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It Runs In The Family

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It Runs in the Family


There’s an old saying; “The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.” How true… how true, it also applies to how people act at repair shops or other public business areas, such as restaurants or grocery stores. The other day a young driver, probably his first car, came in and asked; “I’m here to get my car diagnosed.” He didn’t even give his name, he didn’t even say hello, he was right to the point, and then some…


Mandy was behind the counter, “Well, Hello, thanks for coming in. What can I do for ya.”


“My dad and I already know it’s not the battery, and we already know which fuse it is. If you pull the radio fuse the battery won’t go dead.”


“So you have a radio problem?”


“No, just diagnose why the battery goes dead,” he said in a demanding tone.


Ok then, Mandy wrote up the invoice and I pulled the car in. A couple of quick checks on my part led to the obvious result that the radio the problem. Even with the car off this aftermarket radio remained on. Lit up like a Christmas tree, with every display and button on.


One look under the dash told a lot of the story… the radio was so cobbled up under the dash you could have pulled out enough wire to put in several other radios. With my luck, if I reached under there and grabbed a couple of these radio wires I probably wouldn’t be able to get it back the way it was. I didn’t have a diagram for the aftermarket radio and the stock wiring from the factory radio was buried up behind the dash somewhere.


Besides, it wasn’t one of those quick pull out radio installs either. This was one of those cars that the entire dash had to be removed before getting to the radio itself. Seemed to me the best course of action was to let the boy and his good old dad pull the radio out. It would save them some money and perhaps be the end of their problem without spending anymore with me. But my main reason for avoiding taking out the radio was the way it was installed. This thing was hog tied, lashed, and counter screwed in there with enough brackets and pieces of foam the likes of which… I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Without even knowing for sure… I’ll bet dad and son put this stereophonic-road noise cancelling-head banging-bass thumpin’-piece of modern music listening device into the car…


I’ve been repairing cars for a long time and when it comes to these “home installed” radios my best advice… for me… is to steer clear of them. There’s no doubt that it will be a complete disaster if as a professional tech tries to remove it with all the half-taped up wiring and the cluster of hap-hazard brackets people will put in to hold in their precious noise manipulator. You can’t duplicate the mess… and when you try to correct the install with proper brackets and good connections… the time, the labor, and the effort usual are higher than what they expect to spend.


I’ve seen everything from toilet tissue rolls to blocks of wood holding up a stereo. Wads of wiring crushed behind the units to chains and plastic bits and pieces screwed into anything they could find.


With that said… which by the way… I thought I was doing them a favor and letting them take their radio out. Wasn’t the real issue here… It was dad… he had a problem with the whole thing.


The dad calls his son’s cell phone, hands the phone to me and starts screaming in my ear, “I’ve already pulled the fuse to the radio… so I know that’s not the problem.”


The dad went on yelling… at this point I’m holding the phone as far away from my ear as I can.


“I’m a mechanic too, and you don’t need you to tell me how to check for a draw on a car… I know how to do that. You’re looking in the wrong place.” (the typical answer … didn’t you know… EveryOne is a mechanic…)


I told him, “Sir, I never asked you to pull the fuse… I said I wanted the entire radio to be disconnected so that I can be sure that there is no feedback from other sources. The radio fuse you referred to is only the key-on voltage not the entire voltage that would go to the radio, and right now the radio stays on with the key off. I certainly can’t trace for any other draws until this is disconnected.”


Still screaming in my ear the dad went on to tell me, “That radio is a real pain to take out… why it took my son and I all day to put it in.” (At least my hunch was right….)


“Sir, that’s why I offered you the choice for you to pull it out instead of me.”


“I already pulled the fuse… so what’s the problem?”


“Sir, as I said before… I didn’t ask for the fuse to be pulled… I need the entire radio disconnected… am I being perfectly clear…?”


(Still screaming in my ear) “You don’t have to be rude mister.” (Where’s my chance to say something like… quit yelling butt head! I can hear ya without all that shouting! But, you know… professionalism… not stupidism)


With all the screaming in my ear I thought I did a pretty good job of making my point. I thought “being perfectly clear” was a good way to get my point across without being interrupted for the umpteenth time. It’s simply amazing that a direct question... “Disconnect the entire radio system” is turned around to “I took the fuse out, and you don’t have to be rude.” It’s not like I said, “disconnect the right speaker or only disconnect the ground wire”. Merely disconnect the whole thing. It wasn’t that difficult to comprehend. I’m sure it’s the same thing any other trade goes thru… For me, I’ve had enough with this guy yelling in my ear, “Sir, just do me a favor, take the car home and pull the radio out, I’m certain your battery drain will disappear.”


With that the young lad grabbed his keys off the counter, ripped his cell phone from my hand and was out the door.


An hour or so later the phone rang. It was the mother. Mandy answered the phone, the angry voice on the other ended shouted, “You can tell Gonzo that somebody needs to come down there and smack the sh$t out of him.” CLICK…….. Mandy didn’t get another word in.


Boy, I made some new friends there, didn’t I? Sometimes it isn’t a matter of repeat business, sometimes it’s just a matter of maintaining your sanity while dealing with the irate customer. I don’t run across this type of customer often but when I do it’s a memorable occasion.


At least one thing is still true, that acorn didn’t fall far from that tree. But, I’ll add one more line to that … “It must run in the family too”. Because it sure did in this one.





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The saddest part of this story is that it happens too often to all of us. The insults and rudeness from some people is unbearable at times. I can't tell you how many times I had to stand there while an idiot customer rants about a situation that in actuality is not really that big a deal.


We had a customer come in the other day for an oil change and a state inspection. When we told him that his wipers were torn and would not pass inspection, he went ballistic and started shouting at the service advisor. He said, "that's impossible I just spent $1,1000 on the brakes and steering at another shop, they would not have missed the wiper blades, you guys are ripping me off".


I heard the commotion and walked into the office to confront this jackass. Politely, BUT STERNLY, I told the man to calm down and stop shouting at my service advisor. I also told him that if he thinks we are ripping him off, he was welcome to leave and go back to the OTHER shop and have THEM inspect the car. (Why he came to us, I don't know). Grudgingly, he told us to put the wipers on. I know this guy will not be back, and truthfully, I don't care.


Thanks again for a great story. For me, this one was therapy…it's easier to deal with things when I know we are all going thru the same issues.



Joe, it is therapy... I think that is why I write these stories down.


I look at it this way... I'm an honest, law abiding guy... I've got kids and grandkids... why I'd even stop to wait for a turtle to cross the road. I'm not a crook, a thief, or a swindler. I'm a mechanic. a good one at that.


The insulting, the ranting, the loud mouth idiots out there that darken my door because they don't know, or don't want to have any part of their car maintenance and feel it's their right to scream at me for doing so... is without a doubt the reason I write these stories, because I know I can't be the only guy out there experiencing these kind of customers


I feel like I have taking on the task of telling these stories to one and all... not only humorously... but in a way guys like you and me can relate too... and in some small way finsih the last sentence in the story with some dignity and personal respect knowing... "I'm not alone in this mixed up world of automotive repair"


Thanx for the comments Joe... your comments become my therapy.... as Red Green would say "I'm pullin' for ya, we're all in this together"...

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Now that's a great story. It reminds me of one of Sun Tzu's laws from the book, the Art of War: "Win without fighting"



I'VE GOT IT ! ! ! All we need is to hire a bouncer for the front lobby... yea, that's it... my troubles are over... why didn't I think of that years ago....


(is it really coming to this.,.,., LOL... I hope not... but people are people... and I don't think they'll change any in the future)


Wish I had a Ranger... maybe I can just borrow him from time to time. Gonz

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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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