I Didn’t Want That Jack Anyway
Some stories, begin with a story - Perceptions and prejudged ideas
A city slicker has a flat on a lonely country road. After looking in his trunk he finds
that his jack is missing. Unfamiliar with the surroundings he looked up and down
the road at his options. Way off in the distance he could see a single farm house.
The choice was simple, start walking . Down this dusty, dirty, desolate road towards
the farm house he went. As he walked along his mind was racing through the possible encounters he was about to face with the owner of the farm.
Thinking to himself, “I wonder if this farmer has a jack, I wonder if he’ll let me
borrow it at all, he might want me to pay for it, he might not even answer the door, he
might come out the door and tell me to get lost. He might meet me at the door
with a shotgun. Hey, what’s with this guy thinking? All I wanted was a jack! I’m going to give him a piece of my mind, he’s not getting away with this, threatening me at the
door with his old shotgun! Why I'm, I'm, I’m going to give him a piece of my mind!”
The closer to the door the more his perception of the farmer grew even more one sided. By the time he knocked on the door. the poor farmer didn’t have a chance to even say hello. The city slicker throws back a punch and shouts out “I didn’t want the jack anyway” and storms off down the dirt road still, with his original problem at hand.
From my point of view, this is how some customers prejudge the mechanic before they get to the service counter. I’m guilty of it too. My “jack” story starts shortly after the car is in the shop and I find out what’s wrong with it. I’ll call the customer and give him the news and they don’t believe me or they questions me like a private investigator.
“Did you do this, did you check that, how do you explain the failure, are you sure…?” And, since I've heard this before I become the city slicker walking down that dirt road. I start to judge the situation even before I've made the call.
After so many years of working with the general public you do get this “sixth-sense” about these things. Call it my “jack” theory if you will. I don’t want to prejudge the reaction of the customer anymore than I want to prejudge a repair based on what happened in the past. Because now I’m judging the results before it actually happens.
I was asked once on a radio show about this same subject. The host of the show answered me this way; “I’m so afraid that the mechanic is going to rip me off that I’m always on guard when I’m at the repair shop.” That can be so true, except, look at it from the other side of the counter; I can have the same knee jerk reaction to a customer. I after a long day behind the counter, only to be confronted by a customer who wants to yell, scream, over a car repair you can bet it all started with something that happened earlier and you can't but to start thinking. . . jack . . .
When one of these situations come along you can bet I’m not the happiest camper in the shop. I’m more like a growling bear ready to jump on the first idiotic question. But, I have to remember to keep a professional approach while I’m talking to the customer at all times. Be completely up front with all the labor charges and parts costs. Save that personal attitude and frustration when no one is around or on the drive home.
As these situations escalate, the blood pressure rises. Jack or no jack I’m still going to pump the blood pressure higher. Is it the repair, a clash of personalities, or is it the cost of the repair, or is it another city slicker walking down a dirt road making up their own idea of how things should go again? For some unknown reason a lot of people mistrust the industry to the point that they have to question everything a professional mechanic or shop does. Or, they have had their car “per-checked” by “Uncle Fred” and by the time they get to your shop they have already determined the exact cost and length of time for the repair long before you even have put their name on the work order.
Usually a few hours or day or two later, I'll laugh at the whole thing. At this point all I want to do is move onto the next project. I make living fixing cars, not getting frustrated over a person who lacks the common sense to view the situation in a civil manner. And the last thing I need to do is start looking for another jack down some dusty country road.
Now, if you're ever out on a dirt road and you get a flat. Don't prejudge the situation. Keep a smile, and start your stroll down that road. We've been programmed so much to be fearful of other people through media and other misconceptions. Maybe we all need to take a long walk down a dirt road just to realize the world ain't as bad as we conceived it is. But, in the mean time... do me a favor, check for a jack first.