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Article: Paradox - - "All shops are the same" NOT!

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Paradox: a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd, but in reality expresses a possible truth.

That definition sounds a lot like the situations I get into at the repair shop, some absurd, some self-contradictory, and some that have a small amount truth to them, but I never know which one (or all) it’s going to be.

A frequent customer of mine had bought a small car for their daughter to drive back and forth to college. It’s a nice little car, low miles, decent shape, and well-kept. The only thing it needed was a new battery. I was happy to oblige him with a new one, and off to college she went.

That was last year, and then just a few weeks ago I get a call from the father that the daughter’s car is having a new problem. She could drive just a few blocks before the temperature gauge would start to climb.

“I’m guessing a coolant system problem,” I told him.

Since the car was out of state the dad and I both agreed that she should take it to a shop and have it checked out.

It turned out to be a faulty coolant fan. You would think changing the coolant fan would be the end of it, but the technician noticed the battery that I installed earlier was leaking acid out of the positive post. Which is a problem, sure, but let’s not call it “life threating”, as they seemed to have put it to her? Not only did they scare this guy’s daughter half to death with wild claims, but they also felt it necessary to tell her that they were “the one and only shop” to perform repairs on her car and that the last shop that had installed the battery had installed the wrong one in the first place… namely me.

I do take it as an insult to the trade when another repair shop finds it appropriate to scare someone into making a repair. The paradox that all shops are created equal and all mechanics are the same but perform the same repairs with the same results is no more a true statement than all cars are the same color.

As I listened to the customer relay what he was told I got the feeling this was more of an attempt to “up-sell” the customer rather any kind of emergency. The dad stated to me what the service writer told him, “Obviously, the person who put the battery in doesn’t know what he’s doing. Only an idiot would put the wrong size battery in a car.”

OK, now you’ve gone and done it, ya pushed my “pissed off” button. I could have put the wrong battery in, I could have installed it wrong, and I most certainly could be a complete idiot. But what part (or all) of this is the absurdness? There’s definitely a paradox here… but exactly where?

“Don’t turn the old battery in. Have her bring it to the shop when she comes back into town and I’ll take care of it. I’d like to see what they are talking about,” I told him.

A week or so later the car shows up at the shop, the battery was wrapped in a garbage bag in a box, inside another box. The dad was standing at the counter and I’ll have to say, with a not so happy attitude. (I could tell the “other” shop has done their damage.) There was no problem warranting the battery, I was more concerned with the story behind it all. After unwrapping the battery it was clear that it had been leaking for quite some time, although it was the correct battery for the car. We checked the car out together, and there didn’t seem to be anything pulling on the cable that could have caused it. (The cause was undetermined and probably will fall into another paradox of unexplained problems.) Should I warranty the battery? Sure, what’s a battery in the whole scheme of things? The paradox isn’t the battery; it’s the story behind it. Ok, we’ve checked the installation, we’ve checked the battery, and we’ve checked for any outstanding reasons that might have caused the problem. I guess that only leaves one thing… who’s the idiot?

“Why couldn’t they just warranty the battery for you while you were up there?” I asked.

“She took it to a dealership and they don’t sell that brand of battery. They have their own brand. So I had to buy that one.” he tells me.

Now it’s making a little more sense: yes, it was only a cracked positive post seal and yes, it was in need of exchanging, and yes, it was quite a drive back to my shop. (But I’ll bet there was a battery dealer close by. It’s a national brand.). More to the point, she drove into their service bay with a car that was over heating, not a battery issue. She could have easily driven out that way if given the chance. Would it have been a bad thing to drive back with the battery in that condition? I don’t see why not, although when the hard sell is placed in front of a young driver and you’ve got dad on the phone miles away who’s worried about his off spring, that “hard sale” becomes another paradox. At this point, I have to go by the judgment of the tech at the dealership on this one. I, for one, would have probably suggested a new battery too. But, I think I would have also suggested finding a place that could warranty the battery instead of just selling her a new one. (If possible.)

Now we add a new paradox to the story: Would it have been wiser to find a place to warranty it or would it have been wiser to sell her a new one… or would it have been wiser to find another shop to look at the car who wasn’t just trying to “up-sell” her more parts, and the real issue… bringing in the fear of automotive failure into the conversation. Then to add the part about telling good old dad and having him worried too. And where am I, oh I’m the guy standing in the lobby with a busted battery in a plastic bag, inside a box, inside a box.

It’s just another one of those paradoxes in a pair of boxes.



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