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Joe Marconi
Joe Marconi

The Devil on My Shoulder!

After two days of winter storms I was eager to get some work produced in the shop. It was Wednesday, the third week in February, two years ago. The winter already had its share of storms, which was killing business. Winter storms might be good for future work, but at that moment I was looking ahead to Friday…Payday. And with little money generated so far this week, things became a economy industry people Recession repairlittle worrisome.


Among a few small jobs we had scheduled this Wednesday, we had a Subaru booked for a 60k service, a nice profitable job. I assigned a tech to the job, that returned to me about 20 minutes later, with disturbing news. The cylinder heads were leaking coolant. I now had to tell the customer that the pre-sold 60k service had a more pressing issue. I called the customer at her office and explained the problem. I also explained that it would be in her best interest to replace the timing belt, drive belts, and water pump, if we were to do the cylinder head work. After an endless series of “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God”, she asked how much would it be to do all the work, including the 60k service. Were my ears hearing correctly? If I could sell this one job, it would bring in much needed dollars to the shop. I gave her the entire price and after a long pause she said, “Do it all”.


After printing an updated work order, I ran over to the tech and gave him the good news. As I was walking away back to the service counter, a depressed thought came to me. Is this Subaru covered under the extended warranty for cylinder head failures? If so, shouldn’t the customer be informed? I asked the shop foreman to find out. After a quick call to the local dealer, the foreman confirmed it: this customer was indeed entitled to have the cylinder head work done at the dealer, at no charge. My thoughts immediately again went to Friday…Payday!


What do I do? Tell the customer? Don’t tell the customer? This is when that devil shows up on your shoulder just like in those old Bugs Bunny cartoons and starts telling you things like: “Hey, don’t be stupid, you need the money for payroll and besides, the customer will never know”. But the angel on the other shoulder tells you, “Joe, do what’s right”. I have to be honest; at the time I was tempted NOT to tell the customer and began to rationalize in my mind that this is a matter of survival. But, the angel won out and I decided to call the customer and give her the news.


The customer was ecstatic. She could not thank me enough and said my honesty was refreshing. She called the local dealer, which sent over a flatbed. We all sadly watched as the flatbed drove away, fading into the winter sunset. I don’t know how we did it, but we somehow got through payroll that Friday.


We’ve all heard the expression, “Give and you shall receive”. What happened in the next few months was incredible. What I didn’t know at the time is that after I hung up the phone with the customer, she began telling everyone at her office about what I had done. The news spread like wildfire and I picked up a few of her coworkers as customers. The best news was that the dealer wanted to sell her the 60k service along with the cylinder head work, and she told the dealer no. She came back to me, to finish the 60k service. In retrospect, being honest was the right call. We’ve all had that devil on our shoulders from time to time, but my advice is not to give in. Always do what is in the best interest for the customer, even though the short-term loss for you appears unbearable.

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