Service Writer Blues

For all the service writers out there let's
see if youve heard this song before.
“Man, I’m so glad I found you guys. 
Everyone I talked to recommend this place. 
I got to get this solved today; I need my
car checked for a battery drain. 
Is there somebody here that can do
that right now?” 

  Mandy (my service writer and my
youngest daughter) greets him and says,
“Hi, we sure do.  I think he is waiting on
parts on some of the other jobs in the shop,
he could look at it right away.”

“Does it cost anything?” he asked.

“Yes, there is a diagnostic fee,” she answered with her usual big smile.

“Great, and I can get it figured out today, that would be fantastic,” he said.

  Mandy grabs a blank invoice and starts to fill out the invoice.  Her pen was a flurry of activity with the man’s name, telephone number, and type of car.  After the preliminary information was on paper all that was needed was the keys.

“Ok, I just need the keys and I’ll get it in the shop so it can be diagnosed,” Mandy answered.

The keys didn’t come sliding across the counter as expected.   He stood there with them, tossing them from one hand to the other.

“I just want to find out what’s wrong with it.  I thought he could just look at it, instead of charging for a diagnosis… I don’t need it diagnosed I already know it’s battery drain,” the now agitated customer barked back at her.

“Sir, I explained all that to you earlier, the diagnostic time is for the time it generally takes to solve and locate the problem…  It’s like going into the emergency room with a suspected broken arm, they take an x-ray to confirm it, and even if you don’t have a broken arm you’re still going to get a bill from the x-ray department, it’s the same thing here. I’ve already filled out the invoice… so… do you still want to get it looked at today, or do you want to cancel the invoice.”
“Well, I’m not sure he is going to be able to find the problem, when I couldn’t find it.  So I don’t see why I should have to pay somebody else to try and figure out something I couldn’t figure out,”
It’s an age old problem.   Some people feel they are capable of finding whatever is wrong with their personal car since they are the ones that drive it daily.   Some of these people feel no one else is even capable of doing better than them.  But as always, this usually starts soon after they find out they have to pay for it. 

“Sir, if he can’t figure it out, there is no charge, and he will recommend the appropriate repair facility for that type of work.  But I would say more than likely his years of experience will out weigh any doubts you have of him finding your problem, besides, all those referrals you mentioned wouldn’t have sent you here if they didn’t think he was capable of finding the problem,” Mandy said with a stern tone.

“So, you think he can find the problem, but, in order for me to find out what’s wrong with my car… he’s going to charge me for it?”

“That’s pretty much sums it up sir. He’s very good at this kind of thing, and it won’t take him long to do it.”

Now the back pedaling starts and the old blues song starts playing.  Mandy says to him, "First it was “get it done today” and now it’s “get it done tomorrow”.

“Well, I’ve got some errands to run; I’ll bring the car back later… so just hold onto that invoice… I’ll be back,” He answered.
Mandy has seen these speed bump jumpers before, she lets the pen fall to the counter, then leans back in her chair, folds her arms across her chest and looks straight at this guy.

“You’ll be here later, (with a little “flip” attitude in her voice) like when, later… what day, what time?” 

“Oh, probably about the same time as today.”

“So you don’t want it done today.  But when you first came in you wanted it done right away and “now” you want me to save this invoice until you come back in?” Mandy said, still with her arms folded.

“Yea, that’ll work,” he said, as he put his keys back into his pocket.
He turns and walks towards the exit; before he is even out the front door she has the invoice lined it up with the paper shredders slot.  As the lobby door closes the shredder is already busy doing its job.

Of course, tomorrow never comes. 

You really want to believe them, but you know there isn’t an ounce of truth in their “coming back tomorrow” story.  Whatever the reason is, it just doesn’t matter.  With all the referrals he mentioned that still wasn’t good enough to satisfy this guy.  Then again, this hurry up life style that some people lead can get in the way of logical thinking. 

You know, some days I’d like to have a fast food drive-up window set up. Before somebody even gets a chance to get their car in the shop they have to place their order and prepay for the parts and labor.   I can see it now…  “Yes, sir that was a diagnostics, ah, 2 tie rod ends, front end alignment, and an oil change… next window please…” 

Ah yes, the service writer's blues...  a familiar song and a familiar situation at the service counter.   Learning when enough effort has been taken with an individual who is only there to gain free information rather than pay for the services is something every counter person has to learn.  It’s a fine line, and in some cases I would consider it the toughest job of all.