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Drikin'-Drivin' and Grandpa


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Drivin’- Drinkin’ and Grandpa


One of many slow days at the shop I had a small job come in from one of the local tire shops. This rather young girl brought the car to me from the tire shops just a few blocks away. She told me she was the owner and that the tire shop was rude and wouldn’t help her. I told her I’ve never knew them to be that way, but I occasional get like that depending on the reaction at the front desk. (Trying to lighten up the tension at the counter). She wasn’t much for my kind of humor, so I called the tire shop to find out what the deal was.


Her problem was that it would occasionally not start, nothing new, just another typical job. The tire shop didn’t want to get involved with this because it had a breath analyzer attached to the starting system. For anyone out there that hasn’t a clue what this is…, I’ll explain… drinking and driving should NEVER EVER mix, get caught, you’re probably going to have to blow into this ridicules thing to start your car. My opinion, if you get behind the wheel in a condition that would require having to blowing into a plastic tube to start your car, you are without a doubt the most STUPID, inconsiderate person of all times.


Don’t drink and drive!


Personally, I would rather see the driver’s license revoked and give ya a bus ticket instead. (Mandatory taxi/bus or signed sealed delivered notice that has to be approved by the court system from another driver any time you get into a car. Make ya prove you’re not the person behind the wheel.)


Beyond that, I need to find out why this car won’t start. First thing I did was disconnect the breath machine to verify if the problem was “factory” or the analyzer. Once the unit is disconnected from the car I have to call the 800 number on the device to let them know that it is an authorized disconnect and not the driver trying to bypass the system. It’s quite an ordeal to go thru… not the physical disconnect of the unit… that’s easy…but, the information you have to know to prove that you are actually a repair shop when it comes to properly disconnecting the unit. With that over with, I can get back to diagnosing the problem at hand. It turned out to be a bad starter motor. I called the parts warehouse and got prices on a replacement starter for the owner. Later that day the owner called back and said they had just put a starter on so I must be mistaken. …..yea, they did, but it was one of those “discount” brands…..the type that offer a life time warranty…..life time warranty, right a lifetime of changing it. (Note: cheap parts = cheap results)


Instead of getting a name brand part they wanted to replace the starter with another “cheap” brand. Ah yes, the cheapo repair part syndrome, repairing your car with your wallet not with wrenches...


She came for the old starter and sometime later showed up with the replacement starter. I informed the owner that since you have decided on the quality of the part but the quality of my diagnostics hasn’t changed, however if it fails to start for any reason beyond the bolts falling out of the starter do to the fact that I forgot to tighten them up… it’s an all new diagnostic charge to rework the test… which I have no doubt it will end up back to this cheap starter. It’s your choice, just warning you that I can’t trust these cheap parts to perform like good quality parts… “You get what you pay for,” I told her.


It went in one ear and out the other. She answer me, “Ok, can ya have it done today?” Whatever, fine, I’ll put it on…. To my surprise……it worked. The next thing was to rewire the breath machine back into the system. No problems there, everything is in working order.


Enough said about the repair….the next thing was….. Close out the ticket in the front office. That’s when old Grandpa showed up with one hell of a chip on his shoulder. (I think old Grandpa threw back a few before he showed up too.)


“You’re charges are higher than the tire shop,” he said angrily, “I don’t think I should have to pay that much for it if the other shop could have done it for less.”


I informed him that my prices were discussed before the job was even done and the price was OK’d before we even started. Besides, the tire shop may have a lower labor cost but, they also said they didn’t have the necessary skills to actually make the proper diagnosis and or the repair.


He rambled on about how he had fixed cars when he was younger and knew a lot about them He would have fixed it himself if he knew what was wrong with it. Aha! The old “if I knew what was wrong with it” scheme. Now we are on to something. So it’s not so much…what I did or how I did it…. It was “knowing” how and what I did .


Seems I’m not doing my job right, maybe I should just start guessing at the repairs…. Maybe then I could lower the cost of the repairs then I could be like the tire shop…. Or maybe I should just throw a dart at a bulletin board full of pictures of parts and where ever it hits that’s the part I change… or better yet, I’ll send it to someone else who knows how fix it. Oh, wait a minute ….that’s how I ended up with it. Oh that’s right…..I’m the guy who is supposed to be the guy that supposed to fix it for the guy. Guess that’s why I get paid the big bucks.


Sorry Grandpa, maybe I’m doing you a big favor… you spend a few bucks with me, that way you’ll be a few bucks shy of that next 6 pack. That might keep you or your tube blowin’ granddaughter from getting behind the wheel drunk and I might actually be preventing a future fatal accident. So do me a favor…. Save some of that hot air for the breath machine Mr., you’ll need it to start the car….



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I thought about getting involved with the installation of these things, even had a rep call me about them. After this little episode I turned it down. It was a wake up call to the type of attitudes and the type of people I am probably going to run into while installing them. And your story is no different. Just goes to show that people are people, no matter what part of the country your in.


Thanx Frank... always can count on ya... Gonzo


Gonzo we installed interlock devices for "National Interlock" for about 6 months. We decided that for our shop with our increasing car counts that it was a losing proposition. However, we did meet some interesting characters including one of the interlocks customer's girlfriends who was either a stark raving maniac or high as a kite. We declined to ever work on that one again.

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Joe, I don't know if we were born under the same star or what.... but you REALLY understand the whole thought process behind my writing. It's like the old Dragnet opening comment "the names have been changed to protect the innocent, the stories are true" and it doesn't matter what part of the world you come from it's all the same type of people... clan or whatever ya wanna call it. I always try to write the stories so that everyone across the country can relate to them... and...if they haven't experienced this scenario yet... you will, and hopefully my stories will help prepare that next shop for what is coming next. I honestly believe my stories can help shop owners and techs prepare and be aware of the reality of working with the public.


Like you said... I want to do the job with honesty and integrity... pay me for my time, let us all part ways and go on with our own individual lives. I absolutely HATE people who try to get over on insurance companies or repair shops for things that are not true. Needless to say when I get some slacker in my lobby that thinks they can push their wieght around with that --- "because I'm the customer" type attitude... I've got news for ya buddy... this ain't Walmart, there ain't no upper managment that will take a different look at this problem.... I am the head Honcho here... You deal with me with an attitude... you're going to get one right back...


I'll do my job honestly.... I'll treat you fare... I expect the same in return.



Gonzo, there has to be "clan" of people out there that must share the same genetic makeup. No matter where you go, these people find us. Change the names, the town, and the shop....same clan of people!


What I do like is how you handled the situation. I tip my hat to you. You do not waver, you stand your ground. You are a through-back from a time when people performed a quality job just because it was the right thing to do. Too many businesses today are caught up with the bottom line. Well the bottom line, for me, is doing the right job with honesty and integrity. I am sure you agree.

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I consider it an honor to be associated with ASO... and I'm even more honored to know that guys like you...understand this side of the counter and know what it takes to run a shop... AND ... understand what it takes to deal with these type of customers. We can't avoid them, but hopefully thru my stories we can help each other deal with them... and ... let other shop owners that haven't experienced it... know how we all feel.


Thanx again guys... I'll keep writing... you keep readin' thanx again


Right on!!!!! That is exactly the way I feel. When people tell me they are going to call Car-X corporate I tell them that all Car-X corporate will do is call me and tell me about the complaint but this is the place that ALL the decisions for this business are made. If I don't do it it don't get done. If they tell me they are going to call the Better Business Bureau I offer to give them the BBB's phone number. If they tell me they are going to talk to their attorney I have to refrain from laughing. I am a nice guy who will bend over backwards to take care of my customers but when people get me mad they won't get ANYTHING out of me.

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We were an Interlock dealer for awhile too. Too many problems with clients that didn't show up for their scheduled appt and particular problems with a couple of clients. One was very aggressive with the mechanics and office and one who blamed us for scratches on his vehicle that was a wreck already. We quit after 4 months. Too little money for too much effort with the not only the mechanical part but the clients as well.

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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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