Having been involved professionally in the automotive repair and service industry since the 60’s I can comfortably say I have seen it all. Over the years a lot has changed… cars are much more advanced and technical than they once were which obviously has made a huge difference in the training and quality of professionalism. Back in the 60’s just about anyone with a few basic tools could perform almost any service or repair needed. Guys from the local gas station with names like Leroy, Bill or Jim could troubleshoot just anything the motorist needed and usually without a charge. As a result of today’s complex automobiles today’s diagnostic skills require far more experience and training than the Leroy’s Bill’s and Jim’s could ever offer.
Other than good service (a term used far too much these days) about the only thing that has remained a constant with regard to the auto industry is the consumers need to be very aware of who is advising them. Of course this topic is one we could write volumes about and the truth is in my opinion besides the fact that there is a legit reason for consumers to be cautious, what really needs to happen is that BOTH auto service/repair facilities AND consumers need to get educated. There is LOTS to learn and teach. It’s very common for a shop to have a good understanding as to what may or may not be required to keep an automobile performing at an optimum and reliable efficiency statusÃ‚Â but the consumer may not. For this reason the key word is “communication” and educating a consumer as to what might happen after words is also a key factor.
For example, all too often I hear of customers taking their car into a shop for some diagnostics. Lets take for example a check engine light that has popped on. Customer takes car to shop… Shop scans codes and tells customer it needs O2 Sensor which will cost $175.00 parts and labor. Customer agrees and leaves. So far so good right? Wrong. At this time the customer assumes that because a “professional” shop checked it out this is probably all that will be needed. But sometimes when the customer picks up the car a few days later the light reappears so now the customer is upset and probably thinks the problem was misdiagnosed or a poor repair. What SHOULD have happened is that the repair facility should have made it very clear as well as documented on the invoice that some times other components can cause yet other components to fail and so it is possible they could experience some more issues. The bottom line is “communication” and “education” are key in having a good working relationship between the consumer and the shop. If a customer is made aware that there may yet be some issues to deal with they are less likely to be upset should the light reappear. At the same time it makes things a lot easier to deal with getting the final repair taken care of and a lot less stressful for both shop and consumer not to mention the customer is a lot more likely to believe that they are being treated fairly.
Many times I find shops are reluctant to tell a customer that they might still have a problem and sometimesÃ‚Â said shops tend to tell the customer they are positive the problem is solved. This all too often results in “make believe stories” (better known as lies) to appear. Now the customer begins to get the feeling they are being screwed. Some facilities simply need to learn it is ok to be brutally honest and begin learning to educate their customers. The bottom line is two people working together to solve a common problem is far better that two people doubting each other. Those shops will quickly learn that consumers will appreciate being treated openly and honestly.
I grew up in a small coastal town in Oregon and I remember people who used to ask my father for permission to pick brush on my parent’s ranch which they would then sell to florist wholesalers who in turn sell ferns, tree brows and so on to florist around the world. One day I noticed a special ring an old man was wearing that had a hidden blade on it. When I asked about it he showed me how he used it toÃ‚Â pick brows with one hand so he could hold the stack of picked brows with the other. Many years later during the early 70’s I was surprised to see one just like it only this time it was being used for a less than reputable business. The show was 60 Minutes and it was a special about dishonest freeway garages and service stations all across the country. 60 Minutes had gone undercover in order to catch these crooks at work.
I remember numerous cons they would pull but there are a few that stuck in my memory all these years. One method was when the attendant was checking under the customer’s hood he would have a hidden syringe filled with acid which would be squirted inside the hot generator or alternator. This would cause smoke to begin pouring out thus making it easy to convince the cars owner, now easy prey and the need to have it replaced before a fire started. Another con was to place a broken piece of Alka Seltzer in a battery cell causing it to begin foaming wildly. Even better yet the Alka Seltzer does what it’s designed to do which is naturalize the acid so when the battery cell was tested it would in factÃ‚Â read bad.
The other con which really caught my eye was a crooked attendant would ask the customer to take a look under the hood with him. What the customer would witness would be the attendant grab a fan belt and then give it a tug which would result in the belt coming off right in front of the customer as if it was already broken or possibly had a cut in it. What the customer didn’t notice is the brush pickers ring on the attendants hand which conceals a razor sharp blade and would never assume someone would be so brash as to cut someone’s belt right before their eyes. Once again, easy pickings. “We just happen to have fan belts in stock.”
Those willing to both educate and learn will be all the better for having done so something that both consumers and shops will benefit from for years to come.
Here are some photos of how a brush pickers blade is worn and how easy it is to conceal and use.