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Didn't want the Jack Anyway


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This is another story for one of my columns. I'm not sure I like the flow of the story... so I thought I would let the group give me some feed back on it. Let me know.


I didn't want that jack anyway


A city slicker has a flat on a lonely country road. After looking in his trunk he finds that the jack is missing. Unfamiliar with the surroundings he looked around to see what options he had. Way off in the distance he could see a single farm house. The choice was simple, start walking and borrow a jack. Down the dusty dirt road towards the farm house he went. As he walked his attitude was getting the best of him.


Thinking to himself, "I wonder if this farmer has a jack, wonder if he'll let me borrow it, he might want me to pay for it, he might not even answer the door, he might come out the door and tell me to get lost. He might meet me at the door with a shotgun, what's with this guy; all I wanted was a jack… I'm going to give him a piece of my mind, he's not getting away with this, threatening me at the door, and unload his old shotgun … I'm going to give this jerk a piece of my mind."


On and on he went, the closer to the door the madder he was getting. By the time he knocked on the door to the farm house, the poor farmer didn't have a chance to say hello. The city slicker throws back a punch and shouts out "I didn't want the jack anyway" and storms off down that same dusty dirt road with his original problem at hand.


From my point of view this is how some customers pre-judge the mechanic before they get to the service counter. Not to mention myself, I'm guilty of it too. My "jack" story starts shortly after the car is in the shop and I find out what's wrong with it. I'll call the customer and give him the news and they don't believe me or they questions me like a private investigator.


"Did you do this, did you check that, how do you explain the failure, are you sure…?" The customer would go on to say, "Well, I'll have to think about that, I'll call you back later and let you know what I want to do."


After so many years of working with the general public I have gained a "sixth-sense" about these things, call it the "jack" theory. I don't want to pre-judge the reaction of the customer anymore than I want to pre-judge a repair based on what happened in the past. Because now I'm judging the results before it actually happens. Sometimes your right on the money, other times there is something out of the ordinary that can't be explained until you reach the very end of the diagnoses.


I was asked once on a radio show about this same subject. The host of the show answered me this way; "I'm so afraid that the mechanic is going to rip me off that I'm always on guard when I'm at the repair shop."


That can be so true, except, look at it from the other side of the counter; I can have the same knee jerk reaction to a customer. I spend my entire day behind the counter, however that customer who wants to yell, scream, threaten, etc… his time at the counter is now and never more. This is where the shop puts itself on guard and starts to think… jacks… do I need this jack or not.


When one of these situations come along you can bet I'm not the happiest camper in the shop. I'm more like a growling bear ready to jump on the first dork that asks the next stupid question.


I have to remember to keep a professional approach while I'm talking to the customer. Be completely up front with all the labor charges and parts costs. Save the personal attitude when no one is around or the drive home.


As these situations escalate, the blood pressure rises. Jack or no jack I'm still going to pump the blood pressure higher. Is it the repair, a clash of personalities, or is it the cost of the repair? A lot of times it's the personalities and egos that get in the way of the repair. For some unknown reason a lot of people mistrust the industry to the point that they have to question everything you do. Or, they have had their car "per-checked" by "Uncle Fred" so by the time they get to your shop they have already determined the exact problem before you even have put their name on the work order.


More times than not, it's the old wallet talking, not the car, not the type of repair, and certainly not me. My diagnostics, and repair methods haven't changed from the previous job to this one, just because it's not going the way the customer would like it to go and the cost of the parts and labor is getting higher and higher doesn't make it right to raise your voice and be so demanding. I know they want their car back as cheaply as possible but in some cases the condition of the car doesn't quite allow that.


Usually a few hours or sometimes days later, I have to laugh at the whole thing, you have to. At this point all you want to do is move onto the next project. I make a living fixing cars, not arguing with a frustrated person that doesn't have the money for the repair or lacks the common sense to view the situation in a civil manner. And the last thing I need to do is start looking for another jack down a dusty country road.


Sometimes I'm stuck with the car at the shop, unrepaired and the customer doesn't want it back. Then, I have to decide to have it junked, repaired or sold as is.


So if you are looking for a cheap, trashed out car, usually with high miles on it, more than likely something broken, missing, or in need of even more repair than you can imagine, then go to your local repair shop…. They probably have the car for you. Do me a favor though, check for a jack first.

Edited by Gonzo
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Gonzo, I am really glad you are on this forum because I enjoy what you have to say. You are spot on! There is a segment of the population that is terrified of a repair shop. There is a segment of the population that let's their wallets talk. They tell me all they want is "their AC charged" but I tell that what they really want is "cold air". and there can be a big difference.


Yesterday I had a woman looking for "free diagnosis on her AC". I told her we didn't do free diagnosis but we had a $29.95 AC check or if the we found the AC chargeable we had a $109.95 AC special that included the check, evac, recharge, up to 2 pounds of freon, and adding dye to find the leak. She walk out on the hottest day of the year still looking for something for free. What I couldn't figure out is if on a day with a 103 degree heat index she could not afford to spring $110 to get cold air what good was the diagnostic going to be to her anyway?



I'm so glad you like the stories... really like the feedback. It tells me I'm on the right track with a given story.

As long as it's not a boring story and I like to re-read them, I figure somebody else probably will like them.


No matter what part of the nation... somebody always will want something free. I can't imagine how people can even consider that just because they "own" a car that the repair should be no more than going to the bathroom medicine cabinet for a bandaid.


Thanx for the thoughts... Love to here from everyone. thanx again.

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Another great story Gonzo! It really captures the sometimes strained relationships between customer and mechanic. Not that all customers are difficult, but the ones that are really make it difficult appreciate the good customers, at times.


There are days when I just want to be locked up inside a bay with my tool box, no phone, no paper work…just my tool box and a broken car.



Amen Brother! Let's just leave the jacks in the trunk.... LOL

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Got your attention? Good. The truth is, there is no such thing as the perfect technician pay plan. There are countless ways to create any pay plan. I’ve heard all the claims and opinions, and to be honest, it’s getting a little frustrating. Claims that an hourly paid pay plan cannot motivate. That flat rate is the only way to truly get the most production from your technicians. And then there’s the hybrid performance-based pay plan that many claim is the best.
      At a recent industry event, a shop owner from the Midwest boasted about his flat-rate techs and insisted that this pay plan should be adopted by all shops across the country. When I informed him that in states like New York, you cannot pay flat-rate, he was shocked. “Then how do you motivate your techs” he asked me.
      I remember the day in 1986 when I hired the best technician who ever worked for me in my 41 years as an automotive shop owner. We’ll call him Hal. When Hal reviewed my pay plan for him, and the incentive bonus document, he stared at it for a minute, looked up, and said, “Joe, this looks good, but here’s what I want.” He then wrote on top of the document the weekly salary he wanted. It was a BIG number. He went on to say, “Joe, I need to take home a certain amount of money. I have a home, a wife, two kids, and my Harly Davidson. I will work hard and produce for you. I don’t need an incentive bonus to do my work.” And he did, for the next 30 years, until the day he retired.
      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. So, here’s mine. Money is a motivator, but not the only motivator, and not the best motivator either. We have all heard this scenario, “She quit ABC Auto Center, to get a job at XYZ Auto Repair, and she’s making less money now at XYZ!” We all know that people don’t leave companies, they leave the people they work for or work with.
      With all this said, I do believe that an incentive-based pay plan can work. However, I also believe that a technician must be paid a very good base wage that is commensurate with their ability, experience, and certifications. I also believe that in addition to money, there needs to be a great benefits package. But the icing on the cake in any pay plan is the culture, mission, and vision of the company, which takes strong leadership. And let’s not forget that motivation also comes from praise, recognition, respect, and when technicians know that their work matters.
      Rather than looking for that elusive perfect pay plan, sit down with your technician. Find out what motivates them. What their goals are. Why do they get out of bed in the morning? When you tie their goals with your goals, you will have one powerful pay plan.
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