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Learned Attitude - - - Everybody has one, some good, some bad...


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Learned Attitude


Attitude, it’s something everyone has. Some good, some not so good. Some people can keep it in check, while others have no regard for anyone else and just let their emotions fly. You know the type of person I’m talking about, sure ya do, ever been to a hockey game and the guy sitting behind you is yelling at the referee? Yep, that’s him. That’s the guy I’m talking about. And, it’s those same kinds of attitudes that make their way to the service counter as well.


There are other reasons for some people’s unfortunate circumstances that bring on a different type of attitude too. I think every service writer or mechanic tries to be understanding and be forgiving for their life’s problems. They range from, “I’m a single mother, I’m a senior citizen, I’m not from around here, I just lost my job, etc… etc… etc….” In the short and long of it all, what they are really trying to say is, “Give me a break!” To be perfectly honest, I do have a soft heart for those who are having a rough time financially, but the bottom line is I can’t make that my concern when I’m behind the counter. I’m here to do a job, to do it well, and to get paid for it just like anyone else who works for a living.


Speaking of working for a living, there are a so many jobs out there that you never deal with the actual person who is paying for your service or product. You get your paycheck on a Friday, show up on Monday, and start the whole process all over again. Me, my paycheck is the cars that come into the shop, and who’s cars are they? Why it’s the single mom, the senior citizen, the out of towner, and the guy who just lost his job, etc… etc… etc….


Last week it was a 25 year old car with a sixteen year old driver with a serious need of an attitude adjustment. He told me he didn’t know a thing about a car, (keep that thought handy) and that he was only sixteen. More than once during his explanation of what was wrong with the car he had to mention how old he was, and how he didn’t have a lot of cash. Hey, we were all sixteen once, and I can understand about the lack of funds as well as the lack of knowledge about a car. Honestly though, being sixteen doesn’t make any difference as to the cost of a repair? It is what it is. But, he seemed to think it should.


This poor old gas guzzler he was driving was well past its prime and had more than a few problems. There was already a new alternator and belt installed from another shop and it was obvious some recent work had been done. But this brash youngster was bent on pinning the problem on someone besides this aging hunk of iron. He even went as far to tell me that he knew the reason it wouldn’t start is because he spent all his money on the alternator. (He knew huh? Really… figured that all out with your pocket book aye? That’s an excellent way of determining what’s wrong with your car… NOT!) I told him we needed to check things out first.


The battery was up to a full charge and the engine cranked over just fine, but there was no spark. The crank sensor has failed. This lead to a lengthy description of what a crank sensor does. (Hey, he’s learnin’ something. At least it’s a step in the right direction.) This eventually led to installing one. VROOOM! It started. A few quick checks on that new alternator output showed that it was doing fine too.


At this point it’s time to send him on his merry way. But, I did manage to slip into the conversation and on his invoice about the condition of the rest of the car. Everything from the whining fuel pump noise to the groan of the power steering pump. He initialed the ticket, and then I looked him right in the eye and said, “You understand you’re going to have problems in the future. This car has seen a lot of road time so be expecting to put a few more bucks in it if you’re going to keep it running.” He nodded his head and was out the door in a flash.


About 2 weeks later the phone rang, yep you guessed it…it’s the young driver with a car that won’t start. He was practically screaming in the phone. Of course, it’s all my fault and he’s positive that the part I put in has failed. (Hmmm, sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it?) And, just like last time I have to hear the part about being sixteen and no money. Then he dropped a bomb shell on me. “You guaranteed it would start, well it’s not! So you’re paying for it!”


By now, I was getting a little hot and I thought it was time for me to fire back at this youngin’. “First off, you don’t need to raise your voice, it’s just a car. Second of all, your warranty covers the part not the entire car. That is why I made sure to let you know that I could see more things going wrong than what was wrong with it the day it was in here. However, I’ll check it out and let you know what needs repaired. If it is the same part that has failed it’s covered under the warranty.”


With what little info I could get out of him, (between his screaming fits) led me to believe the fuel pump had just died. I wasn’t sure where this was all going end, but this kid had me so steamed that I had to ask him the one question that I’ve been meaning to ask all these “screamers” that I’ve ever had to deal with on the phone.


“What makes you think you can get anywhere by yelling at me?”


His answer, “My mother told me to yell at you guys (mechanics) because that’s the only way you guys will fix it for free!”


Seriously, your mother is teaching you the fine art of pissin’ off a mechanic? That’s just great… absolutely terrific… Way to go mom!


It all makes sense now; I’ll bet that’s just how the next generation of loud, obnoxious spectators is created at the ball park too. Dad takes boy to a ball game, dad yells at the umpire or opposing team, then son grows up to be just as obnoxious as his old man. I often wondered how these types of individuals kept popping up. Never put a thought to it being something they were taught by their elders, now I know. I really should have asked that question years ago.


Ya learn something new every day; just wish some people would learn a better attitude.


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Gonzo: This might tseem a little odd, but have you or someone you know ever run into a situation where the customer turns out to be right, about his car and yes there was a mistake made by the shop mechanic, but usually in these cases the customer is not "off the wall", but was there ever one that would try to pissin’ off a mechanic, knowing he was right! Have a story like that to tell?

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Yes, it happens. But, I will say if a shop is using good parts it really is rare. The real deal is the attitude. Whether it's a mechanic or a customer.... There's no reason to go into an over the top screaming rant.

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Jeff, I feel the same way. But I'll add to that... I've had a few seniors that have used the scream and yell approach. Time for them to leave. They don't move as fast (neither do I) but they'll find the door eventually.

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      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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