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Article: It Still Ain't Right - - - Cars I know, People.... never sure

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It Still Ain’t Right

A car arrives at the repair shop, another cranks but no start job. The owner has his own ideas as to what’s wrong as well as how to make the repairs. Some folks are like that. It could be from previous run ins or just their personality. I try to put myself in their shoes and do my best to understand why they are so insistent on telling me what to do rather than let the diagnostic results dictate the repair.

“I need a new starter.”

“Has it been tested?” I tell him.

“I’ve been fixing my own cars for years and I know what’s wrong.”

“I would rather check it out and find where the problem is than just start hanging parts,” I said.

“You don’t need to get all your fancy meters out to tell me something I already know,” he answers.

Along with diagnosing the car I also have to diagnose what kind of person I'm dealing with. To combat this I have to turn detective and sort through the facts and fiction. Granted, I’ve got the bedside manner of a wolverine, and my bark is far worse than my bite, but after all these years of dealing with cars and their owners I get a little thick skinned when it comes to their demands. I just want the facts and I’m not about to soften the reality of the repair with some highbrow comeback. That’s just not my style.

Cars are built on an assembly line and they can be complicated pieces of modern machinery to figure out … people … that’s a whole different story. It's a matter of communication that makes things work better, the better the communication the better we’ll get along.

The actual repair was no big deal and had nothing to do with his starter, so it wasn’t long before I had the car back to the owner. Now, most of the time I’m done, but a few weeks later the owner called and you could tell he wasn’t the happiest motorist on the road. Seems the car is having another problem, and the owner has made up his mind (again) that he knew exactly why. (The last time he tried to diagnose things himself it didn’t work out so well, so I’m not putting much faith in his skills this time either.)

“It still ain’t right,” he banters.

Apparently, the “no-start” condition still hasn't solved his issue with the power seat. Power seat??? - - - really? This is the first time I’ve heard of this problem. I’m not sure where this is going… but I know it’s going to be my fault somehow.

As a mechanic, I find it difficult to keep my cool, be professional and remember to look at things from the owner’s point of view when the insults start flying. (This is where those companies that show shop owners how to better their business by being more customer friendly would help. I may be a good tech but I’m lousy with people. I have to wonder though, how many of these “experts” have actually experienced these types of encounters…at the counter.) As with most of these situations where everything and anything wrong with the car is now lumped into one, the first thing they’ll tell me is “NOT” the condition of the car but… how much they have already spent. (I’d still like to see those “experts” spend a few days behind my counter and deal with stuff like this.)

As the story unfolds, I’m busy trying to put together the series of events that leads up to a non-functioning power seat and a “no-start” condition. I'm even more perplexed as to how the owner who said he knew exactly what needed repaired, (even though he was entirely wrong) has somehow incorporated whatever is ailing the car this time into one giant raging volcano of insults, slanderous remarks, and obviously… my incompetence. (I’m cool; the blood pressure hasn’t gone up yet… keep this up … it will.)

I make it a point (especially when my mechanic’s sixth sense starts tingling) to dot every “i” and cross every “t” on every invoice, and with someone like this I’ll go that extra mile and document even more. There are telltale conversations with a customer that can give me a few clues. Such as; “I had my tires rotated and now my wipers aren't working.” or “My brakes are still squeaking even after I had the oil changed.” and my all-time favorite, “I sued the last shop that worked on my car.” These are the ones I tend to pay a little more special attention too, or escort them to the nearest exit.

I don’t know why, for some people anytime you sew your name onto a shirt, buy a big tool box, gain the experience and knowledge needed to do this job, somewhere, some way, somebody is going to lump you into that category of an incapable idiot that couldn’t get a real job. Well, I've got a big tool box, I've got my name on my shirt, and I've got that type of experience... guess I'm one of them, and by the way… this is a real job. Furthermore… there are a lot of families that go back generations doing this very same type of work.

I often wonder why after getting something repaired and something else goes wrong that it must be the mechanics fault, maybe it’s the shirt, could be the tool box, maybe it’s the stereotypical misconceptions from years ago. Just to set the record straight… this isn’t Mayberry, and my name isn’t Goober or Gomer.

In the meantime, my main goal now is to explain...in detail...how a no start condition and a faulty seat motor are in no way connected to each other. (Stranger things have happened…but not this time.) If after explaining things I still have an upset customer, (Who isn’t going to pay for any additional service.) it leaves me with only one option.

“Sir, I can't help you, even though I would gladly do the repairs needed I just can't do them for nothing. There's a point where what was originally wrong with the car and what is wrong with it now doesn’t add up. This one is one of those times.”

At this point, whether or not I retain the customer or they walk out the door is entirely up to them. If they leave, there’s no doubt, sooner or later I'll see them back at the shop. I'll ask where they've been, they’ll answer, “Oh, I was using another shop but they ticked me off, so I'm not using them.” Hmmm, that's funny... that's exactly how the last repair ended here. (If he can pick his mechanic, I’d sure like to pick my customers too… I’m dreaming again.) For now he has decided to put a little more faith into my abilities … at least one more time.

Understanding cars is one thing, understanding the different personalities you meet is another. I’m grateful for another chance to show what I can do for this guy ... but honestly… it still ain’t right.

 

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