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Where Ever You Go .... --- I was asked, Why do I write these wacky stories


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Where Ever You Go...


I was asked some time ago why I write these crazy articles about the car repair business. Why? Well, the only way I can explain it is to put yourself in the position I'm in on a daily basis. I spend a better part of my day trying to understand what a customer is explaining to me,while using my training, background, and basic common sense to come up with a logical answer to their problem. This is where these true to life stories all start.




Then again, a lot of us "in the trenches guys" (mechanics for short) never have the time, nor realize that no matter where we are in this crazy world... people have the same kind of answers to car repair. During an average day a mechanic might work on vehicles spanning more than 20 different production years. Nothing is ever the same, and nothing ever remains the same, from year to year, model to model, or from manufacturer to manufacturer. These differences can be as varied as the people we meet. Knowing these changes in the car systems can be overcome with years of experience. Knowing how to deal with the attitudes and personalities of the consumer can take a lifetime.




The different ways people will explain their car problems to the mechanic can be baffling or even misleading as well. I try never to approach a situation with blinders on and get lead down the wrong repair path. Sometimes, their explanations leave a lot of doubts as to what they really are trying to say. For some people, explaining things isn't easy, so their way of getting their point across is to use an extremely long version of the story or a complete biographical saga from their childhood to the present, just so I don't miss any details. (I would say I've heard it all,but that wouldn't be fair to all those untold stories I haven't heard.)




It's hard to remind myself that I'm not going to make a customer out of every phone call, nor patron who comes in the door, but I'm still stubborn enough to try anyway. As one long time shop owner once told me years ago, "Don't do business with people you can't get along with or ones you feel uncomfortable around." I tend to believe that's true after seeing the variety of people I've run across over the years. But, those odd and different personalities and explanations about care problems are the best material for the next new story. Ya never know...the next one through the door might be a real winner. Like I said, some people can't just tell you what's wrong. They have to involve everything from the family pet to their last vacation photos. Believe me, I've sat through plenty of vacation photos, and have heard thousands of dog stories over my years behind the counter.



When it comes to explaining things back to the customer about their car there's only so far I can go. I usually try several different angles to bring the technical answer down to a level that is acceptable to the patron,but sometimes their comprehension requires everything from charts, graphs, to hand puppets. Sometimes even explaining things to the customer is a show in itself. Oh yea, it can be just as comical watching me try to explain something as it is listening to their stories.


After many years of standing behind the counter, I tend to have a "sixth sense" about the upcoming repair, either from the reactions of the customer, or from the condition of the car. I tend to go back through my memory files and find a situation that is comparable to the latest one. After all these years there's no doubt there are some comparisons to a story I've already put to ink and paper. Writing these stories down also makes it easier to relive those situations, and think of either a better way to handle it, or be aware of the proverbial outcome. In some small way I hope people who read my stories not only see the humor in these situations, but also take away from it a bit of knowledge and respect for these crazy situations. I like to think of it as a life lesson that can't be taught out of the automotive repair manual. But, it's something everyone has or will experience.




You could call it a reality check for the automotive world. I write about the everyday events in the auto shop, not some made up management improvement idea that's going to improve your bottom line. I don't try to be something I'm not; I'm only a mechanic and nothing more. I write about the stuff you and I as technicians have to deal with in our daily jobs. Mechanics from all over the world email me, and have no trouble relating to their stories, and you can tell they're smiling while they write that email. It helps everyone realize they are not alone in this wacky world of automotive repair. And that's what these stories are really all about. But, these stories are not just for automotive mechanics, it's something anyone who deals with the general public will enjoy reading. I even have doctors,lawyers, bank executives, roofers, and a whole lot of other professions who read and relate to the stories.




When you take the time to really think about it, somewhere in our family tree we all have that crazy relative who has done something weird, or a co-worker whose elevator has skipped a few floors. It might even be something you've noticed on the news or on the drive home… you just never know where the next interesting story will come from. No matter where we are there's always something out of the ordinary going to happen sooner or later. And, as long as that keeps happening, I'll keep writing. I guess there's really only one way to explain people and the crazy situations we all get into.... wherever you go, no matter where you are... something wacky,insane, or downright crazy just might happen.



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So true Gonzo! When I tell myself, "Now I've heard everything", something new comes along. You look at life thru the lens of a writer, always seeing the inner story. That's a gift, and we are lucky that you can bring out things in life that we are aware of, but when you bring it out, it has a deeper meaning. So keep looking thru that lens and keep writing!


Golly Gee... I didn't know I did that. LOL

Hey, thanks a million Joe... your comments are an inspiration. Thanks buddy

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Its nice to read about people that experience the same crazy day to day things that happen when you work in an auto repair facility. I try to explain these things to my wife who doesn't have a clue what I'm trying to explain to her.

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Its nice to read about people that experience the same crazy day to day things that happen when you work in an auto repair facility. I try to explain these things to my wife who doesn't have a clue what I'm trying to explain to her.


For Christmas get her a copy of my book. After she reads it she'll understand.... after she stops laughing... LOL

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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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