Honesty… from the Other Side of the Counter

    Dealing with customers can be an uphill battle for a technician in the automotive trade.  It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the underlining mistrust brought on by the “bad” reputation the automotive trade has always been trademarked with.   As a technician I’m always wondering if I’ll have to defend my career choice with the next turn of my wrenches. 

          To be put into the same category as some of those crooks and
unscrupulous people that end up on the 6 o’clock news is just appalling,  
but some people view the auto repair business that way.  As bad as it
gets sometimes, I still wouldn’t have a problem defending my chosen
trade, it’s my job… it’s what I do.

           Like it or not, when the TV news wants to expose a criminal or
politician in some business scandal they go at them with every
microphone and camera they have.  It has its advantages for the station, ratings mostly, but they do a great job of uncovering those unscrupulous individuals in our society. 

          Granted, there are few politicians I wouldn’t want to be left in the same room with, and probably just as many auto repair shops that I wouldn’t even think about taking my kids tricycle to.  At least I know about of them, but what about some of these lunatics that walk through the lobby door?  Who’s checking up on them? 

          They say; it’s the customer who should be on their toes when they come to a repair shop?  I’m not so sure I agree with that.  I kind of think it’s the shop that needs to be careful.  As a shop owner/technician, honesty in your deliberation with the customer is essential, but this honesty thing goes both ways, you know?  The customer has to be trustworthy enough to tell me the facts without exaggerations or false claims.

           After all the years I’ve been around this business, finding and retaining customers isn’t such a problem.  I still get a lot of new customers coming through the door every day.  One thing is for certain though; a new customer should always be on guard when they come through the front door the first time, whether they were a referral or not. 

          Not that I expect the customer to know the correct answers when they come in for car repair, but at the same time, I don’t want them to try to take advantage of the situation.  Let’s face it, I don’t know them, and they don’t know me.  As a shop owner I’m apprehensive, probably as much on guard as the customer should be.  Then I ask myself, how honest is that person standing on the other side of the counter? 
Like these situations:

The front door opens, “Hi, how can I help you?” I’ll ask.

    “I was in an accident about a year ago.  I broke my turn signal lever off and I don’t have the money to fix it.  So I’m going to claim it on my insurance, I just need you to write it up to say it was accident related,” says the customer. 

     I’ve even had people watch and see when their car was pulled out of the shop and into the front parking area waiting for pickup, and when nobody is looking they take out their extra key and drive off.  (In my state, you can’t steal your own car… I have to take them to small claims court to even think about getting my money out of them… yea, good luck with that.)

    Or the guy who tells me his old Corvette has been in storage for years.  He doesn’t want any service, all he really wants is an invoice dated back to the time he put it into storage, so he doesn’t have to pay the extra fees for his expired tags.

          People have asked me if I would turn the miles back on their cars.  Oh, please, really?  Yes, really, they actually had the nerve to ask me that?  There’s no doubt some of these bent wrenches out there have a dishonest streak a mile long.  It’s just poor judgment on their part to even SUGGEST some of the things I have heard over the years. I could go on with some of the things I’ve seen or heard from the wacky world out there, but I’m sure you’ve got more of your own.

     Anyway, when you have a chance to stop and think about it, it’s pretty funny.  I’ll listen to their stories, and then laugh while pointing towards the front door, usually followed up with, “Now, get out of here”.
You know, someday those TV news spots need to do a story on people like this.  Hey, I’d watch!  I’ve seen enough politicians and auto shops get the third degree, why not a little of it coming from the other direction for a change.  I’m not saying stop jumping down the throats of those bad shops and political figures. Absolutely not, I’m sure some of them deserved it, but let’s see one of those “microphone in the face”  interviews with some of these ditch dodgers of the open highway that drift through the lobby doors.

     “Buyer Beware.” Needs to be updated or at least changed to fit my front office encounters.  I’d like to change it to: “Beware of the Buyer.” Now that’s more appropriate.  

            My customers may pay my salary and keep my doors open, but I draw the line at dishonest people.  I’ve got a job to do, and I want to do it with honesty and integrity.  Some of these people have no scruples at all, and I really don’t need that kind of work.

           I’d like to think I won’t run across another potential customer like the ones I described.  But, you know, they’re out there, dishonest, untrustworthy or just flat out criminally minded.  I’ll keep my eye out for them, believe me, I’m watching.

          The way I see it, if I could change one thing in this world, it would be to add a little more honesty and integrity back into our society. 
           Maybe some of those old fashion values that our grandparents always reminded us about, and it wouldn’t hurt to show a little more of that honesty... from the other side of the counter.