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You’re home, kicking back on the couch watching your
favorite TV show when a commercial comes on.  It’s one of
those ads for some new pill on the market.  The announcer
asks if you suffer from the aliment they’re describing, and
then tells you about this great new medication that will set
things straight.  Of course, it’s soon followed by all the
apparent side effects associated with this new drug.  A
lot of times, the part about the side effects takes longer
to describe than the benefits of this new wonder pill. 
Eventually, the commercial ends the same way they all do, “Ask your doctor about . . .” 

Let’s say you’re one of those hypochondriacs and you head to the doctor because you believe you’ve got “it”, whatever “it” is that was described in the commercial.  The doctor performs a few tests and maybe a little blood work only to find out there’s nothing wrong with you.  But, being the hypochondriac that you are, you demandingly tell your doctor that in fact you are ailing from whatever was described in this TV ad and, you know exactly what new modern pill will fix you right up. The doctor on the other hand, sends your psychotic self on your merry way, washes his hands of the whole thing, and probably refers you to someone in the Sigmund Freud side of the medical biz. (Not before he gives you your bill of course.)

Don’t you think your doctor already knows about this new drug? If not, I’m sure it wouldn’t take much for the doctor to do some research and find out all there is to know. And, don’t you think it would be wise to follow the advice of your doctor rather than some announcer on a TV commercial?

Sometimes I feel the same way when somebody comes into the lobby and starts explaining to me their perceived failure of their personal car. I give them my advice on the matter, which usually goes in one ear and out the other. I’m just a mechanic you know, and not a highly trained professional. (A little sarcasm there…probably would have done better if I was the announcer.)  But, what if automotive commercials were portrayed in the same manner as these new drugs on TV? 

You know, instead of the trash talking commercials telling consumers how their shops are better than every other type of automotive shop in town, or those parts stores that sell everything from A to Z and offer a life time warranty. Let’s be honest people!  Ok, ya gotta a cheaper product, I’ll give you that.  But, throw a disclaimer in there with that 60 seconds.  Let’s talk about the effects of putting a cheap part on a car. And, seriously… let’s talk about the qualifications of these grease rack nut busters. 
Rather than telling everyone all the virtues of your warranties and how friendly your counter people are, let’s focus on those side effects from taking the cheaper route.  How about informing the public of what happens when you use the wrong viscosity oils and not that all your mechanics can leap tall buildings and swing through trees. (I took a poll… 4 out of 5 mechanics can’t leap tall buildings, nor swing through trees.)

It’s no wonder automotive repair ranks up there with the most dreaded and/or distrusting ventures the average consumer wants to be involved with. They hear all this talk about maintenance, maintenance, maintenance, but find out that if they accidentally skipped an oil change once or twice their car hasn’t exploded or fallen apart… (Yet).  It’s hard for an unknowing consumer to trust a mechanic when some goof ball announcer is on the TV telling them something entirely different than their mechanic. Inevitably, maintenance is put on hold, or it’s completely forgotten about. When the car does break down (which it will) it generally leads to some heated exchanges about the extensive repair costs and/or the car being traded in for the next maintenance ignored family truckster. 

My advice to those people who put these automotive commercials together, instead of taking up 60 seconds of air time trying to tell me how much better you are how about informing the consumer of the side effects, tell them about cheap parts, and poor maintenance. And, one more thing, all mechanics and all repair shops are not the same. Unless you’re comparing apples to apples, there are no comparisons to be made. When a shop that specializes in let’s say tires, puts an ad together on late night TV or on the radio saying they are a full service shop, and we (the mechanics who have been in the business for years) know all too well that particular shop doesn’t have the technicians to cover their claim. Where’s the disclaimer there? I suppose that’s freedom of speech, a 1st amendment kind of thing.  Maybe so, but the side effects means a trip to a reputable shop to fix it correctly.  It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to diagnose a car for a shop like I’m describing, or do the actual repair for them.

Maybe I’m being a bit of a hypochondriac about the health of the family car.  Or maybe I’m just trying to look out for my customers and warn them before they get caught up in all the hype they see or hear.  I can’t say all these ads are bad, they’re not.  But, with a few bucks you can create your own slick ad campaign, and the actual quality of the parts or shop can be over shadowed by some catchy slogan or song, which gives that false impression of excellence to the consumer. In the end who’s left to deal with the side effects?  The consumer of course.

It’s “buyer beware” out there.  Seems selling cheap parts and bragging about your abilities isn’t a crime, while advertising some new drug and not telling the consumer it can cause heart attacks and hearing loss (in some cases)… is. I guess it’s not important to know those cheap brake pads that the discount lube shop put on are going to fail at 75 mph and quite possibly send you into oncoming traffic. (Your results may vary)

Anymore, I just roll my eyeballs when one of these automotive commercials comes on late night television, and I’ll bet a doctor does the same thing when one of those drug ads comes on.  But, at least for the doctor’s sake, the manufacturers have to state all the side effects in the commercial.  But for the speeding projectile we call the family car… you’re on your own.  Those side effects are only noticed after that customer wants to go cheap and not follow their professional’s advice. It’s a soap opera of problems out there… will it ever change?  Will those brake pads fail? Can we expect better consumer awareness in the future?  What’s next? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

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