to show, if the information from the customer doesn’t lead in any direction or there isn’t any clues that a good detective/technician can use as a guide in finding a solution and they’re not willing to pay for your services… it’s time to move on.
This was an extreme situation to say the least. Even in some of those real odd ball problem descriptions it does get pretty tough to find the right questions to ask in order to get the root of the problem, but it can be done. Sometimes just getting the customer to tell you the important facts can be harder than repairing the car.
How often has this happened before and will it happen again? Hmm, let me think on that for a second. How about I give you my best professional answer on that one… … … “I don’t know”.