When it comes to cars there’s one thing that has
held true from the very earliest days of needing any
type of repair: if there is a demand for it, somebody
will grit their teeth and step in there and get it done.
And, that somebody is the mechanic. There’s a
demand for qualified technicians all over the
country, and as the complexity of the modern
vehicle increases, the demand for more
knowledgeable mechanics will be even greater.
Being in-demand is one thing, being ready to make
those repairs on-demand is another.
Obviously, demands expected of mechanics have greatly changed over the years, and the type of, or ways of making a repair has changed as well. Needless to say, mechanics will always be in-demand, regardless of these changes. Consumers, on the other hand, have their own set of demands and can be quite finicky.
The greatest asset to any business is its customers, but there are a few fellow consumers out there who have their demands a little confused. I’m referring to the ones who have a problem with their car, but can’t commit to getting it in the shop.
Whether it’s due to the weather, the day of the week or the cost of the repair somehow, someway their demands change from one extreme to the other. They are definitely in-demand of a qualified mechanic to solve their problems, but for some reason their demands are overshadowed by other factors. I’m still puzzled as to how many times I get a call on a typical, rainy day and someone will ask, “Do you fix windshield wipers?” I’ll answer, “Yes”. Then they’ll tell me, “OK, as soon as it stops raining, I’ll be in.” Obviously the mechanic is in-demand by the caller, or they wouldn’t have called. “Now!”, usually isn’t the appropriate on-demand time, and you know, once it stops raining so will the demand of having the wipers in working order. You might say they were just inquiring if you did that kind of work, and they’ll be in just as soon as the rain stops. Funny thing is, I hardly ever see the customer or the car after the rain stops. How about the ones who call on the coldest day of winter wanting to know if I can replace a heater core, and if I can get it done ASAP? Well, if it’s an icy, snowy winter day chances are I’m not that busy anyway, so “now” would be an excellent time to demand something like that. Oh, but wait, there’s a catch. They can’t make it because they can’t clear the frost off the windshield. Sure, you could mention a tow truck, or you could send somebody out to pick it up. But, all of a sudden it’s not so important to have it done now. Seems their demands have changed somewhere in the length of the phone call. I’ve lost count how many times this has happened. You know, when a customer comes into the shop boiling over with excitement about finally getting their car fixed. Oh, they’ll talk to the receptionist about how they have been putting things off just to get the car into the shop today, how wonderful it will be to have it fixed, and how they already budgeted for the repair based on the estimate you gave them a few weeks ago. The smiles keep coming from the other side of the counter, up until they realize it really is going to take as long as you estimated to get the job done, but without warning, their entire attitude will change. Seems the on-demand was there, and the “in-demand” was in place, but now… everything is off. “Oh, I’ll have to wait until next month to get it done. I just remembered, I have some other pressing items to take care of first. Oh, don’t worry I’ll be back,” they tell me. It never fails, someone at the counter will demand to have their car looked at this very second, and then figures out that their plans need to be changed because of the length of time it would take to make the actual repair, or the fact you just can’t physically start on it right now. The outcome predictably is the same, with the same old line, “I’ll be back”. (I’ve learned not to hold my breath waiting for their return, or scratch a tentative date on the calendar). Whether it’s the, “I’ve got to talk to my wife first”, the “What time do you open?”, or the “I’ll absolutely be back tomorrow”, you know there’s not a stick of truth to their story whatsoever. I often wonder why they just can’t tell me straight out, “I’m sorry, but you’re too expensive”, or “I just can’t afford it, so I’ll have to pass”, or “You fix it now and if you can’t, I’ll take it somewhere else.” It would make things a lot easier to move on to the next paying project rather than assuming even a small percentage of these “I’ll be backs” will ever show up again. In all honesty, probably less than 1% of them ever return. I guess it’s just human nature to act this way. I suppose in some respects, it’s a much gentler way of getting oneself out of the jam you’re in. Perhaps they were hoping for some miracle from the automotive repair genie, and to be bestowed with some mystical repair with nothing more than a snap of the genie’s fingers.
It’s no different when you ask the guy on the phone, “So, what’s the problem with the car?” and instead of just telling you the symptom they have to go into this long dissertation of everything they’ve just done to the car. Every part and bolt has to be explained in detail, and they will usually throw in names of any shops that referred them to you. However, by the time you get to the diagnostic charge their entire demand during the phone call has changed.
Maybe they were just looking for free information, or some sort of good-old-boy bailing wire repair that I could explain over the phone. Obviously, the mechanic is in-demand. They called the right place, and they have a need for the service of a mechanic, but apparently not a very strong demand for professional service.
Like any professional field, the cost of service is based on the amount of background knowledge, the years of service, and the equipment involved. However, there are more repair shops near you right now that are working on cars with absolutely no proper training or equipment. Basically, they’ll charge you less to get you in the door. This also means a lot of wasted time and money trying different cheap parts and fixes; no diagnostics, proper equipment, and certainly without proper training.
Maybe this is why so much mistrust is in the world of auto repair. Some consumers have gone round-and-round at cheap parts stores and parts-slapper shops, without luck. Even though there is a demand for a true professional shop, there will still be a lingering doubt from the consumer whether or not this shop will be capable of doing any better than the last shop that just threw parts at it. Hey, nobody is perfect, and yes, I started out with very little training, but it wasn’t long before I figured out that if you want to get anywhere in this business, you have to get the training. So, my immediate demand was to get that training and become a true professional at my trade, and not another one of those parts changing mechanics. Of course, some consumers are still going to find those parts thrower shops, no matter the problem. You have to ask yourself, “How many poor decisions do I have to make before the professional mechanic is in-demand?” Well, that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself. Eventually, cars will be too sophisticated for those fly-by-night guys or the DIY’r. Maybe, some of these consumers will start to take notice of how much demand there is for a well-trained technician. There will still be a few quirky ones out there who will bring their car in and demand that all the valve stems stay in alignment. That’s OK too. It’s not a perfect world out there, and you may still have to spend time explaining to people that some demands can never be met…no matter what.