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A Day to Reflect


Gonzo

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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 to find your favorite 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. 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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Edited by Gonzo
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I'll collect the money for you guys while you and Gonzo sign books! :lol:

Thanks for sharing .... I'm glad the story touched you in a way to make everyone think about the customer and ourselves in a different light. And Joe, starting this website, and letting me introduce you to my stories is something I'm very proud of. As if you couldn't tell, I have a story for just about every situation.

 

I try to write these stories so that each and everyone who works in the business can relate to them. I'm not writing them to be the next "Steven King" I'm writing these to help "tell the story of the repair business from our side of the counter" too many times the evening news wants to portray the repair place as something to fear, I'd like to change all that. Change it to the point, that it's a highly respected trade and less of the "jerk/rip off places" Well, I can dream can't I?? .... but with effort each and everyone of us can help put something in motion for the future techs and business owners.

 

In the mean time.... xrac... you can collect the money... I'll sit back with Joe with some coffee and sign those books. Gonzo thanx again...

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Gonzo, I think we should grab another cup for xrac, what do you think?

As long as we're sharing.... sure.... Come on xrac....quit counting the small change... grab a cup, I'll pour... how do ya like it ?? cream and sugar? LOL

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So, Gonzo, when I get on your site and order my copy of your book, can I get it signed by the author? :) I am not a coffee drinker but make the tea as sweet as you dare and I am there.

 

 

Got my copy on order. I look forward to getting to read and laugh at some great stories.

 

Thanks guys :)

 

Craig

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So, Gonzo, when I get on your site and order my copy of your book, can I get it signed by the author? :) I am not a coffee drinker but make the tea as sweet as you dare and I am there.

 

 

Got my copy on order. I look forward to getting to read and laugh at some great stories.

 

Thanks guys :)

 

Craig

Sure it'll be signed... the book is free ... your just paying for the autogtraph... LOL

Hope you like the book. Gonzo

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this reminded me of one of my customers. I eat out pretty much every day at different diners in the area. It does get costly but with the hours I'm keeping having a bite to eat and hanging out at the counter for a bit before going home is my time where I can relax and bull shit with the waitresses and other regulars. And I get a lot of work and recommendations from the waitresses and owners of these establishments. I have one customer that I cant help but cringe when I see him coming through the door, beat up truck rusted out. Real nightmare to work on, the kind that not only do you break anything you touch but also whatever is next to that as well. The guy insists on bringing his own parts, usually from a scrap yard. I know this and know what I'm getting into but it's work and being fairly new I tackle this beast making it clear to him that it's so difficult to work on that he's got to leave it for a day or two and I'll go back and forth on it if other work comes in. So it's a good filler job and I need all the work I can get. Only thing is no matter what I quote him he always approves the work without batting an eye.... until the work is completed then the crying begins. Why is it so much, cant you do any better etc. He'll even say he doesn't have enough money and leave coming back the next day to discuss the price some more before finally giving in and paying. I easily loose an hour just in talking to him about the work and the bill. But the funny thing is, I'm told by the waitresses at the diner he always leaves a $10dollar tip. Doesn't matter if it's a dinner check coming out to $15 or merely if he stops in for a to go cup of coffee for a $1.50, the tip is always 10 bucks every time. Yeah people are funny sometimes.

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Would you recommend putting a copy in our customer waiting area Gonzo?? lol

If you mean my book.... yes if you mean this story... yes

 

Most people when they read my stories that are not in the business read them with a chuckle. As one customer put it.... "It's amazing how the author has caught the customer out of their comfort zone and they don't even know it." (They didn't know it was me that wrote the book... even though my name is on the cover... go figure

 

I compare it to: why do people watch police reality shows, why do people watch a car race, demolition derby's, boxing,etc... Why? To watch somebody other than themselves screw up....

 

That's where having the book in the lobby will get your customer to think, maybe even be more appreciative of your work. Once they see "the other side of the counter from our point of view" that customer who always thinks this business is out to screw them, may actually walk up, hold out their hand, and say "Thank You" ..... and mean it..... Gonzo

 

and yes... of course I have a copy in the lobby... LOL

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         5 comments
      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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