Diagnosing car problems in this modern world
of electronics is what I do, and I do it quite
well thank you.  But on occasions I'll have a customer
that I've never seen before that comes up to the
service counter not just to have their car repaired
but to interrogate every part of my process in
finding the solution.  More times than not they're
a referral from another repair shop or previous
customer, why that is, I just don't know. 
I seldom get this kind of reaction from someone
who has seen an advertisement or drove by the
shop and stops in for repair.  I know they don't
mean to come across as some interrogator from
the German Gestapo, but the electric shocks,
brass knuckles, and bright spot lights are all
that seems to separate their questions and re questioning from the interrogations scenes in those old WWII movies I occasionally watch.

My guess is the customer probably went to the first shop or friend for advice, and had all intentions of that particular shop to be their primary car care facility.  But, when the first shop (or friend) refers them onto another shop their suspicions as to the second shops abilities become their largest concern.  I refer work all the time and I always tell the customer about the place I'm sending them to.  I also tell them they shouldn't have any concerns about this other shop.  I assume the other shops that refer their customer to me have probably said the same thing to them as well.  (And, I'm sure this same thing happens everywhere else in the country too.)

“As a consumer myself, I tend to think when the first place referred me to the second place, the first place has trust in the second place to do the job correctly... or they wouldn't have referred them in the first place.”

That doesn't seem to be the way it works around here.  As soon as they get to the counter it's as if they brought their own large spot lights, black jacks, and any other paraphernalia along to badger me into submission to their way of thinking.  It's even worse when they bring “friends” as material witnesses.  Now I've got to answer not just to one person but to several.  I didn't know I was on trial, I thought I was gathering information on the symptoms of a car problem, not explaining Ohms law, my mechanical and electrical background, how I got started in the business, have I or am I planning to use a scanner to diagnose their car, or recalling the first wrench I ever used....!?!?  (Yes... yes they have asked those very questions before.)  Do ya ask this stuff of the clerk behind the counter at the grocery store?  I'll bet … not... ! 

It reminds me of the old news reels from the 50's when they had big name actors and actress answering questions in the McCarthy hearings about their loyalty to the US government.  There was one line that I'll never forget, “I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist party.  These questions have no bearing on the subject at hand.” I really want to answer one of these interrogative “Gestapo” questioning sessions at the front counter with that same line... just once.  Doubt I ever will, they wouldn't get the joke anyway.  

The questions vary but ultimately end up meaning the same thing.  “So, do you think you can fix this?” or “I was referred over here, they said you could fix this, can you?  Are ya sure?  Have you done this before?” Almost always this is followed up with a stack of paper work, jotted notes, and internet information dropped on the counter for me to read.  Which I partially look at and tell them they can take all this stuff home, because I do have my own information and diagrams.  That just leads to more interrogations.  Asking all kinds of questions from, where I get my information, to how much it will cost and how long it will take.  (I wonder when a patient is referred to another doctor does the second doctor have to go through this with the new patient??)  And you know…, before I even get the car in the shop they have to repeat everything they just asked, told, and informed me about … … all over again.  (Like I didn't get it the first time???  Believe me, I did...)

      Eventually the interrogation turns to how much they already know about the problem, and how much they can help me to solve it, since their buddies have all been under the hood studying this weirdness.   Which, not that it matters... isn't a concern of mine at all.  I’m pretty sure I can take care of this problem myself.  (You know…, I know you know… just so you know… I know, I know… you know?).  Furthermore, “I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the “SAPI party” (Slap-A-Part-In party) and these questions have no bearing on this subject.”

“Well, I just need you to check it out, and not spend a lot of money on finding the problem.  Because we've (The owner and his brewskie friends) already spent so much time on it that if it gets too expensive to find out what is wrong, I'm not going to get it fixed,” they'll tell me.

Here's something to think about; Any good mechanic/technician out there if given the symptoms, the diagrams, and the needed tools can solve any problem on a car.  The biggest question is time, money, and parts.  Just because the novice hasn't figured out anything beyond where the gas goes in and where the exhaust comes out doesn't mean the modern mechanic doesn't understand everything else that is going on in between.  This is a highly skilled trade not just a bunch of guys and gals that learned “lefty loosey-righty tighty”. We do know how to repair this stuff, and chances are it won't take a trained mechanic very long to sort it out. 

It just makes my job harder when I have to deal with these interrogators.  Always questioning what I'm doing, always trying to answer their own problems with their own brand of logic.   (Garbage in... garbage out.)  Someday I'd like to reverse the interrogations a bit.  Set up a small desk and a single chair in the middle of the lobby, shine a bright light right at them, and ask them a series of pointless questions. 

Every job has potential problems; every aspect of car repair is no different.  There are a lot different types of car repairs that other repair shops refer to other shops.  In the business, we (mechanics and shop owners) all know who's the best in town for certain types of work. That's why we refer work from one shop to another.  If you trusted the first shop there's no reason to doubt their ability in referring you to another shop with the same kind of integrity.  The car, we can interrogate it… we can make it talk; just leave the other interrogations to those WWII movies.

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