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This is a rather long.... long story. I normally don't make them this long because it gets boring (to me) to read them. But there is a reason this one is so long. Grab a coffee, take a little time read thru this one... and lets see if you have run across your own Rocky Balboa.






Taking a line from the Rocky movies. “Adrian, Adrian!” If you can picture Rocky Balboa shouting out the name of his girlfriend you have a good idea what I experienced one day at the shop.


It all started with a phone call several weeks ago. A referred customer wanted some information about some repairs he wanted done to his late 90’s F150.


Mandy (my daughter and office manager) was in the office and as always handled all of this customers questions with the highest level of expertise. Several weeks later the truck showed up at the shop. The keys were in the overnight slot along with a hand scribbled note. The name and contact number with a brief description of the problems were all there. Although, most of it was misspelled but the main information was legible.


There was quite a bit on the list. It stretched from the front of the truck to the rear. First thing to do was get it up on the lift. Number one on the list was the front end. All four ball joints needed changed and the idler arm was trashed. (Sounds about right for a truck with 150k miles on it and looked like it had a pretty rough life.)


Now, to the other end of the truck. The rearend was the next issue. You couldn’t help but notice the leaking fluid out of the front of the assembly. I gave the driveshaft a jiggle… up and down and round and round….this rearend is shot. There so much play in the gears you could probably stick another rearend between the gaps of the gears. I grabbed the tire and gave it a turn. The growl from the center of the reared was so loud…. I don’t know how anyone could have driven it to the shop. This thing is totally shot.


Next item on the list was diagnose the cruise control. Anybody that has one of these should… if you haven’t ---YOU better…. Get the recall on the cruise control switch that is mounted on the master cylinder. Your dealer can tell you if your vehicle needs to have the recall done or not.


Obviously this owner never pays attention to those notices that the manufacture sends out. The only thing wrong with the cruise was the switch. The other and finally the last thing was the right side wiper didn’t work… at least that was what was written down on the invoice which was simply copied from the owners own notes. Oh, it worked but do ya think maybe, just maybe…. It might work better if you put the wiper blade on correctly. I’m not sure but I think it’s not supposed to be cork screwed twisted and pointing towards the sky. Another no brainer repair… OK, one more thing to write down on the invoice; replace wiper blades... Finally, all done.


Now that the “diagnostic” part of the repair is completed I’ll write up the damages and have Mandy call the customer while I get to the next job in the shop. I’ll wait till she gets off the phone, and then order what parts are needed. You know so far this is just like any other repair. I’ll admit a rather large list of repairs, but nothing out of the ordinary. What could go wrong now…?


But as usual there is always the “question and answer” part of the diagnostics. Mandy came out to the shop and asked the usual questions that a customer will usually ask; “Why does it cost so much, why can’t you just stop it from leaking instead replacing the entire rearend, why are the parts so expensive, can’t you do it cheaper…” you know the rest….


I explained everything to Mandy and she repeated it back to the customer. Just another day at the shop, just another repair, there was nothing out of the ordinary.


Now I never expected the owner to go for the rearend or for that matter the front end, mainly because of the cost. I don’t like to make snap judgments on cars or customers, but it seemed very highly likely that this guy didn’t have the cash flow to maintain his truck in decent shape. Otherwise, things would have been fixed long before they got into the shape they are in now.


I expected that, so it wasn’t any surprise that the only repairs I was going to make were the two cheaper repairs. (Cruise and wipers)


The work was completed and the truck was set aside to wait for the customer to pick it up the next day. Still, this is nothing new… just another repair.


The next day the customer came and picked up the car, well, I should point out that this guy wanted to strut his manly ego at the front counter. Me, I was doing what I normally do every day… fix the cars in the shop. Busy as could be in the back of the shop, Mandy came out to ask me a few questions.


A lot of times she may have a question on a part or description of the labor charges. While I was elbow deep in a job at hand she took down the information and headed back to the front office.


This guy wasn’t buying her answers. He wanted to “talk” with the mechanic that worked on the job. Mandy told him that I was busy and that if you can wait a few minutes I’ll see if I can pull him away from the job he’s on. By this time he had already stormed out the front door.


She didn’t even have a chance to finish her sentence….. The one that ended with…. “As soon as he gets a break he’ll make it to the front office to talk to you.” The next thing I know, that same truck is back in front of the service bays blocking as many doors as he could.



Then this Italian stallion of the motor world jumps out of his truck stands by the front fender with his arms stretched out and starts yelling at the top of his lungs and gives his best “Adrian” Rocky Balboa impression. “So, what is it? Ya don’t want to talk to me?!?!? I ain’t paying for the work unless I talk somebody that knows what they are doing!!!”


The first thing that crosses my mind is… “WHO’S THIS JACKASS!” Then I recognize the truck…got it…it’s the owner of the vehicle.


Upset about something but of course, I don’t know what.


“If you’re the fella waiting for me that was in the front office, I’m cleaning up now and I’ll be there in a minute…as you can tell I’m a little busy at the moment,” I said, a little louder than normal.


Not that I’m pissed, I’m more confused than anything else. “Rocky” leaves his truck where it is and walks to the front office door. I take off my welding gear, turn off the welder and clean up enough to go to the front office. (I was busy welding a door back together for another customer) As soon as I made it to the office the "Rocky" went right back into his ranting.


“I’m putting a notice up in my office and tell everybody I know how much of an asshole this place is,” he shouted back at me.


“So what’s your problem buddy,” I said, already getting steamed by this butt head’s constant badgering.


“I want to talk to the guy who worked on the car, not the gal in the front office. She is not a mechanic so obviously she doesn’t know what she is talking about. I’m a damn good mechanic myself and I don’t want to talk to some girl,” he blurts out.


“Oh really,” I said, “What shop do you work at?” Curious as to why a “damn” good mechanic brought his car to another repair shop.


“I’m an A/P mechanic…. That’s all you need to know,” he stammers out.


Nothing against aircraft mechanics… their great at what they do. But, let’s face it… a jet engine isn’t a car.


Well, this Balboa stand in was as much a jerk as I have ever seen. I explained why there is a pretty gal in the front office and what her job duties were. Also, how she has answered all of his questions over the phone and if she had a problem she was perfectly capable of relaying information.


“You know, she’s a lot pretty than me,” I said, “So why don’t you let her answer your questions and if at any time she needs more answers I’ll be glad to assist.”


This jerk still had his Rocky warm up suit on. It wasn’t a question of man to man information now. His whole attitude was that he was the champ and everyone else is a chump. Sorry, pal, it doesn’t work that way.


After I explained the whole thing again to him I asked Mandy if what I said was similar to what she had told him earlier. The answer was “YES”… go figure. As he walked out the door I reminded him that his disrespect to the guys in the shop was unacceptable and blocking the garage doors slows down our ability to offer service to other customers.


“Your problem is I’m the customer here….and you should be showing respect to me before I have to show one ounce of respect to you or anybody here,” shouting as loud as he could.


“You know, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, I try to keep cost down by having someone in the front office to handle these things. But apparently you’re from the old school of auto repair where a guy talks to a guy about car stuff… sorry, I guess I didn’t think about that,” I said as humbly as I could… which by the way I didn’t mean any of it. It was mainly for his feeble ego than for anything else.


He accepted my apology and then wanted to know if he bought a used rearend how much I would charge to install it. I wanted to say….not near enough…in fact…never in your life would I do another job for the likes of you. But I didn’t.


However, little does he know, his little sign in his office might be his way of showing his macho ego. But I hate tell him this, his story is in print and it’s all over the country….so if you are going to put a sign in your office area to let everyone you know about “the” asshole, you should take notice of one thing. Make sure “the” asshole you’re dealing with isn’t a writer of such stories. Because, I think my little sign is bigger than your little sign…. there, Mr. Balboa…..!







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Why is the world filled with jerks like this? Everywhere you go and every shop owner you speak to can tell they too have had their share of people who have absoulutley no respect for other people and are empty of common decency.


The only good news, it's not only me.


Great story again Gonzo….keep 'em coming!



The sad part Joe, is that you're right... everyone has had to deal with people like this butthead. That's one of the reason why I feel it's important to write these stories. Since we all have had these experiences it only makes sense to remind ourselves and to inform the next shop owners and techs... that the world is full of odd balls like this guy. I think it makes me appreciate the rest of the consumer world more, and really appreciate that person who is happy to come to my shop to get some work done.


And one more thing. When I'm out running around and I'm "the consumer" I think I am more likely to understand the plight of the guy behind the counter after reading/writing these stories. I, myself, will not - never --- act like this guy... ever.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      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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