Rude or Incompetent
There's a point when all the communication skills and diagnostic theory just go straight out the window. Nothing you do will change or affect the outcome of the situation, no matter what you do. You’re at the mercy of the situation. I always go back to the quote by Will Rogers, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I agree… except I don’t think Mr. Rogers was referring to the happenings at the service counter. It's not that I don't try to get along with everyone who comes in the door, but there are times that no matter what I do, we aren’t going to see eye to eye.
Could be a communication problem, could be one of us is not comfortable with the surroundings, could be my turn for a bad day…or theirs… who knows? To be honest, I'm not one to sit and listen to a long winded story of how they bought the car on a rainy Tuesday, or how the right rear seat belt hasn't worked, and the transmission sometimes doesn't shift, then this morning the battery went dead so they had to jump start...but… that’s not what they brought it in for… however… they thought I should know “everything”. How about we just get to the point and go from there. For some… that’s not at all possible.
And, if you ask, “So, what you want me to find out is why the transmission doesn't shift sometimes?” you probably just started a string of improbable conversations that will inevitably end with me being either called “rude” or “incompetent”. As with the following example.
They'll answer, “No, I need you to find out why the engine stalls. What ever gave you the idea that I wanted you to look at the transmission?”
“Cause you mentioned it right before telling me about jump starting it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I'm talking about what you’re talking about.”
“I said the car died when I was driving it, and now the battery is dead. That's why the engine is missing. Apparently you're not as good a mechanic as my friend said you were.” (See… I reached incompetent pretty quick this time.)
Then there are the times someone will come into the shop and tell me somebody said to them that I give some sort of discount if they are a member of some car club. Or I have a “no charge” policy to check out their car for special customers. Huh? Really? Who? What the? How does this get started? Oh, and of course.... this leads to the “rude” side of things and another potential customer out the door. Even if I try to offer them some condolences for their misinformation their mind is made up, and since whatever it was they were told isn't happening, it’s OK for them to raise their voice and be demanding… because, well… I’m rude.
The biggest laugh I get is the typical type of “A” personality person who comes in the door and wants their car looked at “NOW”. Are ya serious? How, what, when, or where did ya ever get the idea that you could walk into a shop, doctor’s office, restaurant...etc... And demand something like that? I'm afraid to say it but, it happens a lot. I suppose it's this rush rush world we live in these days that some people think the world revolves only because they allow it to. I guess I missed the fairy’s dancing in front of you while they were lofting rose petals for you to walk on… sorry about that… please forgive me.
A typical situation happened just the other day. An elderly gentlemen came into the office asking about a brake problem he was having on a truck he kept alongside of his house. He uses it to pull a camper trailer, but he hasn’t used it in years. He wanted an estimate on bleeding his brakes, but before I could give him any kind of estimate he had to tell me all about the brake system on his truck. (Here we go…) I asked him what kind of truck it was. That led to him waving his hand at me as if I wasn't supposed to worry about things like that. He explained it to me, “This is a truck brake system that I’m talking about, and you don't know anything about those.” (Gee, I'm glad to know... that I don't know...so I guess without knowing...ya know, I probably can't fix it either.)
He went on to tell me, “I saw a leak around that little thing that you bleed the brakes from, so I tightened it up. I've also switched it over to DOT 4 brake fluid and added a brake aide to it.”
I said to him, “You've modified the brake system I take it? Dot 4 and some sort of brake aide? I'm wondering if the leak has been taken care of correctly. That could be the reason you need the brakes bled.”
“I didn't put Dot 4 in it, and I don't have any brake aide on it... those are for big trucks. Mine is a ¾ ton truck,” he stammers.
“You just told me you did,” I badgered back.
“No, I didn't. Are you having trouble understanding me young man? All I need is an estimate for bleeding the brakes.”
“What kind of truck is it?”
“It's a Dodge... and it has a small camper trailer that I've had for a while. Oh it’s a real nice one, and I use it all the time.”
“You told me you hardly use it, and that’s why it’s sitting alongside of your house.”
“No, I use it a lot when I need to. So how much to bleed the brakes?”
“If you're seeing brake fluid leaking odds are you probably need a lot more than just the brakes bled, sir. Chances are it could be a wheel cylinder leaking, and of course I'll have to check the fluid for any contamination. Which could lead to even more issues.”
“Oh, I see, Ok then, I don't have the truck with me. Can't drive it right now... brakes ain't working, I just need a price for bleeding them.”
“I could give you an estimate on the average time it takes to bleed a brake system that is fully functional and doesn't have any other problems, if that's what you'd like?”
“I'll bring the truck in so you can look at it and give me an estimate, as soon as I get the brakes fixed.” (Ah dah, isn’t that what you wanted me to fix?)
This is like the guy who drives his car to the shop because it won't start. I'm really laughing inside you know, even though I’m being as professional on the outside as I can be. I mean seriously… the car that you drove to the shop starts and runs fine… what am I supposed to do now?
A few hours later the brake bleeder guy is back.
“What can I do for you now?” I asked.
“None of the other shops would talk to me. They told me to get out. You're the only one who would even tell me what’s going on. So can you give me that price on bleeding the brakes now?” he asked.
I guess I wasn’t rude or incompetent enough… it never ends.