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Distributor Fallout


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Distributor Fall Out


As the years start sliding by, I don't remember all the details on every job, especially the daily typical jobs that don't present a problem. So when someone comes into the shop with an issue on a past repair, and my memory doesn't even recall the job, paperwork makes a difference.


A strange traveler comes thru the front door clutching the remains of what he referred to as his distributor cap and rotor. It was nothing more than several small pieces of plastic, most of which were no larger than an inch or two. It was the color of a distributor cap, I'll give him that. And, there's no doubt the pieces could be described as car parts… but at this point it was hard to tell for sure what they really are.


Not even recognizing this guy as an old customer, I asked, "What can I do for you?"


He carefully placed the pieces on the counter, making sure not to lose even one scrap of plastic. He piled them all together ever so carefully, as if they were some sort of archeologist find. He seemed very shaky, nervous, and not quite all there. Looking up slowly at me he points at his little creation lying on the counter.


"I'd like my money back on this."


Now let's think about this….. An unknown person walks into your place of business holding onto shards of plastic, and is asking you to give his money back. I think you'd better start asking a lot of questions.


"Now why would I want to do that?" I asked, while looking at this small pile of gray matter, still not sure of the reasoning behind all of this.


"I drove my truck to the coast, and when I got there it quit running. I had to have it towed to a shop, and they said you didn't have this on right. So I'm here to get my money back," the nervous, frustrated, and starting to get upset customer said.


Now mind you, I'm nowhere near any coast. The last time I checked a map, Oklahoma still doesn't have any beach front. I'm not taking this as some sort of joke; I'm going to get to the bottom of this problem. This beach bum is dead serious, and he's getting pretty demanding about the whole thing. The only problem I have is I don't remember when I did all of this.


"How long ago did you have this installed?" I asked.


"Not that long ago," he answered.


"Do you have an invoice?"




Was that any surprise? Of course not, did ya ever notice most of the "complainers" generally don't have any proper paperwork. But, the person who keeps repair receipts as an important part of their car's history usually doesn't have these kinds of unusual problems. The only thing this road warrior has is an attitude.


"I'll need your name and car information, I'll see if I can find something for you."


As I dug thru the files, my not so patient globe trekker was drumming his fingers on the counter showing his contempt for everything I was doing. The more I dug the more frustrated this guy was getting. His constant drumming on the counter was turning into a nervous pace. One second leaning as far as he could over the counter to see what I was doing, the next he was hanging onto the end of the counter by his finger tips, while leaning as far back as he could possibly go, then pace to the other end of the counter…. and do the same thing all over again.


"Do you have any idea when you had it in the shop?" I asked again.


"Yea, it was about 2 years ago man," still swaggering back and forth.


The files went flying and landed with a "smack" on top of the counter. I rested my shaking head on my hands with both elbows on the desk. Then, turned to look at this guy (whom I still don't recognize), and stared in disbelief.


"2 years? Well, if there was any kind of warranty on the parts its run its course by now."


"You better do something, otherwise I'm going to go to the BBB and complain!" he shouted at me.


The BBB, really, I could have guessed that… this guy fits the mold. A person, who shouts and complains about things that probably have other explanations than the one they have created in their own little mind. While the whole thing is based on information they have gathered from an unknown third party. And, not one stitch of documentation to prove their point. Sounds about right…!


"Make sure you spell my name correctly when ya do, buddy," I shouted back, "You can head back to the coast for all I care. I'm going to do you and me a big favor, and ask you to leave."


I guess the guy wasn't expecting a comeback like that. Could have been this guys medication has finally kicked in. Because he just stood there in shock. All his drumming and pacing came to a stop. Now it's the statue routine, stand there and stare at me … stone sober and motionless.


"So you're not going to do anything about it?" he bantered back.


"Sir, it's like this. I don't remember you ever coming in here. You don't have any paperwork, and you tell me it's been 2 years since anything was done. I can't remember any small engine parts that are warranted for that long. And, I can't think of anything I would have sold with a warranty for that long without some paperwork with it. Engines, transmissions may have longer warranties but there is a series of paperwork trails that can be followed all the way back to the manufacturer. With your problem, there are too many opportunities for something else to be the cause of the failure."


"So I'm just out the money I spent."


"Sorry, but I can't take your word for your problems. I need paperwork or something from the last shop that would verify the repairs. Do you have any of that?"




"You're out of luck my friend," I told him.


He left without another word. And there on the counter were the remains of his archeological find. To think this guy carefully transported the remains of his trucks entrails across the country to deliver them back to the counter from which they supposedly came from. Only to leave them laying there all alone, without even a second thought.


I had time to examine the plastic bits; most of the pieces were indescribable. I'm not even sure it's a distributor cap. In fact some of the pieces looked as if they were smashed with a hammer. Hmmm, now I'm wondering… who really was being taken advantage of here?


I never heard from this guy again. I guess he is out traveling somewhere across the country with another handful of car parts as his passenger. Maybe, he's heading to your shop next. If he hasn't shown up yet, I'll give ya a little heads up. He's the guy that carries his own busted parts into the lobby and demands service based on his third party expertise, and probably doesn't have any paperwork to go with it.


You'll know him when ya see him.



These stories are here before final editing and publication. You get to be the first to check them out. Enjoy!

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Edited by Gonzo
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LOL Joe, Think of it this way... If it wasn't for me, they'd all be coming to see you. LOL

Don't worry, I gave this guy your address.. he'll be there shortly...


Thanx for the comments... always can count on ya Gonzo



Gonzo, I just finished posting my weekly business tip....I should have read your story first. My post talks about handling angry customers. But, I forgot to make your shop the EXCEPTION. How do attract these people??? Too funny!!!!

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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