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Pushing the Limits


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Let's see if I can set up this next story for you. An older dad and his 400 lb. son tow in a car to the shop on a two wheel dolly. The two of them work for more than an hour to get the car off the dolly. Well, mostly dad worked… son was wearing house slippers, and was more content to lay on the concrete like a basking walrus than be of any help to good old dad.


Dad came into the shop asking for a prybar. I gave him one, and he went back out to try and get the safety chains off the car and dolly. It took awhile, but when I looked outside the car was sitting in the parking lot, and the tow vehicle, dad, and his huge son were gone… hey, wait a minute… so is my prybar !! I ran up to the office to make sure Katie (my daughter and office manager) had some info on the two. She did, so at least I'm not out a prybar. When I walked back out to the shop and looked outside… the car… the car has vanished!


Now I'm getting a little steamed. I know I saw the car sitting there, and now it's gone. I looked out into the main street in front of the shop; there was the tow vehicle, the tow dolly, and fat son himself. Now it's time for me to see what's going on. The son was just getting back into the truck when I caught up with him.


"Where's the car you guys just took off the dolly? Do ya still need that prybar?" I asked.


He mumbled something and pointed down the street. There far off in the distance almost 2 blocks away was the car, and old dad hanging onto the driver's door bent over gasping for air.


Now how did the car get from my shop parking lot and down the street? The big son wasn't even breaking a sweat; do you mean to tell me the old guy pushed it by himself? I haven't a clue, but I'm sure I'm going to ask when it gets back up here. The son drove off to get the car, with the dolly still attached to the truck. Old dad attached a chain to the dolly and the other end to the car. As they started to pull the car the two dolly's wheels came off the ground and made a near straight line with the chain and the car. The son used the truck to pull the car back up to the shop parking lot while old dad drove the car.


I'm still curious where my prybar has gone. Must have taken a little trip down the block with the car, I guess. I looked up again a few minutes later, and there was the car back in the shop parking lot, but now the two front tires were nearly flat. By now, I'm not even concerned with what's wrong with the car. I'm not even going to try and figure out what these guys are doing. As long as the car is here I've got a chance of finding my prybar. Back to work for now, I'll deal with that later.


The shop office doorbell rang, so I guess the two of them are up talking to Katie. She came out to the shop to let me in on what the car pushing pop wanted me to look at on the car.


"Is that a real nice car, Dad?" she asks while carrying my prybar out to me.


"That thing, it's just another old car… nothing special," I told her.


Along with the usual name and phone number the guy made it a point to tell Katie how nice a car it was. Well, it's OK I guess, but looking at it I wouldn't call it nice. Unless faded paint, dented bumpers, rusty brake rotors, and torn interior is a "nice car" well then… It's a nice car… (Sarcastic answer obviously.) Turns out, the car has been at another shop for over a year. The old guy had decided that the other shop probably had no idea what they were doing. (You took a year to figure that out?) Now it's my job to figure it out.


As Katie walked back up to the front office I asked her a question, "Katie, why did they let the air out of the tires?"


Without even stopping she yelled over her shoulder while throwing one arm up over her head in disgust.


"Oh, something about getting the chains off of the tires. I thought the old guy was pretty worn out myself."


"So, why was the car 2 blocks away? They took it off the dolly just outside the door right here by the shop," I said, as I put away the prybar.


She stopped dead in her tracks, turns around and gives me that "you're not going to believe this" look.


"Because the tires were only flat on one side so he was pushing it down the road to make sure the "flat" part was evened out with the rest of the tire. (Looking up to the ceiling now and gesturing with her hands) I'm not kidding…"


OK, that's it! I can officially say I've heard it all now. … Now, is it fair to say some people shouldn't be allowed on the open road with a license? I think so. This guy sounds like a good candidate. Really? The tires are flat on one side and pushing the thing 2 blocks rounds them back out… sure, sure… I can see how "that's" taking care of the problem. Unbelievable. Where do they get their information for stuff like this? Or, did I skip that class… I'm sure it was a hands-on demonstration too. I can picture the classroom now, cars lined up with low tires and a yellow finish line far down the street. To pass the class you have to push a car for at least a block. (Glad I missed this one)


The whole time good old dad was doing the pushing, the 400 lb. son wasn't helping a bit, he looked more like he was ready to get in line at the next "All you can eat buffet". This huge dude never moved a slipper towards the car. If he wasn't lying on the ground he was sitting in the truck waiting on old dad to get done with the chains. Something is really, really, wrong with this picture…he didn't appear to have any medical condition, but I could be wrong about that too.


Now would it be any surprise that the car's problem was actually a simple one. Yes, yes it was… the distributor was faulty; however, it was also the only new part on the car. When I called the old guy about the problem he got pretty huffy about it. Seems that's exactly what the last shop had tried. Not only that, but it was the 3rd distributor that he had replaced from one of those discount auto supply warehouses. Each time the other shop would install it, they would charge him for it. Now that I was saying the same thing… oh boy, was I in for an earful. My replacement distributor was 3 times as expensive too. So there was no way he was going to buy my story that the same faulty "new" part that the last shop told him was wrong with it could be 3 times as expensive as his cheap part.


I think I know why the car sat for a year at the other shop. They got tired of dealing with this guy, and of course, now I'm no longer as credible as the referral that told him to tow his car to my place.


So, do you think he was going to leave his "nice ride" with me? Of course not, he came and picked it up that afternoon. I guess even after all the efforts of dragging it down the street, renting a dolly, and having it diagnosed as a faulty "almost new" part, it still was worth finding somebody to put in a cheap part at a cheap price.


I know what the other shop was doing; they were letting the owner supply the parts instead of telling the customer to buy good parts and be done with the job. But, sometimes, "Mr. Customer" is more right than any mechanic will ever be.


I guess, I don't have to worry about this one coming back. Besides, I don't like putting cheap worthless parts in unless it's the only way to get it done. But, when the customer has already told me that the parts were bad twice before, and I'm VERY sure of the diagnostics, I tend to doubt that another cheap part is going to do the trick.


Besides, the tires may go flat on one side again… Sorry, old timer, I've reached my limit, and I still wouldn't want to push your car up and down the street to round out the tires for ya… get your 400 lb. son to do that next time, he could use the exercise.




As always these stories are here before final editing and publishing. Some make it, some don't. Your input and comments help decide which ones actually make it to the editors desk. I appreciate all your comments. visit my website www.gonzostoolbox.com


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Edited by Gonzo
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Joe, I was laughing myself. You know, ya just can't make this stuff up... people can be so unbelievable. You guys keep telling me I'm get better and better, all I know is to write this stuff down and what ever way it comes out...well...that's the way it comes out. Sometimes I think my daily frustrations are everyones elses laughter. If that's the case, I'll keep telling em' like I see em'


As far as the X - files... hmmm.... I don't know for sure about that, could be they are on their way to Indiana or New York... I'd keep an eye out for them...


Thanx for all the comments... it makes me laugh knowing I made you guys laugh. Gonzo



I had to stop after the first few sentences and compose my self...from laughter. Frank is right, you get better and better. You have to admit you do get the strangest people...as a matter of fact, I remember seeing your town on an X-Files show..right?

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      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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