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


Gonzo

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Paradox

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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Gonzo: It should have been the customer responsibility to know that the battery is still under warranty and the customer, should have found a shop that would honor that warranty. Dad should have told the daughter to hold up on buying a battery, until it get's taken care of under warranty. Yes, it was a bad shop not to tell the customer were they could take it to have this done, and try to upsell them one based on it's the wrong size battery.

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Gonzo: It should have been the customer responsibility to know that the battery is still under warranty and the customer, should have found a shop that would honor that warranty. Dad should have told the daughter to hold up on buying a battery, until it get's taken care of under warranty. Yes, it was a bad shop not to tell the customer were they could take it to have this done, and try to upsell them one based on it's the wrong size battery.

Yes, you're right Ken. But, to add to that. The battery has a 1-800 number on it and has a date, the battery was the correct battery, and the real big issue... she drove the car there with not battery issues. Why didn't somebody suggest to not change it and let her go one her way??? When a shop feels it necessary to hard sell someone by scaring the crap out of them that's when I think you've drawn the line of improper business practices. That's really the point I was trying to make with this story.

 

Thanks for the comments

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This is a classic example of one of the pitfalls in our industry. Too many other shops are too ready to discredit another shop. And all too often not all the facts are addressed.

 

One of the things we can never expect is for the consumer to take responsibility and have them hold themselves accountable. Consumers will always look to seek the blame of others.

 

Perhaps the most disturbing is when you see a customer that knows you for years and has trusted you for those years, jumps ship and are under the spell of someone else they have just met. What makes this other person they have just met, the automatic expert? Isn't the years of building a relationship strong enough to overcome this?

 

Apparently not, I guess my statement is a "Paradox"

That is so true... in fact...I haven't seen this long time customer in the shop since.

As one guy put it, "When a shop plays the "shell game" of he said, she said or tries to load the repair and then tries to scare you into it... I run!!" This is a classic situation and one of the most disturbing ones.

great comments

BTW I wrote this story years and years ago but I always felt it was too "bitchy" to publish. Now, I'm glad I did.

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Not bitchy at all, in fact I am working on an article which I may publish that is very, very similar. As I stated...in an industry issue.

 

Gonzo, write as you wish...we ALL look forward and can relate...ok?

consider it done... LOL

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         0 comments
      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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