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Pilsner Payment - - - - How one customer paid for advice


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Pilsner Payment




When I first started out I had a small 2 bay shop in a strip center with a large parking lot in the middle of it. All the buildings and garage entrances faced the parking lot. My space was small, not a whole lot of room for car doors to open in the service bay, but I managed to make it work. Across the parking lot was a larger shop area that bought and sold vintage cars. The owner used the service bay area as his showroom so during regular business hours the doors would be up and the inside of the shop sparkled as much as the cars.


He had a young guy working for him who would do minor repairs, buff the cars, change a carburetor, you know… stuff like that. He definitely didn't have any formal training in automotive repair, but was handy enough to keep the repair costs down for the owner, and he wasn't afraid of tackling any kind of repair.The big issue was that any repair work had to be done after they closed for the day or at least on a day he wasn't expecting any customers. That way none of the mess from spilled fluids, air hoses, etc…, was around while trying to show the cars.


On one occasion they had an old Ford pickup truck that needed a new automatic transmission. From my vantage point across the parking lot I could watch the proceedings as if it was a live stage show. This was one of those days and jobs that the owner wanted done as quick as possible so he had his helper start on it even though it was during regular hours. Being the meticulous shop keep that he was he had several pieces of cardboard to protect the floor, a mop bucket handy, several rags, and a whole lot of attention into keeping any grease or grime away from all the other cars.


The helper started off well, he put the car up on stands and began to remove the transmission. I'm pretty sure he didn't have a manual or any background in removing one before, but like I said, he'd try any kind of repair. As the day progressed I would occasionally glance out my bay door to see how things were going over there.


It was closing time for me, and when I looked over there I notice he finally had the new transmission in. I heard the engine start up, then rev. up, then stop, and then restart. He would look under the hood, pull the dipstick out of the transmission, shake his head, throw his arms in the air and try it again,but the truck never moved an inch.


By now my curiosity was more than slightly aroused. I wasn't in a hurry to get home that night because I had a buddy of mine coming over to the shop that evening. So instead I thought I'd leave my garage door up, find my mechanics stool, sit myself down with an after work refreshment and watch the show. Just about then my bud showed up. He grabbed another roll-around stool, made his way to the shop fridge and then joined me for the evening's entertainment.


The sun had gone down more than an hour earlier and the light from the drop lights gave off an eerie glow from under the car. As he would crawl around the light would shine in different directions making for a really cool light show. If we kept quiet you could hear everything they said from the other side of the parking lot. I'll have to admit… as a technician it was quite comical to watch and listen to how a novice came up with their own solutions to the problem.


The owner kept himself busy off to the side wiping down the other cars. He wasn't the kind of guy that ever got upset about anything, he patiently waited while making the best use of his time doing odd chores, adjusting the sales placards on the windshields, and cleaning up around his helper.


My buddy on the other hand kept asking me what I thought was wrong.


"Oh, I know what it is," I told him in a whisper, "Just hold on and watch a little longer. Give the guy a chance to figure it out."


Another hour or so went by; the brews were all but gone. My anxious buddy still wanted to know what I thought was wrong. So I clued him in on how this whole debacle started. I began the tale with; He drove the truck in, jacked it up, and pulled the transmission.


"Yea, yea… OK, but what's the problem?" he asked.


I went on, "Then he put the new transmission in."


"You're not telling me anything I don't already know!" my brewskie buddy sternly informed me.


"Alright, I'll tell you what's wrong with it. Now quit bugging me… and watch the show," I said rather… ahem…a little too loud.


That's when the helper perked up and headed in my direction. You could tell he had about all he could take trying to figure out what was wrong with the truck.


As he got close to us he said, "You got some idea what's wrong?"


"Yea, I do."


"So, help a guy out. What's wrong with it?"


"Here's what I think ya did. When you stabbed the transmission you didn't push the converter back into the transmission all the way or you didn't have the pump splines lined up. Because I think you broke the front pump in the new transmission."


By now the owner had walked across and heard the whole conversation. "Can you fix it?" he asked me.


"Sure, we'll push it over in the morning."


The next morning I replaced the pump and drove the truck back over to his shop. After that, the owner made it a habit to walk over with a cold one and asked me questions about car problems before he let his helper tackle it. After a while the shop fridge was getting pretty full of those after hours brews.


Eventually I moved to a bigger shop. The car lot owner didn't make it by as often, but when he did his method of payment never changed. My buddy on the other hand, got to be a regular at my shop, especially if I told him the guy across the street stopped by for more repair information. I guess he liked the entertainment too. What a minute… come to think of it… it may not have been the entertainment at all… he might have just shown up for those free beers. What a pal….

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This was his regular method of paying for questions (not repairs of course) but I could count on a few cold ones before he would leave.

He always brought something by anytime he showed up. LOL rolleyes.gif

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I'll save a cold one for ya Joe... LOL

In the late 1970s I worked at a Ford dealer. The mechanic across the bay just got done rebuilding a transmission, installed it, but it would not move. After an 30 minutes or so, another mechanic walked over and look on top of his tool box, he picked up the input shaft and said, "Looking for this"?. We had some laugh, no beer. He was mad as hell.


Great story! As always...

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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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