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IntegrityAutoCare

How to scare away a customer...

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I am at a loss. I guess I was naïve to think that if you just treat people fairly and communicate well that ALL customers could be reached and would be sensible. Unfortunately it's just not true. A lot of you probably know exactly the type of customer I am referring to...that customer that you DON'T want.

 

This particular customer started out as a referral from a couple other of my GOOD customers, so I thought "Great...another referral!" I had just done a front brake job for a coworker of hers a few months earlier so she called me and asked if I could do her front brakes "as well". I put the term "as well" in quotation marks because in the span of about 3 sentences she said it (it seemed like) about FIFTY times! Not that I am poking fun at people, you understand, I only say that to illustrate my point that this particular customer is a HORRIBLE communicator and it turns out she is just as bad, if not worse, a listener. And she is dumb as a rock. And I am pretty sure she is mentally unstable.

 

Again, I feel childish even talking about another person in this manner and please understand I harbor no ill feeling toward her except that she WILL NOT leave me alone and find another mechanic. This is not an angry rant. You may think it's harsh to call her dumb, and maybe it is, but to give you an example the whole reason she thought she needed brakes was because when she parks her car on a hill and puts the shifter in "park" she noticed that the car rolls a little bit after she lets off her brake pedal.

 

So after repeated efforts to explain to her that the sensation she described had NOTHING to do with the brakes, she simply was not getting it. Sometimes I wonder how people like that even get drivers licenses when they don't even understand the basics of how a car operates (not how it works....just how it OPERATES). The worst part was she kept INSISTING that she knew ALOT about cars and how to fix them because her dad was a mechanic (or something of that nature). This was getting worse by the minute.

 

I took the wheels off of her car and as it turns out the whole chassis and undercarriage are almost solid RUST. Her brake pads were worn out in both the front and back and the rotors in front were already below minimum DISCARD thickness. The rust corrosion had eaten away the front caliper brackets to the point that the pads were not able to move freely across the slide rails and all the brake hoses had cracks and tears in the rubber. This car was going to need ALOT of work to even make it safe!

 

Long story short she said she didn't have enough money to fix everything all at once so I tried to do her a favor and prioritize the repairs for her....fixing the most dangerous issues first. I replaced the front brake pads, caliper brackets, and rotors first because I have personally experienced the feeling of driving down the interstate at 70mph and stepping on the brake pedal only to have it fall straight to the floor due to the fact that the rotors were too thin and the pads were worn enough that the caliper piston actually came OUT of its bore thus immediately dumping all brake fluid and making the brakes inoperable. VERY scary. After that I replaced the front two brake hoses because they looked the worst and because I figured a loss of rear brakes would give the driver a much greater chance of survival than would a loss of front brakes (which account for most of the braking percentage).

 

That was all she had enough money for and all I had time for that day. I told her, however that she needed to AT LEAST replace those rear brake hoses ASAP because if one of them burst (which could happen at any time) it could be a major safety hazard for her and any drivers in her general vicinity. She made it pretty clear that she didn't trust me and implied that I didn't really know what I was talking about (her dad was a mechanic "as well", remember?). I again implored her to, even if she didn't have ME fix it, get her brakes taken care of as soon as she possibly could for her own safety! At this point I was actually hoping to never see her again and that she would find some other mechanic to use in the future. No such luck.

 

She called me about 2 months later to inquire how much it would cost to get her oil changed. I told her that I charged $xx.xx for labor plus the actual cost of parts (oil, filter, etc) so that it would depend on how many quarts of oil it held and the cost of the filter, etc. I told her for most cars it usually worked out to be about $35 or $40. She scheduled the oil change. I guess part of me was assuming that she had taken my advice and got her brakes fixed somewhere else (maybe she then realized I was telling her the truth and was beginning to trust me) but in the back of my mind I knew the truth. She had not taken it anywhere else nor did she intend to. Her car was "driveable" so she was driving it. I made up my mind that if that was the case I would not do any more work for her in the future.

 

When I arrived to pick up the vehicle she had left the keys in it with a note saying the money was in the glove box just leave the keys under the mat when I dropped the car back off. I looked in the glove box and found $35....uh, doesn't anyone know the meaning of the word ESTIMATE these days??? Feeling annoyed, I went ahead and serviced her car and then looked underneath to see what it looked like. Of course, her brake hoses were in even worse shape than when I had looked at them before and her back brakes had not been touched.

 

I wrote a note on her invoice (which luckily happened to be only a few cents over the $35 she left for me) saying that for MY OWN personal safety I refused to drive her vehicle again and that I could not in good conscience ETHICALLY perform any other service to the vehicle until she had the brakes taken care of and that my recommendation was for her to not drive the vehicle again either until she was able to do so. I was hoping that would make her mad enough to take it somewhere else and I would never have to deal with her again. Again...no such luck.

 

She has since texted me, called me, and left voicemails about 5 different times wanting me to give her a price to replace "JUST the rear brake hoses". I have been completely ignoring her altogether. TWO MONTHS I have been ignoring her calls, texts, and voicemails....what is it gonna take for her to take the hint?

 

She called me again today. She wanted to know how much to fix her rear brake hoses and if I could do it today or tomorrow. I wish I had time to write out for you guys the whole conversation, but even if I did my head might literally explode. I basically told her that it would cost somewhere between $300 and $500 for me to fix the rear brakes for her and that was ONLY an estimate and not a guaranteed price and that if I worked on it at all I was going to completely fix whatever needed to be fixed to make it safe to drive. I said that was the ONLY way I was willing to do it because I refused to take shortcuts especially where safety is a concern. I also told her I would not be able to get to it for two weeks (which is true). She got mad and said that $300 sounded like ALOT of money to fix the brake hoses. UGH! I calmly and patiently explained it AGAIN. Now she says she will check back with me in 2 weeks about getting those brake hoses fixed.

 

How do you talk to people like that? What should I do? ADVICE anyone?

 

I really would like to just never talk to this lady again. I'm not sure which would be worse publicity for my business, completely ignoring her or HELPING her and she spreading all around town how I cheated her and charged her $500 for brake hoses!

Edited by IntegrityAutoCare

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