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The Bird Lady - Ya meet all kinds at the repair shop.


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This next story is dedicated to my two lovely daughters. Amanda Sue and Katrina Lee ... They reminded me about this lady sometime ago and told me I should write this story for them... enjoy...

The Bird Lady

This lady was weird. Hmm, not a great way to start a story now is it.

But, it’s true. This lady was a weird as it gets. The name “bird lady” was actually from my daughters. They nicknamed this gal after a couple of trips to the shop to see what old dad was up too.

On many occasions that the girls would come to visit good old dad during working hours, this car would be at the shop. There were always bird cages in the back seat, feathers everywhere, and bird droppings all over the place. Turns out, that the lady owned an exotic pet store somewhere in town. She never carried a purse it was always a “Wal-Mart” plastic shopping bag. She dressed like a bag lady, most of the time in a funky 80’s style coat with a frumpy crochet hat with kaleidoscope colors. To talk to this lady made you wonder if she wasn’t coo-coo herself, always off in her own little world, all by her lonesome.

She would come in on a regular basis to have general maintenance done. Oil change one day; check the tire pressure on another trip, so on and so on. One particular time in the shop she was there to have a leaking valve cover gasket replaced. She waited up front in the lobby while we finished the job in the shop. Most of the time she was too nervous to just sit and wait for the work to be done. She would wander around the lobby looking at things or pop in and out of the door checking on her car... this time she just sat there.

As I walked through the front office for something I noticed her sitting there in the lobby reading a book while crunching down on pieces of raw spaghetti noodles. You could hear the crunch from a block away. Crunch, crunch, crunch, went the noodles, as if it was an automatic reflex with her. She would start off with a full length piece and then would quickly munch it down to nothing. Over and over again she would do this.

I just shook my head and went back to the business at hand. Soon we had the work completed and I went up front to finish out the invoice.

You know, it’s impolite to ask people what they are doing munching on noodles like that. I’m no doctor or chef… but this can’t be good for you.

I just had to ask, “What’s with the noodles, you seem to like them.”

“Oh, I’m on a diet,” she said, “It keeps my mind off of eating and I feel full all the time then. Works great, I haven’t put on a pound since I started this.”

Had to ask, “So when did you start this diet?”

“Today.” She answered.

OK then, ....I’ll just finish this invoice and send this lady back to her little nest. I really don’t want to ask her anymore questions. Oh, I’ve got plenty, but, I ain’t asking.

“Would you like to try it?” She asked me.

“No,… no, that’s OK,” I told her, “I’m fine, wife and I are having spaghetti tonight. Thanks for asking though.”

I told this story to my wife when I got home. She couldn’t place the lady’s face until I mentioned that this is the lady the girls called the bird lady.

I think the nickname fits. If you could have seen this spaghetti eating champ at work… you would have thought she had gone to the birds too.


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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

    • By Joe Marconi in Joe's Blog
         4
      Typically, when productivity suffers, the shop owner or manager directs their attention to the technicians. Are they doing all they can do to maintain high billable hours? Are they as efficient as they can be?  Is there time being wasted throughout the technician’s day? 
      All these reasons factor into production problems, but before we point fingers at the technicians, let’s consider a few other factors.
      Are estimates being written properly? Are labor testing and inspections being billed out correctly? Are you charging enough for testing and inspecting, especially for highly specialized electrical, on-board computer issues, and other complex drivability work?  Is there a clear workflow process everyone follows that details every step from the write-up to vehicle delivery? Do you track comebacks, and is that affecting production?  Is the shop layout not conducive to high production? For example, is it unorganized, where shop tools, technical information, and equipment are not easily accessible to every technician?  Are you charging the correct labor rate and allowing for variables such as rust, vehicle age, and the fact that most labor guides are wrong? Also, is there effective communication between the tech and the service advisor to ensure that extra labor time is accounted for and billed to the customer? These are a few of the top reasons for low productivity problems. There are others, but the main point is to look at the entire operation. Productivity is a team effort.  Blaming the techs or other staff members does not get to the root cause in most cases.
      Maintaining adequate production levels is the responsibility of management to create the processes that will lead to high production while holding everyone accountable. 
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