Shop Swappers

I’m not just a shop owner, but also a
consumer.  As a consumer I’m always looking
for the best deal, but… having been in the
service industry for as long as I have, I also
understand the value of quality service
provided to me when I’m the consumer. 

If my HVAC at the house goes on the fritz,
I’m not likely to call from place to place looking
for the cheapest company, nor am I likely to
go with the most expensive.  What I will do is
go with the one that has been recommended,
or one I feel comfortable with.  That might
even mean I have to pay a little extra to get
that certain company to make the long journey
to my home… but that’s what I’m paying for…
quality service.  Now, when the shoe is on the
other foot, and I’m the service provider at my
automotive repair shop, I assume my customers
are looking at my services the same way. But, that’s not always the case with some “one time” customers, who are just looking for a deal or a cheap repair.

The phone rings and the lady on the other end began to tell me about her old pickup problem. 
“I had it over at a shop, and they said it needed a new fuel pump.  So they put one in, and now it has no power, and it sometimes bucks and jerks.  Also, my A/C goes off and on intermittently.  It didn’t do any of this until they changed the fuel pump.” 

It’s not the first time I’ve got a call like this.  I do want to help them, but at the same time I want to make sure they get some value out of what they have already spent to have their car repaired.  My first response is always the same.

“Did you take it back to them, so they could check their work?” I asked.

“Yes I did.  They installed another fuel pump, and it’s still doing the same thing.”

“Well, maybe the fuel pump isn’t your problem,” I answered back.

The conversation continued with more of the same questions and answers. Somehow, someway I work this statement into the conversation:

“If they told you they fixed your problem with a new pump, and it didn’t fix it to your satisfaction, then I suggest you go back and explain to them what you just told me and see if they will re-diagnose it.”
“OK, thanks for the tip I’ll take it back tomorrow.”

A week later, the phone rings.

“I did what you told me, and I took it back.  They installed another pump, but it still is acting up.  So, I took it to the dealership a couple of days ago. They put in a new A/C compressor and installed another fuel pump, but it still isn’t working correctly.”

Here I am, standing in my shop wondering what kind of person would take their car to one repair shop, pay for their work, then call another shop for advice, only to take it to an entirely different shop to be serviced.  (Just to let you know… I make a living repairing cars…not giving advice.)
“Ma’am, I suggest you take it back to both places and have them make it right.  There’s no reason to be calling me, you’ve obviously spent a lot of money at both places, and it sounds like you’re still not getting the results you expected.  Unless you want to spend more cash with me to check it out, I’d suggest the same thing I told you before… take it back.”

“Oh, I don’t have any more money to spend on it.” (I could have guessed that.)

“Then take it back.”

When this sort of person doesn’t feel like they are getting anything accomplished at one shop, rather than deal with them they head to the next shop down the road. Spending more and more, and not get anything accomplished. (On the other hand, it could be they are not explaining their problem fully.)
     As much as I hate to admit it, I turn into the grouchy old mechanic when people ask for my advice and I’m not getting compensated for my time. Could be why they only called for advice, instead of bringing it in. Sometimes all it takes is a service writer’s charm to get people to bring their car into a particular shop vs. another. (Obviously, that ain’t me.) 

Salesmanship is one thing, but results are what matters.  Sugar-coating the response to a potential customer doesn’t change the results back in the shop. When a “shop swapper” meets up with a “parts swapper” shop, (shops that don’t diagnose but use the old “9 out of 10 times this solves the problem” method.) … … it’s going to be a long drawn out repair job. 

Of course, the primary reason to even think about going to one of the “chain” store repair shops, or one of those “Have tools will change parts” places … is price or location. (Or they have that service writer with the gift of gab.)  A lot of people won’t ask for certifications or qualifications of the person working on their car.  They see a big sign out front and it’s close to their home or office … and that’s all it takes… done deal. These days with the advanced electronics and computer systems, false diagnoses are more common than ever before, and shops willing to swap a parts rather than test for a solution are even more common than in years past… and so are the “shop swappers”. (Must be an economy thing.) 

Another time it was a car that came in with a finicky fuel gauge. If you hit a bump just right, the gauge would swing all the way to empty.  He took it back several times to the repair shop, and they kept changing the same parts over and over again.  The owner then took it to another shop who fiddled around with it for over a week, before they gave up. (And of course, he paid both shops for their time and efforts.)  After I dragged some critical details out of the owner on and when it would happen, it led me to a chaffed wire that was nearly cut in two by a loose bracket in the engine bay.  Problem solved. 

He asked me, “If I would have brought it here in the first place would you have found it without putting all those parts on that the other shops did?”

You know, I’d like to say I would have, but… as I told him, “Maybe, but that would have depended on the condition of the original parts that were changed.  Assuming all the original components were in working order, and you explained things as well as you have… then quite possibly yes.”

    The moral of the story for the consumer out there who’s trying to get their car repaired: “When possible, always take your car back to the original shop first.  Have them make it right. Stick with one and explain things fully. You’ll end up with better results and fewer headaches and less time shopping for a repair shop.” 

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