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Taking time to Reflect - - - bookstore customers are they the same ones at the repair shop?

A Day to Reflect


Sometime ago I had my first book signing at a local book store. Steve’s Sundry – Books and Magazines. It’s a landmark bookstore in town, everyone knows Steve’s place. It’s been in town for more than 60 years. It’s a great place for a large malt at the soda fountain, or browse around the store to find a good book. I’m not a well-known author; I’m a mechanic/technician that wrote a book. I really didn’t think there would be a crowd of potential buyers and admirers at the book signing; I’m not that naive to think I would be bringing in a flood of new customers to the book store.

So instead, I used the time to study the people that came in and out of the store. What a wonderful place, a book store. In the back of the store is an old counter with a bar and several bar stools. The counter, the soda fountains, and the bar stools are all original 50’s decor. With malt shakes and great sandwiches. You could take the whole day to browse for books while sipping on a shake or coffee. It’s a very pleasant place, nostalgic and modern at the same time.

One regular customer sitting at the end of the bar was sipping away on his coffee while texting messages on his Blackberry. On the other end there was an old couple who appeared to be in their 70’s reading the paper and browsing a book or two. I could see this Norman Rockwell painting of them pictured there for probably the last 40 years doing the same thing.

My place for the day was at a little table next to the register. A large stack of my books was neatly spread across the table. People would walk by .. glance… and smile. The owner of the store would make short little references to my book and try to get people interested in talking to this so called “author” sitting there all solemn and quiet. The register was busy with small book purchases and a few patrons from the bar. Very home spun and relaxing, a lot of hello’s and “how’s the weather” comments throughout the afternoon. Some people would ask about the football game coming up and others would want to know where a certain book was.

All this was going on while I sat there patiently waiting for the clock to roll around to my designated leaving time. Not that I wanted to leave, oh no, I was enjoying the atmosphere and the quiet nature of the daily workings of the store.

That brings up the thought that came across my mind. Are these the same people that come to my shop with an attitude and misconceptions of the auto industry…..probably so. I have often wondered for many years that it must be my attitude that brings out the worst in people, but, the whole time I was sitting there I was still the mechanic, I was still the guy they needed to fix their car….however…these people didn’t know me as such…. I was an unknown author signing books.

When someone would ask about my book I would tell them that it was a book about people and the daily happenings at a repair shop. That it was funny, but informative…and you would definitely get something out of it. If you knew a person in the auto industry this would make a great gift and they would get a great kick out of reading it too. Well, something like that anyway. Most of the time I would get a disagreeable - hmm. Others had that pondering look as if they were going back into their memory trying to find what was so funny about getting the oil changed on their car. And then walk away shaking their head. I didn’t find that in anyway offensive, or disrespectful. I found it to be a logical, and a very intelligent way for a person to state their opinion without saying much at all. I admire folks like this, the ones that can speak their minds without uttering a word.

As each and every one of these patrons would checkout at the register they gladly paid for their things and gave a big thank you to the person behind the counter. I never heard one person ever ask “why does this cost so much”, “I think you shouldn’t charge so much for this sandwich”, “I know a place down the street that can do the same thing for half of what you’re charging.”

Now that’s funny, that’s pretty much what I hear every day. What gives….? Oh, now don’t get me wrong… it’s not every customer that complains about the prices. I have many, many customers that are eager to pay for my time and service…even a few that think I’m not charging enough for what I do. I even have some that feel the need to leave a tip. It’s those that want to complain and complain and complain that irks me. I have even had them tell me that I should give them the part for what I paid for it. Does the book store give you the book for what they paid for it? Come on people…. I wish I knew why it is the way it is, but for some reason perfectly sane people arrive at an auto repair shop and become tyrants of evil forces. Is it the smell of 90 weight oil in the air? Could it be the constant groan of pneumatic tools in the background? I wish I knew. Maybe after I retire I’ll take a job somewhere pleasant…. Quiet, reserved, and ever so nostalgic…. Yea…. Like a book store.

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This is a topic that I often discuss with other shop owners. While people may think a particular price is high, let's say for a Italian combo sandwich, it's accepted and the consumer pays for it. I often make reference to Starbucks. The line at my local Starbucks is out the door every morning. Maybe coffee isn't just coffee, and that's the secret of Starbucks.


When you think about the price for a typical LOF and compare it to other items, you begin to scratch your head. My wife is buying a scarf for my daughter with a price tag north of $50! For what, a piece of cloth? Well, again, maybe a scarf is not just a scarf.


The consumer sees little difference from repair to repair shop across town. When the shop across town gives away Diag time, why don't we, the consumer asks, right?


The next time I am in the Deli buying a cup of coffee and my buttered roll, I think I will ask, "Hey, that's a lot of money for a buttered roll and coffee. Can't you give me a break? After all, how much do YOU pay for that roll?"

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Yesterday a caller told me that I should give her a free diagnostics because she was trying to make it on less money than she used to make...I told her no..... Because I was doing the same thing already.... She hung up. I don't believe you'd ask that at the checkout at Walmart....but I guess it's ok at the repair shop. Go figure......"".

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Had a customer yesterday ask to bring his own parts because apparently what I was charging for a radiator job was too much. Even after he authorized the repair and came to pick up the car, he started with "I want to build a relationship with you guys but you guys need to give me good prices, I need good prices." No one twisted his arm to pay us to install his radiator.

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